Video of Matching Shaker Style Walnut End Tables

Check out the video of these handmade shaker walnut night tables created for a client who wanted the unique character of walnut balanced with the simplicity of the Shaker style. The Vermont-made piece adds accent and atmosphere with traditional warmth to any living space. Table measures 18″ x 22″ x 26″.
If you like these tables, you might also want to check out handmade cherry shaker end tables.

The “Looking For Love” Cherry Computer Desk

The inspiration for the ‘Looking for Love Computer Desk’ came from a client who inquired about the Cherry Lovers Computer Desk – which was designed for a couple who wanted to share their workspace. The client requested a similar custom handmade desk for one person, and we could only imagine that at some point he would look for, and find, love at this handsome desk.

Check out the video of this beautiful handmade cherry computer desk features a 60″ long work-surface, and was inspired by a similar desk that I built for a couple looking to share their workspace.

The History of Desks Part 2: The Computer Desk

I recently put up a post on the history of the writing desk. Furniture makers perfected the writing desk in the 17th century, but the history of desks marched on. The advent of the typewriter and the computer resulted in specialized adaptations that are still being improved on today, and we can expect new forms of the computer desk to emerge in the future.

custom handmade cherry desk

In order to really understand the history of the computer desk, we have to go back to where it began once again.

The Bargueño (Again)

I covered the bargueño in detail in my other post. In short, it’s one of the very earliest desks. It was made of two pieces: the top, which had a fall-front writing surface that could be closed to conceal the numerous drawers, and the base, which consisted of either a table or a chest of drawers.

The bargueño made a decent standing desk and a beautiful piece of furniture. The two-part design also made it relatively easy to transport.

Soon, similar pieces began to emerge in other parts of Europe, such as …

The Escritoire

The escritoire style of writing desk showed up in France about a century after the bargueño made its first appearance. This is probably the earliest form of desk that most people today would recognize. It stood on legs instead of a solid base, allowing the user to pull up a chair and fit their knees underneath. However, most were still designed with standing in mind, and were too tall to sit at.

Much like the bargueño, the escritoire had ample storage, with several drawers and pigeonholes behind the writing surface. Some also had the same fall-front design that allowed the user to close the desk.

The Kneehole Desk

For some, the storage space behind the writing surface of an escritoire simply wasn’t enough. They wanted all of the advantages of the bargueño’s chest-of-drawers base. They also wanted to sit down.

This gave rise to one of the simplest but most brilliant innovations in the history of desks: the kneehole. Desks were designed with a solid base full of drawers and storage, with just one gap for the user’s legs.

This design can be seen in classics like the bureau Mazarin, the partner desk, and the rolltop desk.

"Rolltop desk." Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

“Rolltop desk.” Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Adapting to Typewriters

The typewriter completely changed the purpose of the desk. Instead of needing only to resist the light scratching of pen on paper, they had to stand up to the punishment of writers slamming away endlessly on 20-pound machines.

The very strong and stable design of the kneehole desk made it more and more popular. The steel tanker desk was one of the most common toward the end of this period, showing up in the late 1940s and staying in use until about the time computers were popularized.

The rise in the number of office workers also meant that desks needed to be cheap. Mass manufacturing became the norm, and handcrafted desks all but disappeared.

The Shift to Computers

The appearance and refinement of computers meant a gradual shift away from heavy loads for the desk. Computer keyboards required less pressure per keystroke than a typewriter, and computers themselves were generally lighter, especially as time went on. The ability to store files on a computer rather than using up reams of paper also meant that physical storage became less and less of a priority.

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Today, computer desks show up in a wide variety of forms, specialized to individual jobs and preferences. Some are little different from the kneehole desks that were in use before and during the time of the typewriter. Others look remarkably similar to the French escritoire. Still more are simple and streamlined, with a flat surface and one or two drawers.

With the amount of time that everyone spends on computers now, ergonomics have also become increasingly important. More and more people are turning to adjustable or customized computer desks to reduce the risk of repetitive motion injury. The need to live a less sedentary lifestyle has also caused many people to return to standing desks.

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I certainly believe this is a change for the better, and I’m voting with my work. I build computer desks that are customized to height and body metrics to provide the best ergonomics possible. While I still offer sitting desks, I’m also proud to offer standing versions.

Working at a computer doesn’t need to be hazardous to your health, nor does it need to be done on a mass-produced papier-mâché “work surface.” Get in touch with me and we can start designing the computer desk you’ve always wanted today.

