My shiny new desk

finished! prt1.JPG When we moved into Meadow Towers there was no furniture other than the wardrobes and a dining room table, even though it was listed as “partly furnished”. Being on an incredibly tight budget at the time I had to get the cheapest furniture around – this meant Argos and crappy quality.

The desk I got did the job but it just wasn’t deep enough – 49 cm just didn’t provide enough room for me to get the keyboard far enough away from me so that I could type comfortably (I type slightly oddly with the full length of my forearms supported on the desk) which has meant since moving in back last September, using my computer for any length of time has led to buzzing, shooting pains all the way up to my elbows, an inability to grip, and general ouchiness. I didn’t realize that the problem was the desk till I started full time work in an office that had wonderful deep desks. How come I could type all day at work with nary a problem, yet five minutes on my own computer was enough to have me crying in pain?

Our lease here at Meadow Towers was up for renewal in September and for a while it looked like we might be moving. If that was the case, I’d have put up with the desk for the last few months, then ditched it when we moved into whatever new place we found and got a better desk. Last week we decided we actually really liked it here, lack of outside space and no-pets not withstanding, and that we’re going to stay. As soon as I had that decision, I realised something had to be done about the desk.

After conferring with the Crazy Canalman, we decided the cheapest and easiest solution was to just build an extra desktop with the desired depth and screw it to the existing desk. He came down last weekend to do the necessary with some plywood and I now have a desk that is 80 cm deep – that’s nearly double the area I had before! (And actually about 20 cm more than I needed, but more on that later). Ideally, I would have covered the blank plywood before Farv screwed it to the desk, but I don’t have the tools to do it myself here at Meadow Towers, nor do I have space to store a giant slab of plywood whilst I get around to being creative on it. So he screwed the new desktop down and left me to it. The surface seemed smooth enough, so I figured I could leave it as-is for a few weeks till I knew how I wanted to cover it.

One day and numerous splinters later, I knew something had to be done, and quickly! So this weekend I sat myself down with a pile of torn up newspapers, some PVA glue, and a brush, et voila! My beautiful new desk!

What do you need:

  1. A desk. Doesn’t have to be a new desk, doesn’t even have to be a desk actually, just whatever you want to cover.
  2. A father willing to cut the wood to size for you and then drive 1 1/2 hours out of his way to attach it to your desk, buy you lunch, then drive 1 1/2 hours back again. Have I told you lately how wonderful my father is?
  3. A pile of old newspapers that you got your long-suffering flatmate to lug home, then only use one paper from.
  4. PVA glue watered down to roughly 1 part PVA to 3 parts water, though measuring this out is nigh on impossible. Just make a nice watery paste that looks the same colour and consistency of milk. The whole desk took about 125ml of PVA.
  5. A 1 inch brush that you aren’t too attached to – don’t get the cheapest in the shop as these molt bristles like there’s no tomorrow, but don’t get the real expensive branded one either. I spent £2.50 on my brush and that only lost two bristles.
  6. A tin of water based clear varnish. This is quicker drying, smells less, and won’t react with the pva/paper mix like solvent based varnishes can. I used about 125ml of varnish to get two decent coats on the desk.

What you need to do:

  1. Make sure the surface you are covering is as smooth as possible and dust free.
  2. Put a coat of the PVA/water mix on to seal the wood.
  3. While this is drying, tear up a newspaper into pieces between an inch and two inches square. Don’t make them too even. Also don’t make them too big, or too small. Too small and it just takes an age to cover a large area. Too big and they go all wrinkly and don’t leave a nice flat finish.
  4. Once the undercoat is dry, cover the surface using the good-old papier mache technique we all remember from childhood. (Glue on the surface, put the paper on the glue, cover with more glue… rinse and repeat till done).
  5. Try to be as random as possible with your pieces. Mix pictures and text. Mix the orientation of the text. Overlap. Higgledee-Piggledee is what you are going for.
  6. When that first layer is fully dry – if possible leave it over night to make sure – do a second coat to cover any missed spots and to make the edges look neat.
  7. When that was dry, I did a third ‘layer’ of a few pictures and clippings that I really liked from some film magazines. I spread these randomly over the surface of the desk in places where I knew they would catch my eye and not be covered by the computer. Don’t go overboard with these – the idea is to create accent pieces, not recover the entire desk in them – I used ten or twelve such images on the entire desk.
  8. When you are certain that is all dry and you like how it looks, do a couple of coats of clear varnish over the whole to seal it and make it waterproof. Instructions for different varnishes vary, so follow what it says on the tin, but do make sure the room is as ventilated as possible!
  9. Finally, put everything back on your pretty ‘new’ desk and gloat.

I am definitely gloating over my new desk – I have so much more space and typing is once again comfortable. You can’t really tell from the pictures but my computer isn’t actually pushed all the way to the back of the desk. This is because if it was I wouldn’t be able to see the screen. For some reason Farv got a little confused with the measurements and made it 20 cm deeper than I asked for. This has actually turned out for the best because when I want to do craft or writing on the desk, all I have to do is push the computer to the back of the desk and I have enough space (before I would have to laboriously unplug and move everything).

The desk is ideal for me now as I like to have free space around me as I work – my unorganized mind and rest of my room aside – I hate to have a cluttered workspace. I even got all giddy about my new desk and utilized the extra space to make some earrings and some notebooks.

The whole thing cost around £20 (£10 for the wood). It would have come to less than £20 if I could have found the PVA, brushes, and varnish I had left over from another project, but either way it still comes to less than a new desk. Happy Cas 🙂

11 thoughts on “My shiny new desk

  1. K, I recognized Hugh Jackman & Keanue Reeves before doing the roll-over thing… I definitely saw Cap’n Jack Sparrow. The question is…are you going to get any WORK done?

  2. I do find myself distracted every now and again by the shiny Jack pictures… Then again, I can get distracted by most anything, so I don’t think the desk is to blame. And it’s so preeeety I could forgive it anything 😀

    And I *knew* papier-mache wasn’t the word I was looking for, but I just couldn’t remember the proper term. It’s always a relief when you find out what you really meant to say, so thank you 🙂 And yes it was fun. It’s good to let the inner five year old out to play occasionally.

    I should warn anyone thinking of doing this – you will end up covered in newsprint no matter how careful you are. I thought I’d managed not to get black marks everywhere… Then I looked in the mirror. A very fetching smudge on my nose and across my forehead. Just glad I saw it before I had to answer the door!

    And welcome to Bright Meadow Jennifer 🙂

  3. Fab desk! Before I saw the enlarged picture, however, I thought it was a highly messy desk. *giggle*

  4. Jes! *pouncy huggles*

    And thank you 😀

    I’ve discovered a drawback to the desk – it is remarkably easy to ‘loose’ things on it. Already in the past few days I’ve had frantic hunts for hair-ties, pens, and most annoyingly glasses.

    As anyone who wears glasses will know, misplacing them is a bit of a bugger because, well, you need the glasses to see where you’ve put them! I don’t know what it is about this one pair either – they just blend with whatever surface I put them on! Cue the not uncommon call of “Moose, where did I put my glasses?!”

    I really shouldn’t be allowed out in the community on my own.

  5. I must stress, the pictures do not do it justice.

    I just keep stroking it in pride. Yes, I know. Sad. The one drawback will come when I move – I’m going to want to take it with me, but I papered over the screws that attach the top to the desk by accident… There’s gonna be no easy way to separate top and base, but it ain’t gonna fit through the door of the flat or down the stairs the way it is now.


    Still, I’m here till Sept 2007, so that’s a while I get to enjoy it 😀

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