Now to conclude the series on the assembly of the Doctor’s office reception desk. When I left off last time, the second full day of assembly had come to an end. I was completely exhausted at that point, as you can perhaps tell in this picture:
One point I omitted to mention in previous posting is that there were not only sliding tracks installed at the desk surface, but upper tracks as well, which are concealed behind the flickering flame board, kato-ita. These were dropped into place, dovetailed at each end, before the upper desk assembly was placed atop the posts.
After a couple of days -mostly sleeping- I returned to my shop to make the sliding windows for the desk. I call them shoji-like, because they have the form of shoji, yet with much thicker grill bars (kumiko) than shoji would have. In other words, the proportions are not traditional. I made the kumiko thick because the windows would be at height where a child could easily get their hands on them, so I wanted them to be tougher than usual. That’s another reason I went with Maple for the kumiko, instead of something more typical like Yellow Cedar – in a commercial setting, I wanted the desk to be able to take a bit more abuse than would be typical in a residential setting. I also went with a reinforced paper backing, which is a layer of plastic film sandwiched between two layers of Japanese paper, or washi. This proved to be adequately durable.
I have no pictures of the making of the shoji-like windows, though the process took me another couple of weeks. They are again framed in Mahogany, and the kumiko are Maple.
All told, with initial design time, steps down the Purpleheart path, then the construction of the desk and the windows, and final assembly, I clocked 1050 hours on this project.
Here’s a few pictures of the desk complete:
I used an alternating staggered pattern with the horizontal kumiko, trying to keep the overall appearance minimalistic and yet visually interesting. If I had more time, I would have done something a bit more involved with the pattern I think:
And here’s what happened with that desk…the clinic was open for a couple of years after these photos were taken, and became fairly busy. I received a lot of positive comments about the piece and it led to other furniture commissions, so it was successful in that regard. It was strange to be pigeon-holed as a furniture maker after completing but one piece, but that’s what happened, at that time, and at that place.
Then I made the decision to leave Gabriola Island to move to Massachusetts (that was round one in that episode). The Doctor expressed his worry that nobody else besides me would be able to properly disassemble the desk, so before I left he had me make a 2x and plywood plinth for it, and one weekend I returned to the clinic after hours and disassembled the desk. That was a pivotal moment of sorts, as it proved the concept and execution of the desk, that with all its custom joinery, it was in fact demountable. I reassembled the desk the next day at the doctors place, which went much quicker than the fitting and fiddling of the initial assembly process. Then the Doctor retired, and moved house to the other end of the island and the desk sits now in his new place, down in the basement as far as I know. I have no idea if he is using it for anything. I told him that the desk could be modified and made smaller, and used as a bar, for instance, in his house, but that idea doesn’t seem to have gained traction.
I wonder what will become of the desk?
Alan Brown, who helped with the installation, passed away the following year from liver cancer.
Dr. Harding, for whom the desk was constructed, was murdered in the Caribbean a couple of years later. The office closed, and the desk passed to his family, and has since been sold to another resident on the island. I have lost track of its whereabouts and the current owner is unknown.