Adding a hutch to a desk {post 2}

By Pinktoesandpowertools | Progress Posts

Boy was I ever rusty in my woodworking skills for this build!! I’m glad I am here to show you that multiple mistakes during a build can still result in a usable piece of furniture… 🙂

First off, my plan. Wherever did I think that I could fit the amount of shelves I had planned for is beyond me! I had an extra cut out that the plan called for. You know how I have warned you that using my plan “as is” is probably not advisable? I had a good laugh at myself as I was laying out the pieces on the garage floor for a dry fit!

Which reminds me–I really, really need to get a workbench made so I can quit using the floor.

And then I realized that I was going to have to figure out how high I wanted to make the first shelf, because it was going to be permanent and not moveable. I had not figured that in–I wanted it to all be adjustable. BUT this will not be attached to the actual desk because the desktop is formica. In order to keep it square I need to have it fastened in the middle. This ended up being a monumental decision–I went back and forth on it. Right now she doesn’t need a ton of head room for that first shelf, but I want this to work for her as long as she is at home. I went with the shelf being at 17.5″ (16.75″ once I added the face frame) so that she can fit a bigger monitor under there if need be someday. (I was really irritated with myself for making that such a big decision because it ate up precious time! Sometimes I can be so indecisive.)

Then I got to use another of my birthday presents–my brand new Kreg Shelf Pin Jig. Love it.

I used a piece of scrap plywood on the bottom part of the sides because I’ll never be putting a shelf down that low. Using that piece of wood ensured that the shelf pin holes both start at the same distance up on each side of the hutch. Love how easy using the jig was, and knowing the holes were going to line up exactly. Not loving that it is a 1/4″ hole because I preferred the smaller pins for shelves. Not a hard thing to get over though 😉

Next I used my Kreg Jig to make pocket holes in the top of the hutch and attached the top to the sides (glue too). I am still trying to figure out how to easily keep two pieces of wood from sliding around when I go to screw in the pocket hole screws. Ana White, my woodworking hero, demonstrates putting together a bookshelf with pocket holes and she holds the wood together as she attaches it with her hands. I’ve got all my pieces clamped with every clamp I own and those little buggers still shift the tiniest bit at the last minute. Sometimes I swear at that point, but I think that is perfectly justified. Just sayin’.

I decided to use the Kreg Jig to attach the bottom shelf too. The pocket holes will be visible and I plan on using the white plastic plugs that came with the jig. If I could do it over, I’d probably countersink some screws from the side instead, but this will be fine.

I’ve seen other bloggers put together their face frames with pocket holes, but I prefer to glue and use a nail gun to attach the frame.    I’d rather not chance splitting the 1x2s. I’ve already sworn enough with the glue-shiftage happening during assembly…

I pin the face frame on with 18 gauge 1.25″ nails going through the frame into the plywood. Then I use a 16 gauge 2″ nail through the side of one of the frames into the other frame (to keep those straight together). I was literally thinking that I needed to warn you readers to keep the nail gun straight on so it doesn’t shoot through the wood when I shot it through the wood. Another swear word.

Anybody notice my latest mistake? I should have squared this up before putting on the face frame. I’ve got to prop it with plywood to keep from scratching up the pine face now. This is my squaring up procedure. The longer diagonal measurement goes up against something solid and you give it a gentle kick with your foot (a foot that is not in a flip flop–a beginner mistake I made way back when, ouch). Remeasure about the same number of times you’ve heard a political commercial in the past month (about fifty million times approximately) until both diagonal measurements are exactly the same. Don’t. bump. it. again.

Glue and attach the back. I used 1/4″ PureBond plywood for the back of this and for the 3/4″ birch plywood I used to construct the hutch. It is what I have chosen to use on every project I’ve ever made since I began woodworking.

Someday I might take the time to router the back so it hides it when I attach it, but this time it is just nailed on with the nail gun.

Cove molding on the top of the desk hutch

I decided to fancy-up the top a bit with some cove molding. This can be a bit tricky to cut correctly. You have to have it in the saw the same way it is going to go onto the project. Then you adjust the blade to a 45 degree cut. To minimize problems, I cut the angled cut first, put it up to the edge of the project, mark the next cut, and then cut it on the saw. The trickiest one is the front because both ends are the fancy cuts. I left it just the slightest bit long so the ends mashed together tightly. But just slightly.

I used painter tape to do a dry fitting, then applied glue, and nailed with 18 gauge 1″ nails.

Another oops–I meant to attach a cleat on the top of the hutch with pocket screws. Since I forgot I had to screw it in from the top. I used the nail gun to hold it in place with a few nails and then countersank some 2″ screws. And then I realized that with the cove molding, the header looks too small. Sigh. I should have used a bigger board instead of a 1×2. Live and learn I suppose.

Happy woodworker

Even with all the mistakes, I’m still smiling! That’s because I didn’t know I was headed for the flu in the next few days. This picture is just to prove there is a person building these things and not just some floating words on the internet. Besides, I had my makeup done and didn’t mind being in a shot. That’s a rare thing during my woodworking ventures.

This is how I hide the front of the plywood on the shelves I have built in all my projects. I use a 1×2, but I line that up with the face frame so that it looks like it is all one piece. I put the shelf in the cabinet and measure the 1×2 to the length that is exposed. The extra bit of plywood you see is what is covered up by the face frame on the cabinet. I cut the 1×2 the slightest bit smaller (so that you don’t mar your finish trying to move the shelf), glue, and tack it on with 18 gauge 1.25″ nails. I like the look of it and the 1×2 acts as a support to keep the plywood shelf from sagging over time.

Desk hutch shelf

Desk hutch without paint

There she is. Even with all the mishaps I think she’ll do. I’ve got her primed and painted, but you might have to wait for the reveal until I’ve painted the desk part too–kind of anti-climatic when part of it is looking pretty and part of it is looking worn!

Other posts in this hutch series:

Adding a hutch to a desk {post 1}

Adding a hutch to a desk (Why isn’t this post 1? I’m not sure!)

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