Parson Tower Desk

Submitted by Ana White on Sun, 10/17/2010 - 19:35
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This is the desk that this very blog was built on. I love it because of the large top surface, ample storage, but clean simple modern design that begs to stay clutter free. You can also use this desk as a console table.

Well, I got a new desk.

There was nothing wrong with my previous desk. It just that I'm spending more and more time at my desk, and need something bigger.  That, and I'll admit it, I don't need much of an excuse to build something  :)

What do you think?  Not bad for scraps, eh?

Oh, and the finish is scraps too!  I used leftover (from Grace's Bookshelves) Antique White by Valspar in flat, two coats, brushed on.  I wanted the wood grain to show through slightly.  Then I painted on two coats of satin polyurethane.  It's now got a sheen but it's not goopy or glossy and you can see hints of wood grain.  My favorite finish.  Also, the Antique White is such a softer more pleasant color than traditional white.

And here is one unstaged.  I'm always amazed at how beautiful a few 2x2s (well, more than a few for this desk) and some MDF can be.  And strong, functional and sturdy.  I put this one together completely with pocket holes (I use a Kreg Jig).  It's worth the investment.  You will make your investment back if you build just this desk.

Another bonus of building something yourself is the freedom to modify it to suit your needs.  You can't tell, but my desk is actually 2" shorter than the plan calls for because I'm short, and wanted my keyboard to be at the exact height of the armrests on my chair.  All I had to do was take two inches off the legs and adjust the middle shelf down an inch.

Now it's your turn.  Want to make my desk yours?

Dimensions are shown above. Resist making the desk much narrower, or there won’t be room for your knees. As discussed earlier, you can shorten the desk quite easily be taking length from the legs and adjusting the middle shelf accordingly.


Shopping List

1 Sheet of 3/4″ MDF or Plywood cut into 15 1/2″ widths, 8′ long (referred to as 1x16s)
7 2×2 boards, 8′ long
2″ pocket hole screws
1 1/4″ pocket hole screws

Common Materials
120 grit sandpaper
wood conditioner
paint brush
Cut List

1 – 1×16 @ 57″ (desk top)
4 – 1×16 @ 15″ (Shelves)
10 – 2×2 @ 15 1/2″ (Trim perpendicular to desktop)
8 – 2×2 @ 15″ (Trim parallel to desktop)
8 – 2×2 @ 28 1/2″ (Legs)
2 – 2×2 @ 60″ (Desktop Side Trim)

Tape Measure
Speed Square
Safety Glasses
Kreg Jig
Circular Saw
Power Sander
Drill Bit Set
General Instructions

Pocket Holes

Go through the entire set of instructions and drill all pocket holes first. Basically, you need pocket holes on both ends of all the 15″ and 15 1/2″ 2x2s, one pocket hole on the tops of each leg, and then pocket holes on all sides of the shelves and desktop. Remember to set your jig for 1 1/2″ stock for 2x2s and 3/4″ stock for the MDF.


Step 1

Shelf Trim

With the tops flush, glue and screw the shelves to the trim as shown above. Use 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws. Drill pocket holes set for 3/4″ stock. Make sure you have already drilled one pocket hole in each end of all of the 2×2 trim pieces. The pocket holes in the 2x2s need to be for 1 1/2″ thick stock.

Build four of these.

Step 2

Mark legs for the center shelf. Then glue and screw through the pocket holes into the legs. Remember – the tops of the legs should each have a single pocket hole to attach the top. If you don’t have a right angle drill, resist the urge to place the pocket hole on the inside where it won’t be seen – you also won’t be able to get your drill in there. Build two of these.

Step 3


The tabletop is super simple. Begin by attaching the end trim to the top. Then attach the front and back trim (the long ones) to the top and the side trim. Done. Keep the bottom edges flush.

Step 4


I choose to leave the glue off to make for moving the desk easy. Simply lay the desktop on top of the tower and screw through the pocket holes into the underside of the desktop. Remember, the towers are not perfect squares, so you may need to rotate the towers to get the perfect fit.

Good luck! And PS – if you are intimidated by this project, don’t be. My desk was done in a few hours Can’t wait to see yours!


Tracyann George (not verified)

Sun, 10/17/2010 - 20:02

What Kreg Jig Did you get and where? Was it in Fbks? We could us this on some many things like tables and chairs and such. Looks like a nifty thing. What else have you used it on? Thanks

andjarnic (not verified)

Sun, 10/17/2010 - 20:17

Kreg Jig at Lowes plus most 50 to 100 pack of screws 1 1/4" to 2 1/2" long can be found there. I also picked up an extra drill bit, and the bits to use on the screws there. They also have various clamps, wood plugs, etc. You can find it online there as well.

@Ana, for MDF, do you do any sort of sanding, or just apply a couple coats of primer (I use Killz or 123.. not sure if that is any good)? I have 4 sheets of 3/4" MDF and trying to figure out what to do with it. I was going to use it for the beds, but bought 1x12x8' pine boards instead. I am wondering if I can use the MDF for closet organizer sides, book shelfs, etc.. but fear that a closet or book shelf with a side of 4' to 8' in length will eventually sag. Any way to avoid MDF sagging? Like 1x2 trim, 1/4" plywood back panels, and such?

The desk looks great. I bought a gallon of polyurethane, semi-gloss. I am hoping a coat or two of that on MDF/Pine/Plywood will give it a nice shine and some extra strength.

Mary Anne (not verified)

Mon, 10/18/2010 - 02:07

I love it! It seems that you could make 3 desks out of one sheet of plywood, right? Of course as you have said previously the strips would be slightly less than 16" due to the width of the saw blade...

These last three plans have been brilliantly simple. THANK YOU!

laura lehman (not verified)

Mon, 10/18/2010 - 03:09

This desk is really cool....but what I want to comment on is the awesome metal wall you have. Did you use the basic roofing material? It'd be useful in a "kids" room. Not only is it very durable and could put up posters with magnets! I've got to do that. Are the ridges troublesome? Well done!

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