Create a simple desk with the beauty of natural wood using pre-cut legs, boards, and top.
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Sand the 20 x 72 pine panel with 120-grit and 180-grit sandpaper. Wipe the surface clean and apply two coats of primer -- sanding lightly between coats -- and three coats of semigloss paint in the color of your choice (Rare Sienna shown).
If you prefer a clear finish but aren’t comfortable with brush-on finishes, a convenient alternative is a wipe-on polyurethane finish that leaves no brush strokes. Just add a couple extra coats to achieve the same level of protection.
Temporarily screw a metal bracket onto the top of a leg. Place the bracket against the underside of the top so that the leg is 7-1/2 inches from the end of the desk and 3 inches from one edge. Mark the screw hole locations and repeat for the three remaining leg locations using the same leg.
Drill 7/64-inch pilot holes 1/2 inch deep for each bracket. Screw the brackets in place with 5/8-in panhead sheet-metal screws. Then screw the legs onto the brackets.
Use a square to make sure the faces of the legs are parallel to the edges and ends of the desk.
Measure along the length of the desk between the legs, and cut a 1 x 3 pine board to that length. Repeat for the other long apron board and the two end boards. (Lengths may differ slightly, so label the boards.)
To accommodate the thickness of the metal brackets, mark the edge of a board 1/4 inch from both ends along the edge that will go against the tabletop. Make 45-degree notches on both ends. Repeat for the other board.
On the two end boards, drill a pair of pocket holes on each end. Then drill a centered pocket hole along the long edge that will go against the top. Clamp an end in position centered on the widths of the legs and drive the pocket screws. Repeat for the other end piece.
On the two long apron boards, drill a pair of pocket holes on each end. Then drill pocket holes on the long edge 18 inches from each end. Clamp a long apron board in position centered on the widths of the legs and drive the pocket screws. Repeat for the other long apron board.
Remove the hardware from each pine bracket and cut a 45-degree notch from the corner like the ones on the apron boards. Glue and clamp a pine bracket to the face of the table leg closest to the end (but not to the table top). Repeat for the other three brackets.
Back out the pocket-hole screws holding the top to the apron and finish the apron separately. Reassemble the table after the final coat dries. Estimated cost: $109 with a clear finish.
If you want to turn this project into a table, leave as is or cut about 4 inches from the bottom of each leg.