The Curved Desk

Todd and his beautiful assistant (and wife), Kathy, laying out the radii of the desk using a 15 foot (approximately) beam compass.

Todd and Kathy, using a 15 foot beam compass to lay out the master template for this desk


This is a re-make of an earlier piece, the Pearwood writing desk (and chair) originally made in 1992. The feature of this desk is the curved drawer that pulls through from one end to other. Other than that it is a very quiet, but deceptively simple piece, with all it's curves and assymetry, It has been commissioned through this website by a gentleman in Ann Arbour Michigan.

The following images are very much "off the floor" of the workshop. My time for elaborate narration is limited so the images will have to speak more for themselves.

The woods used are pear (legs, rails, and drawer fronts) Madrone burl veneer (top surface), and a small amount of tulipwood as an accent (beading, stringing, and handles). Overall this is a very refined, delicate piece (as opposed to something like the Sullivan Table, which is very much not about delicacy).


The forms for all the curves of the rails, drawer fronts, and sides are all derived from the master template. Once the basic lines are arrrived at then wood sawing can begin...

Here, a 21/2 inch plank of pearwood is being taken apart (after careful planning and layout) for the leg stock. In this instance I was happy to discover a very pretty and delicate curl in the wood. So the legs will have a nice shimmer to them once they are all finished with a few coats of polish.

This is the awsome Madrone burl veneer. (Arbutus as we call it here in Canada, but it is almost always called Madrone on lumber and veneer lists). I have never seen such glorious and subtle colouring in wood. It is a perfect match for pear. It remains to be seen how the colour will change with the finish; but for now the pear and tulipwood are the perfect tones to work with the colours of this wood.


This piece is all about curves. There are two ways I work up the curves on this piece: the legs are sawn on the bandsaw (not shown) and the rails, drawer fronts, and drawer sides are all bent lamination work. The above image is the lamination of the front rail. Note that there is a subtle change in the arc of the curves on both the front rail (outside - convex side - of the desk) and the back rail (the "inside" - concave side - of the desk where one sits). Not only is there a small but significant difference in the radii (the arc we described with the beam compass is a smaller radius on the inside of the desk than the outside), but I have changed both of the curves into slight elipses, with a slight "tightening" at the ends of each arc to give them a tension that adds immeasurably to the visual interest.

How, you might ask, will these irregular curves of the rails work with the precise arcs (sections of circles) required for the smooth working of the curved drawer?....Stay tuned for that one. I have it all under control....I think...maybe...I hope...


And at the present (as of Saturday April 21, 2001) this is what we have for a desk....

The joinery is done, and the legs are roughly sawn to shape. The top is veneered but still requires a lot more work to even get it close to finished; it is just roughly sawn to shape at the moment. But I feel that I have captured the curves that I was looking for, and so now the work will flow....

A word on those curves and the flow of work....

I am reminded of something my teacher Jim Krenov used to talk about at the school, and in his books. And that is about repeating an idea, and making one's works again. He would emphasize that while he was not strictly speaking a "one off" craftsman, each subsequent version of a piece always changed significantly from the original. This is so true in this case. I think if you are the kind of craftsperson who is:

A)....responding to the wood; then this will always influence the way a piece feels as different woods ask for different approaches.

B) ...looking for a refinement of ideas. This is something that always drives me as a craftsperson and artist. I am always looking for ways to improve my ideas; from the moment I finish a piece I am begining the process of refinement as I will note what might be better the next time around. It is a part of the process I described in my artist's statement on the main page, part of what is called the "upward spiral" of refining ones ideas: you come back to an idea but at a higher, more experienced level, always searching for refinement and improvement.

In the case of this desk, I have refined (to my eye, at least) the lines of this piece in a very significant way. It was in two elements: the afore mentioned curves of the front and back of the desk have been "tightened" on the ends to add some tension; and the curves of the legs have been changed. So far, I am very pleased with the results, as work progresses we shall see where it goes...

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Except as noted, all of the text, designs, and works on this site are copyright of Todd Stockner and all rights to them are reserved. Reproduction or commercial use is prohibited except with express written permission of the artist. The Elephant and Chisels logo is a trademark of the College of the Redwoods Fine Woodworking Program. All other trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners. © 1998