Build a Knockout Knock-Down Desk

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An elegant, five-piece base stores compactly and assembles easily with interlocking joints.

When a friend learned that she’d be moving to Connecticut, via a year of research at Princeton University, it was clear that she would need an easily transportable desk. She asked me to design one with a simple Danish Modern feel, a spare, functional style that became a popular genre of MidCentury Modern design. The desk I came up with combines clean, contemporary lines with traditional joinery. It’s extremely sturdy when assembled but surprisingly easy to take apart for moving–exactly the features my friend wanted. The key to this combination of strength and convenience is precise, interlocking joinery.

As shown in the photos and drawing, the base breaks down into five parts: a pair of leg assemblies and three stretchers. While the leg assemblies are constructed with traditional mortise-and-tenon joints, the stretchers are simply pressure-fit into place. Lap joints can be extremely strong if they’re well made.

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