The History of Desks: The Writing Desk

The history of desks holds a number of surprises—not the least of which is that, after centuries of development and innovation, many of us are turning back to some of the earliest desk styles.

The writing desk was developed in the 17th century by combining several earlier innovations. Despite falling out of favor thanks to the typewriter and the computer, it’s begun making a resurgence in recent years.

Here’s how the writing desk came about:
Cherry Writing Desk

The First Desks

While people have written for more than 5,000 years, nobody thought to create furniture specifically for writing until about the 1400s. At this point in history, the printing press had not yet been invented, and monks spent month after month transcribing books by hand. They needed something to make their grueling job easier.

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“Escribano” by Jean Le Tavernier – [1]. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons. To take some of the strain out of their backs and necks, medieval writers began using slanted work surfaces. These allowed them to hold their work up at a more natural angle.

In addition to working well for writing, these work surfaces made it easier to read, holding up books and parchment at head height. The end result was similar to reading on a modern computer screen.

The Bargueño

Around the same time, the Spanish invented the bargueño. This was an early version of the fall-front desk, with numerous drawers and a front that could be opened and lowered to serve as a writing surface.

When closed, it looked much like a chest. This compact design made it easy to carry around.

The bargueño did not come with legs attached. Instead, it was often built as part of a two-piece set, with a small table or chest of drawers designed to support it.

The Bible Box

As time went on, the printing press came about and reading became more popular. More and more people could afford their own Bible, and writing started to become more a part of everyday life. The everyman soon needed a way to write and to protect his books and papers.

A popular solution was the “Bible box.” As the name suggests, a large part of its purpose was serving as a storage box. However, it had a slanted writing surface like that used by the monks. This writing surface was hinged at the top, so you could simply pull it back and store your things inside.

Much like the bargueño, the Bible box did not stand on legs. The user would have to place it on a table or another surface to write.

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Bradshawhall at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons.

The Desk Box

The Bible box allowed ample storage, but its size made it clumsy. Many turned to a smaller, lighter solution: the desk box. This followed the same principles of design on a more portable scale.

The desk box allowed its owners to hold their work surface on their laps. It could also be placed on a table.


A desk box could have had all of the features shown here, just without the legs.

Despite its emphasis on portability, the desk box often had plenty of internal storage. In addition to having the hinged lid of a Bible box, it sometimes had drawers and additional compartments.

The Writing Desk

In the late 1600s, people began looking for a way to make a dedicated piece of writing furniture that still had the advantages of the desk box. The first solution was to add legs to bring it to proper writing height. This got rid of the need to find a table that was just tall enough or to hold a heavy desk box in one’s lap. However, that came at the cost of the desk box’s prized portability.

Some clever furniture makers, perhaps inspired by the Spanish bargueño, decided to make two-piece writing desks. The top—the desk box—could then be removed from the stand. Owners could now pull the desk into two parts, making it easier to transport and allowing them to adjust the height by moving the desk box to a different surface.

This writing desk design proved itself as one of the most versatile in the history of desks. Even today, it’s a popular choice.

I love this style of writing desk. It’s attractive, it’s useful, and I even find it fun to build. I’d go so far as to say it’s my specialty piece. If you’re interested in having me build one for you, take a look at the handmade desks I’ve built to find out what appeals to you, or go ahead and call or contact me online. I look forward to hearing from you!

I plan to write more on the history of desks soon. If you share my fascination with this subject, then don’t forget to come back later to learn more.

The Hunt for the Perfect Desk Design

Desk design matters because a desk is more than a piece of furniture. Some desks are the place where their owner will spend a third of his or her life making a living. Others are creative spaces where novels are written, works of art are designed, and songs are composed.

With all of these responsibilities, your desk plays a vital role in your life. A bad one will make every day harder. If yours is anything less than exactly what you need, then the hunt for the perfect desk design must begin.

Aesthetics

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You’ve taken the time and money to get a house with a view, you’ve painted the walls your favorite color, and you mow your lawn and wash your car religiously—but every day, you sit down to work at a desk made of compressed wood pulp and plastic. It greets you every morning with all the inviting warmth of Alcatraz.

If you wonder why you lose all of your ambition the moment you sit down to work each morning, this could be the answer.

