My wife and I needed to organize a spot in our house that had become a dumping ground for the kids’ school backpacks and various papers. We decided that a secretary desk with ample storage at the bottom would give us a place to throw the kids’ stuff. I came up with a design and my wife and I went to take a look at my favorite wood store where she selected the species and some boards to use. We picked up some Katalox, which I had never used before. It is a VERY dense South American wood and forms the frame of the desk. I actually broke several screws in it until I started drilling pilot holes. The Katalox is neat because the sapwood is blonde and the rest of the wood is very dark, which matches the spalt lines of the Spalted Maple beautifully.
I built the sides first – it has a frame of Katalox with a 1/2″ thick piece of Spalted Maple on the outside and maple plywood on the inside. Crosspieces of Katalox were used to join the 2 sides using simple pocket screws and dowels. The top piece has mortises for the tenons from the side pieces because I like the look.
The cubby holes are made of half lapped maple as the uprights and walnut as shelves. I actually used spare lumber from around the shop to make these. I routed grooves in the top and bottom of the desk and cut mortises on the maple pieces to allow me to slide these in from the back. I used pieces of Katalox to make a neat little piece to fit between the top of the desk and the upright dividers.
I designed this so that the top shelf acts as a support for the drop front of the desk and placed small pieces of Katalox on the sides to support the closed drop front. I used maple dowels to hold these to the sides (just because I liked the look). A plywood back provides support for the whole design. The whole piece was finished with 2 coats of Watco Danish Oil rub over 2 days and Arm-R-Seal coats over 5 days.
Overall, this was one of the hardest pieces I have built and it did not turn out as wonderfully as I had hoped. My wife, however, loves it and insists that I am the only one who notices my failings. I guess that’s good since I learned a great deal from this project, especially how hard it is to work with Katalox! I don’t think I will be using this wood again anytime soon.