← Back to Kevin's newslettersPublished: 2024 March 29

Hi friends!

It’s all woodworking this issue, but the computer/electronics nonsense will likely return in the next newsletter.

Also: I’ll be in Taipei Apr 21–May 3, so drop me a line if you want to catch up over some 滷肉饭!

Building a floating castle desk

When I first moved to Amsterdam I asked y'all for advice on how to:

place a sit/stand desk and its giant-TV-as-monitor in a open kitchen/living plan without totally destroying the vibe

I’m pleased to report that I’ve solved this dilemma by building my own, uh, floating castle:

a wall of gray felt woven through wood rods, floating on standing desk legs

a standing desk with tall wood/felt partition

a standing desk with tall wood/felt partition

My original inspiration came via Pinterest, where I discovered Adam Goodrum’s Bower furniture collection and its theme of basket-woven felt.

The wood rod construction in particular appealed to me as I’d just moved to the Netherlands and had only a hand-saw, drill, and 3d-printer at my disposal. I figured I might be able to order wood rods online and combine them with 3d printed brackets. (It’s much easier to order wood rods when you have the right Dutch search term: “rondhout”.)

I prototyped a few ideas with clips and zip ties on the desk top, together with a printed top-rail:

However, this felt way too plastic / cheap, so I tried a horizontal wooden rail:

I still wasn’t happy with the 3d-printed connectors; they all felt too much like a kid’s toy or cheap plumbing equipment.

I decided to punt this aesthetic issue and build a full-sized prototype on the desk anyway, just to get a feel for the materials and scale:

I learned quite a bit doing this:

For this last point, I decided to try cutting a channel within a wood rod that I could thread the felt through. I briefly toyed with the idea of getting a CNC router, but my new Amsterdam apartment didn’t have a giant closet suitable for building a sound-deadening enclosure.

Luckily, I found a CNC router in a 15th century city-gate and managed to talk my way into using it:

a wood rod held down with 3d-printed clamps being cut by a CNC router

Let me tell you, having a 3d-printer is an absolute game-changer when it comes to clamping stuff to a CNC. The white “let’s hold both sides and cross our fingers” fixturing setup above for cutting the long groove really shouldn’t have worked as well as they did.

I’m particularly pleased with how the threaded corners turned out:

gray felt threaded through a groove in a wood rod.

To fabricate the top rail, I considered using a handsaw, dowel joints, and a Kevin’s-hands-controlled router with 3d-printed templates, but my girlfriend strongly suggested that it might be time to hire a woodworker with a proper shop rather than making sawdust in our apartment.

The first woodworker I emailed referred me to his shopmate who, no joke, was 3d printing jigs as part making woven furniture. He gave me a crash course on using his giant sliding table saw:

Kevin taking a selfie with a giant sliding table saw

He also showed me how to use his fancy Festool router to make sawdust in the living room (sorry girlfriend):

Kevin breaking edges on his standing desk top with a hand router

Fabrication details

A forstner bit and portable drill guide were used to drill 20mm and 30mm pockets in the desktop with an M5 clearance hole.

The thinner wood rods have threaded inserts at both ends; the rod is screwed into a threaded rod in the top rail:

a threaded rod in a circular pocket on the underside of the top rail

The bottom of the rod is pressed into a desktop pocket and secured via M5 machine screw from underneath the desktop.

Since the larger wood rods have a defined angular position (so their grooves are oriented with the felt), they can’t be screwed into the top rail; they’re simply friction fit and then pressed into the desktop pocket and fixed via screw from underneath the desk.

I used these generic Amazon/AliExpress M5 softwood inserts in 7mm holes:

metal threaded insert

These work great in MDF/plywood, but they were a huge pain to screw into the beech. (I split two of the inserts!!!) Next time I’ll probably source hardwood inserts from Rampa.

The felt is simply folded over itself and friction fit into the terminating rod groove:

felt pushed into terminating groove

The original dark felt was a 3mm thick, 400 gram/m2, 70% wool / 30% polyester blend. However, I found it a bit too floppy and switched to a lighter gray felt (3mm thick, 580 gram/m2, 100% polyester) which was substantially stiffer and gave a much crisper look.

The standing desk legs are the FlexiSpot E8 paired with an 18mm thick, 160 x 80 cm beech panel from Praxis’s hout op maat service.

The wood rods are beech, 20mm diameter in the field and 30mm in the corners, from Aduis.nl.

Everything was finished with Osmo Polyx Hard Wax Oil with white tint (3040c) which you really should (as everyone online and the can itself says) apply very thinly lest you get a few white splotches that you need to sand away. (Ask me how I know.)

The 42" LG OLED television that I use as a monitor has four M6 mounting holes on the rear, which I’m using with a piece of MDF and a gazillion zip-ties to hide a PC, surge protector, KVM switch, and miscellanious electronic sins:

an absolute mess of cables hanging off the back of a TV

Only two cables escape the desk (power and ethernet), both plugging into the wall behind the Ikea pegboard, which is hung on a black metal TV mount the previous tenant and landlord kindly left attached to the wall.


In order of appearance:

Next projects

What should I work on next?

Misc. stuff