Consider switching to a cherry computer desk or walnut stand-up writing desk. One of these beautiful hardwoods will make your workplace warmer and more attractive. It will even feel more pleasant to the touch. Instead of feeling like you’re sitting in the jaws of a trap, you’ll start to feel like your desk is a second home.

Style

You need the desk design that’s right for your job. Most people need something primarily designed to work with computers, so a computer desk is the obvious choice.

Those who need loads of storage and plenty of space to spread out should consider a classic secretary desk. These desks feature a large working surface, drawers, shelves, cabinets, and enough bookshelves to keep a small reference library in arm’s reach.
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If you want a writing desk that’s easy to transport, consider one with a removable top. I build stand-up writing desks that include this feature. In addition to helping you move the desk, it allows you to place it on tables so it will stand at a different height.

Health Concerns

Everyone knows that their work has a huge impact on their physical and mental health—but few stop to consider their workspace.

Your environment will always have a major effect on you. To maximize your effectiveness and happiness at work, you need to take into account everything from sunlight levels to desk design.

You don’t need to believe in feng shui to take this seriously. Researchers are starting to look carefully at the way workspace design affects health. Doctors have debated this topic in centuries past, and I believe it will soon become a major issue for scientific discussion.

On top of design and appearance possibly affecting mood and efficiency, there are concrete health issues. Sitting too much and using poor ergonomics can wreak havoc on your body. See my thoughts on ergonomic standing desks to learn more.
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With the perfect desk, I’m sure you’ll feel healthier, happier, and more productive. Get in touch and we’ll start looking for the design that’s right for you today.

Custom Cherry Conference Table for a Web Design Company

I was recently approached by a local Vermont web design company about building a custom conference table for their new office in downtown Burlington. They wanted something a a little different than what I typically build for custom cherry tables, but given our history of working together, I was happy to oblige. Although it may look like a typical piece of office furniture from afar, the beautiful cherry top has a remarkable texture, and one of a kind character. Here’s a quick video of the table from when it was delivered.

Why I Build Cherry Furniture

As a woodworker, I have a close relationship with my materials. The wood I use determines the nature of both the building process and the final product. For these reasons and others, there is one wood I love working with the most: cherry. Cherry furniture is as much a pleasure to make as it is to own.

A True Native

Black cherry is native to North and South America and is part of Vermont’s heritage. Its fruit plays an important part in our local food chain, and those who spend enough time in the woods know it as one of our black bears’ favorite foods.

Cherry also holds a proud place in the history of American woodworking. Early U.S. furniture makers, like the Shakers, quickly realized that they had a world-class cabinetwood on their hands. They used cherry and other northern hardwoods to eliminate our dependence on foreign timber, making quality furniture entirely from local materials.
Shaker Bookcase

A Color that Ages Like Wine

Cherry has the most beautiful color of any wood. It often begins light and even pinkish, but it deepens into a darker, richer shade with sunlight and time. This is a desirable process, much like the formation of verdigris on a copper weathervane.
Stand Up Writing Desk
Of course, nobody wants uneven coloration. I take extra care with cherry in the workshop to prevent the sun from darkening it in sections. This is especially critical in the early stages, before the wood has any sort of coating.

An Exceptional Grain

Just like tiger maple, cherry features a gorgeous quilted appearance. Lines cross back and forth, opposing the grain. This is a large part of what makes it such a wonderful material.

This exceptional grain affects more than appearance; it lends cherry furniture a uniquely soft and smooth texture.
Mission Style Dressing Table
The grain is also just different in ways I can’t describe, ways that separate it even from outwardly similar woods like tiger maple and walnut. It’s much easier to work. When I’m creating with cherry, my vision for the completed piece seems to simply flow into existence.

A Durable Hardwood

Cherry is as strong as it is beautiful. It has enough spring in it to avoid snapping under a sudden impact, and it is hard enough to resist scratching and to stand firm beneath a heavy load (all within reason, of course).

I can’t recommend cherry furniture strongly enough. Such pieces are practical and hardy enough to use every day and attractive enough to become family treasures. There’s nothing else I’d rather build.

Shaker Furniture: Beauty in Simplicity

When people ask me what style of furniture I enjoy building the most, I never have to think twice before answering. In my mind, Shaker furniture is unrivaled.

The Shakers believed in simplicity, and this belief is apparent in every piece of Shaker furniture. You won’t find inlays or other intricate decorations on one.

