I was fortunate to locate a set of Ash book matched slabs some time ago and as I’ve been in need of a desk for several years now, the Universe smiled and they magically appeared in my shop. Total length runs to about 8′ with 3′ width. Two years ago I designed and built a coffee table for my sister, naming it the Taughannock. I used Walnut for that project (and White Oak for the leg) and wanted to expand on that design with a bigger piece. I also kept one of the live edges and for this piece, I’ve decided to remove both live edges, which is closer to the original design.
The first step was to joint the edges for glue-up. It took me 2-3 hours for each edge using a 22″ jointer and my low angle block plane in tandem. I ended up sharpening both blades twice for each leaf. Ash is a pretty tough wood and tear out comes easy, especially with a dull blade. It’s difficult to check for a completely flat edge along the length of an 8′ piece. I have a 3′ straightedge that I basically side-stepped all the way down and then used my longest engineer’s square. This was done multiple times throughout the course of the jointing.
And then after jointing. Ash has a lovely grain that when planed properly results in a unique surface. It has some similarities to Oak in its appearance but I find it to have a finished quality all it’s own, one completely distinct from Oak.
And the glue-up. The Roubo bench came in handy here. It’s weight was more than enough to offset the incredibly heavy Ash and the side panel clamp allowed for me to use gravity to my advantage during the gluing and clamping. I used 3 cauls to help insure everything was lined up properly. (a good tip here is to cover the cauls with duct tape which prevents them from being glued directly to the piece).
To take the bark off, I used a draw knife my dad gave me a year ago when I went to visit him. It was my great-grandfather’s tool and is really in good shape-it needs some cosmetic work to look pretty, but for now it just needed to be sharpened. My great-grandfather was born in my hometown in IA in 1871 and so I think this would date the tool to about 115-120 years old. I’m blessed to be able to give this tool new life and to know it was held in the hands of my namesake over 100 years ago. There’s a goodness in that history that I’m too poor with words to describe. If I can do it even the smallest amount of justice with my woodworking now, then I will have taken a small step in honoring my family and my work.
Here’s a dry fit to test the 45 degree mitre. It took a few passes and was no easy task given the weight and size of the pieces. I was able to use my table saw to cut the 45 on the leg, but the top of the desk was a different story. This involved using the circular saw and a series of clamps and a straightedge and a soft touch if that’s possible when slicing a 45 degree cut across a 1 3/4″ thick and 30″ wide piece of Ash.
And here are all the pieces. The final design will be slightly different than the coffee table, primarily to account for the extra support needed for a piece as large and heavy as this one. You can see some live edges here that will eventually be incorporated into the base. I wanted to incorporate that aspect of the wood but have it be more subtle on this design.