Main Illustration By Ian Hall

above right: First variation, with cupboards in the centre

In a two-part project you can make four partners' desks below left: Back of the centre-cupboard version showing drawers below right: Version two, with false drawer front

SOME TIME AGO, in the middle of packing up my Yorkshire workshop to move to Shropshire, a client arrived unannounced to look at some of my display furniture which was for sale. I wasn't looking my best - army boots, khaki shorts, no shirt, no socks, and covered in a thick layer of dust! The workshop was a tip -with piles of timber and tools, and of course, more dust.

To his credit, the client was un-fazed and had a good look around. He did not find what he was after, but he really liked my office desk. He had been looking unsuccessfully for something similar for both his workplace and home - and so he commissioned me.

"I wasn't looking my best - army boots, khaki shorts, no shirt, no socks, and covered in a thick layer of dust!"

Commission

I was faced with quite a tall order -there were to be four large desks, two floor-to-ceiling glazed bookcases and sundry small cabinets; and this was a discerning client who wanted good, unusual timbers and quality work. I had no workshop, was moving house, and had some pretty serious commitments to make a kitchen and furniture for the new cottage - the buyer of our old cottage had bought a lot of the furniture which I had made.

My wife and I discussed it and decided that we would need three months to set up in the new cottage, establish a workshop, and make our new bed! The client was pragmatic -if I could provide what he wanted he was prepared to wait, but we decided to go ahead to the design and costing stage before the move.

Design

Two of the desks were for the client, for both his office and home, one was for his PA, and one for his receptionist. I visited the factory and

"The client was pragmatic - if I could provide what he wanted he was prepared to wait"

the client's home to assess the situation, and in turn they all came to my workshop to talk over their requirements, and to look at various design features and samples of woods. They particularly liked the combination of burr elm and American walnut.

To allow for flexibility, all the desks were to have the same overall measurements. The top size was specified as 1625mm by 825mm (64in by 32in). This was too wide for drawers or cupboards on one side only if all the space was to be used - and from my observations at the factory office, that was necessary!

I suggested drawers at the back and cupboards in the front. The PA and the receptionist preferred a solid front to the knee space, while the client wanted his desk fronts open for more leg room. Various other features and requirements were specified and so I retired to the computer. The designs were drawn up, discussed with all the interested parties, modified, and finalised.

What emerged was two variations of essentially the same partner's desk. The only difference was that one had a solid front with a centre cupboard, and the other an open front with a false drawer. The requirement was for two of each variation.

Cutting out

The oak for the drawer casings and the burr for the door panels were marked out, cut, and dimensioned first. It was all placed in my workshop loft conditioner, out of the way, to setde. It would get maximum conditioning time whilst I was doing the main construction.

All thirty-plus cubes of the walnut were laid out, best-side up, against walls, on benches, on the floor, in the garage - wherever there was space. I started by selecting the largest and best-figured pieces for the tops. These were then cut a little oversize and stacked. The selection progressed down in size and visual importance until I was left with the trimmings to make some of the internal pieces, like drawer frames and shelves. There was little waste or spare. All this timber was now faced, thicknessed, and dimensioned to exact size.

LEFT: Kevin's own desk that inspired the client to make the commission

LEFT: Cramping the pedestal

LEFT: Kevin's own desk that inspired the client to make the commission

LEFT: Cramping the pedestal

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