The idea behind this approach was to prevent feelings of pride. However, I don’t think it’s possible for a furniture maker to not take pride in his or her work, and the Shakers found ways to make furniture beautiful while still abiding by the tenets of their religion. Using subtle joinery and paying careful attention to detail, they transformed “simple” into gorgeous, functional and durable.
Old Lyme Shaker Bed

A Timeless Style

The minimalist design makes the Shaker style timeless. Other styles come and go, but eventually, most seem gaudy or dated. The no-frills, no-flaws appearance of Shaker furniture won’t fall victim to this; it will always look the way a piece of furniture should.

Plato claimed that, while there are many tables built in many styles, they are all built to match one pure, essential form. I believe the Shakers made something closer to the pure table than anybody else before or since—and the same goes for the other furniture they crafted.
Shaker Dining Table in Maple
This is why the Shaker style has lasted for centuries. While the religion is functionally extinct, the principles of design and standards of quality show no sign of disappearing. It continues to stand as a unique tradition and a major influence on modern styles.

Because it has such a powerful effect on today’s designers, Shaker pieces often blend in seamlessly with existing décor, even in ultra-modern homes.
Shaker Style Cherry Computer Desk

An American Tradition

Although Shaker furniture has universal appeal, it is a distinctly American style with especially strong roots in New England. In fact, it became popular as a direct result of the Revolutionary War. The Shakers only used local U.S. woods like cherry, walnut and maple. When people began hunting for ways to furnish their homes without supporting the British, many turned to the Shakers. The style became immensely popular.

History repeats itself. While I doubt that many Americans today hold any grudge against the British, we’re all looking for ways to support more local and domestic businesses. Buying handcrafted Shaker furniture is still a great way to do this.

The Shaker style will always be my favorite. Its influence pervades all of my work, and can be seen even in my pieces that aren’t explicitly Shaker. This simple, functional, eye-catching way of building furniture strikes a chord with me that nothing else has matched.
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Click to see some of my handcrafted Shaker furniture. If you share my appreciation for this tradition, I’m sure you’ll find something that calls to you.

Handmade Shaker Drop Leaf Harvest Dining Table

A handcrafted dining table is often one of the first pieces a new client will choose for their home. At Hawk Ridge Furniture we’re honored to create these places where important decisions will be made, meals will be shared and occasions celebrated. If there’s one particular handmade table that tugs at my heartstrings, it’s the simple Shaker-inspired drop leaf table pictured below.

Custom Harvest Dining Table in Cherry

The drop leaf table has been around for centuries. At Hawk Ridge we craft a piece with the highest quality Cherry wood in a simple, polished design, featuring the honorable addition of a time-tested rule joint in place of hinges, to raise and lower the leaves. And while considered an American classic, today’s economy of space has inspired a bit of new interest in the style. You’ll find a drop leaf table not just in grandmother’s kitchen or parlor, but in modern offices, hallways and family rooms where they serve as a console side or end table until duty calls. The convertible nature is a favorite of designers and decorators for apartment, cottage or studio living. It’s a favorite of clients who value flexibility and function in handcrafted home décor.

Custom Bow-Shaped Harvest Dining TableBow-Shaped Harvest Dining Table in Cherry

 

And we couldn’t do this multi-functional beauty justice without a moment of focus on the tricky joint itself. A rather difficult one to master, Paul’s got it down. He makes sure the table top and the leaves are an exact match in thickness. He designs a perfectly sculpted fillet and radius (above right) and shapes the cove of the leaf to rest smoothly atop the radius’ arc when it’s engaged, bringing the edges to a perfect match. No cookie crumbs sneaking in! The craftsmanship and brilliance of the rule joint drop leaf table produces an heirloom piece that will withstand the hustle and bustle of daily life with classic and simple beauty. Handcrafted with purpose in the Vermont workshop of Hawk Ridge Furniture.

Handmade Pennsylvania Corner Cupboard

I designed this corner cupboard based on a 1830′s rural southeastern Pennsylvania cherry corner cupboard design. The basic design includes a true divided lite door above, one drawer and two doors below.

This custom handmade piece features bunn feet, dovetail joinery, brass hinges and pulls, and cock beaded drawer fronts. It’s a beautiful and durable heirloom piece. View the Pennsylvania Corner Cupboard or our entire line of cupboard styles here, thanks!

