Finished: Slab sided floating top river-desk

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series River Desk

 Now that all the pieces are done for this desk, it is time to assemble.  The problem is that the slab sides are quite heavy and the top with the attached stretchers is very heavy so it has to be assembled in-place and I had no free hands to take assembly photos.  

The assembly, if I had photos would go like this:

  1. Stand up slab sides.
  2. Put in lower stretcher and tap down into the dovetail (no glue). 
  3. Lifting the top by the stretchers drop them down into the dovetail slots (no glue) and tap into place.
  4. Catch breath, take pictures.

Floating river top desk

In reality there were a few more steps, because at step three I noticed that with the lower stretcher in place, the top stretchers were missing the mark by roughly an inch.  The lower stretcher was too long.  This was the problem with having curved sides with no single reference edge to measure from, to.  I had to make another stretcher.   Fortunately I still had the plastic dovetail template and could reproduce the dovetail ends.   I torched it to get the black color and then hit is with a few coats of spray shellac.  

Back to pounding the stretchers into place.   One of the dovetail sockets was tight.  The dovetail fit in smoothly while testing, but now that all four had to be in the right places at the right time, one of them was not lined up quite right.  So I had to do a bit of last minute chisel work.  The drawback to the floating top is that there is not a great way to hit the top of the dovetail with a mallet.   I had to use a piece of scrap wood at an angle, and hit that with the mallet.  The desk is now solid with no bit of movement to be detected.   And if necessary, because it is soo bleepin heavy, it can be disassembled for moving.

slab legged desk

My original sketches were for the swell from the butt of the tree to face outside the desk.  But in thinking about it during construction I realized that having the swell stick out, would limit options of being able to put the one side of the desk up against a wall.  I didn’t want to limit future placement options, so I spun it around so the swell comes out under the desk.

River table desktop

I really like the wider part of the tree trunk facing in. It gives it a great look, and helps prevent racking.


contoured slab side legs


floating top slab legged desk



River table with islands


There were a lot of firsts for me on this project.

  • First time making a floating top.
  • First time texturing wood with a gouge.
  • First time using epoxy (Stone coat Countertop) as a finish.
  • First time using TransTint dye.
  • First time making an artificial river (previous efforts were natural cracks).
  • First time fuming oak with ammonia.
  • First time using both dried wood and wet wood in the same project.
  • First time using Dark Tung Oil.
  • First time using Shou Sugi Ban as a method to ebonize and texture wood.
  • First time using black dye.   Should have used Shou Sugi Ban on that part too.
  • First time using dual sliding dovetails to combat wood movement.
  • Sculpting wood with an angle grinder.

floating top river desk


There are a few things that I wish I did differently:

  • I wish I made the floating less high.  The gap is in the neighborhood of three inches.  After seeing it all finished, I think it would have looked better with a float of only an inch or so.  It would have been more subtle.  More refined.
  • I really like the appearance of the textured stretchers, and the color choice.  However I do wish that I used the torch to get that color rather than the black dye.   The torch would have softened the crisp peaks of the gouge cuts and would have given it a better look and feel.
  • The original footrest stretcher had a bit taller profile.  When I had to swap it out at the last minute for a slightly shorter one, it was also not quite as tall, so it looks a bit too spindly.  I need to re-make that.
  • That my son has so much stuff on his desk that it completely blocks out the awesome river we worked so hard on.

river top desk covered by computer

Thanks for following along on the journey.



Series NavigationSlab Side Legs