Nancy Hiller’s Traveling Desk

The desk has a lightweight, 5-piece base that goes together with interlocking joints.
The desk has a lightweight, 5-piece base that goes together with interlocking joints.
Nancy & I assembled the completed walnut base while Joey the shop dog looked on.
Nancy & I assembled the completed walnut base while Joey the shop dog looked on.
To get the desk ready for
To get the desk ready for “finished” photos, we’ll varnish the walnut base and install some desk gromments in the top for wire management.

Bloomington, Indiana is a college town with a rich & varied community. It’s been a good place for Nancy Hiller to establish a custom woodworking business. Nancy began her woodworking career in England, where she was exposed to traditional hand tool techniques and different furniture styles. When I asked her about a project to feature in Woodcraft magazine, she pitched the Knockout Knock-down Desk you see here. We just completed all the how-to  photos in Nancy’s workshop. The project will be featured in our Oct.-Nov. issue.

I was immediately taken by the design of this desk, which Nancy describes as distinctly “Mid-Century Modern.” Fans of Mad Men will be familiar with this furniture style, which favors straight lines and spare, functional design. Mid-Century Modern was big in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, in architecture as well as furniture-making.

Nancy’s desk has a lightweight base that goes together with lap joints; no fasteners are necessary. Particularly impressive in the construction process was Nancy’s hand-tool technique for creating dovetail lap joints in the desk’s bottom stretcher. Don’t worry; we’ll show how to duplicate this joinery, along with other key construction techniques.

We made a laminate-covered desktop, but you could also fabricate one from solid wood. I really like the simple, elegant design, as well as the workmanship that Nancy demonstrated. Joey, the shop dog, kept us company during a long day of construction & photography. Nice job, Nancy.

–Tim Snyder

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