Handmade Mission Cherry Dressing Table

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I’m currently working on this Mission cherry dressing table specially ordered by a client who preferred Mission style to my Shaker style dressing table. I really enjoyed working with the highly-figured cherry, enhanced by a pigmented oil finish. Handmade with the finest select hardwood, the natural beauty of the cherry is complimented by ball-peen hammered brass pulls.
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Three hand-cut dovetail drawers and swivel mirror add a simple but elegant practicality. The mitered tilting mirror fits into a cherry frame allowing free movement. The drawers provide space for all manner of accessories.
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Combining natural beauty with the practical but elegant Mission style, this fully-functional piece adds much to any bedroom setting, making a proud addition to any family heirloom. If you prefer another style, I can fashion a custom design to fit your needs.
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Handmade Hardwood Shaker Hall Table: Adding Elegance to Any Home

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Shaker-style furniture is simple but elegant

Shaker furniture is known for its simplicity, innovative construction, quality, and usability. It was developed by the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing—a religious group that came to America from England in 1774—also known as the “Shakers”. The ascetic religious beliefs of the Society inspired the design of Shake furniture, which they made for their own use and for sale to the public.
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The underlying principles of Shaker design have given inspiration to some of the finest designers of modern furniture. Collections of Shaker furniture are maintained by art and historical museums in the U.S. and U.K., as well as in numerous private collections around the world.

Popular examples of Shaker furniture survive today—especially a variety of tables, chairs, desks and shaker beds.

Handmade Shaker hall table utilizes traditional Shaker building techniques and design

Shaker furniture design and construction techniques inspire and enhance the handmade hardwood Shaker hall table from Hawkridge Furniture. Constructed with premium hand-selected hardwoods—birch, maple, cherry, walnut, and sustainably-harvested mahogany—this custom heirloom piece is fashioned with traditional mortise-and-tenon joinery.
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The hall table has unique character accents and design features that balance Shaker simplicity—while sacrificing none of the durability or functionality. The flaming hardwood top, dovetailed drawer, and tapered legs—all hand-rubbed and waxed with natural oil—add a touch of elegance to any hallway, and atmosphere with traditional warmth to any home.

The table measures 15″x42″x30″and comes standard with hammered, antique-finish brass knobs.

If you like this shaker table, you can buy it here.

Hawkridge Furniture will design a custom table

Hawkridge Furniture handmade pieces reflect maker Paul Donio’s love of history and craftsmanship prevalent in periods from which he draws inspiration—such as Shaker. With a deep respect for traditional joinery and fine woodworking, he creates each piece of custom furniture with a design and build as unique as the future owner.
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Cherry Stand up Computer Desk and Companion Chair

In this video you will see the shaker stand up computer desk in cherry from previous posts that now features a handmade stool for those who care to sit. The chair will be offered as a possible companion piece for those interested. You can view Hawk Ridge Furniture’s complete line of Vermont studio made desks. This set makes a perfect gift for the home or office!

Finished Cherry Standup Computer Desk Video

A previous client that I had not seen in 8 years paid me an unexpected visit over Memorial Day weekend just as I was finishing the handmade Cherry Stand Up Computer Desk that was featured in the previous post. He wanted something a bit smaller that featured a hinged top and hidden drawers similar to the Cherry Stand Up Writing Desk that he ended up purchasing. Before shipping out the completed Cherry Stand Up Computer Desk, we took a video showing the details of the finished piece. You can also view Hawk Ridge Furniture’s complete line of custom desks handmade in Vermont here.

Cherry Stand Up Computer Desk Shop Photos

Check out the cherry stand up computer desk I’ve been working on, view photos of the piece in progress and finished product below. This computer desk makes an ideal working environment for home or office. Click here to view product specs and buy online. 

Structure and sawdust

This is my first-ever blog post. I knew that my past life as an English major would come in handy at some point!

Today I was immersed in two very different stages of the furniture making process. Milling out 7′ long cherry boards for a trestle-style conference table produced an enormous quantity of sawdust. I’m glad to be able to pass this material on for others to use–my wife mulches her garden paths with it, and a neighbor appreciates its absorptive properties on the floor of his food processing facility.

As the individual boards began to approach their final dimensions, I was able to roughly layout the table top for the first time. Struck by the sheer mass of the solid hardwood top, I decided to re-evaluate my trestle base design. I cut out a plywood template and used this to determine the stress points, curvature and exact joint dimensions. I beefed it up a little from the spec that I quoted on, just to be certain that it had the strength needed to last long term. pd