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Custom Football Office Desk: a study in how to make a husband incredibly happy.

I'm not sure if y'all know this, but Mr. Harbin and I are HUGE college football fans. Like, should probably be in the running for Biggest Clemson Fans EVER...we even went to the 2018 National Championship at Levi Stadium! I draw the line at painting our entire house (or even back deck) orange - can you imagine the HOA's reaction!? - but we do have a tiger paw on our front door and I made a point to use orange outdoor fabric for our front porch chairs. It's says "Go Tigers" in a more subtle way.

One of the requirements when bought our house, was that there were enough rooms for Mr. Harbin and myself to have separate offices in addition to a guest bedroom. Back in March, I finally whipped my office into shape, creating a reading nook and then designing and building my hairpin leg desk. At that time, Mr. Harbin was in Europe on Army business for a few months so when he came home, I knew an office desk for him would be high on the priority list. And it couldn't just be any old desk, there had to be a component of orange tiger awesomeness. I sketched, came up with ideas, tossed them, got input and feedback from my VIP client and finally came up a solid plan.

At the end of August, I double checked my cut lists, decided on finish colors and bought wood. Mr. Harbin was out of town (again) to do the bidding of the Army, so it was perfect timing to spend a few days working long hours so the desk would be done by the time he arrived home on Friday.

Wood dolly in The Home Depot holding 1/2" and 3/4" plywood pieces.
An expensive picture these days.

Ready, set, let's go!

Are you more of a step-by-step person who likes actual written instructions? Check out the PDF plans for this project that include cut lists to show you exactly how to divvy up your plywood sheets, detailed diagrams, photos, and easy-to-follow instructions. Print it off or pop it up on your iPad and you'll breeze right through this build!

Tools Needed:

  • Table saw (or circular saw with straight edge)

  • Drill with bits

  • Sander

  • Nail gun

  • Pocket hole jig

  • Level (short & long)

  • Clamps

  • Speed square

Materials Used:

  • Sandpaper

  • 1 1/4” & 1" pocket screws

  • 1” finishing nails

  • Wood glue

  • Wood filler

  • Primer & paint and/or stain & topcoat

  • 16" drawer slides

  • Drawer pull


  • (3) 3/4" plywood sheets

  • (1) 1/2" plywood sheet


  • Wood burning kit

  • Plywood edge banding

Step 1 - Go Shopping!

This implies you've double-checked dimensions (incorporating any changes you might desire), figured out whether you want to paint or stain (or both!) and have decided what you want to do with the edges. Now that you have that sorted, head on over to your favorite local home improvement store and grab everything.

Silver Jeep Compass with the liftgate open and pieces of wood loaded inside.
No issues this go round...but I may have found out the hard way that a 3'-6" wide piece most definitely did NOT fit and I had to go back in to have another 6" trimmed off.

NOTE: Double check that your wood will fit in your vehicle of choice. We have a mid-size SUV and can fit pieces that are 3'-6" x 6'-0"...but anything larger than that and Houston, we have a problem. Probably should consider that truck at some point... That said, the nice people at The Home Depot will cut the 4'x8' sheets down for you!

Step 2 - Cut, Sand and Pre-Drill

Cut your wood (see dimensions below) for the table components and drawer pieces - a table saw that extends to at least 30 inches will make this simple (and safe!).

2D shop drawing showing desktop plan with dimensions.
Overall desktop plan dimensions.
2D shop drawing showing front elevation with dimensions.
Front elevation of desk with dimensions.
2D shop drawing of the desk drawer with dimensions.
Overall desk drawer dimensions.

The drawer has dado cuts (grooves that don't go all the way through the wood) - dado blades for your table saw (or your neighbor's, thanks Sean) makes short work of this and literally takes minutes...if you don't have a dado blade you can use a router or make several passes with a circular saw. Both will work fine, just take a little longer.

Sand all your pieces starting with 120 grit and moving on to 220 grit. Remove any dust when you're finished.

Pre-drill pocket holes (the kreg jig makes this really simple!) on the following pieces:

  • Left side back

  • Right side shelves

  • Top of all four vertical supports

  • Both bottom supports

Piece of plywood with pre-drilled pocket holes in the sides.
Pre-drill pocket holes in pieces as needed.

Step 3 - Stain/Paint Pieces

NOTE: Quick aside on plywood...their edges aren't the most visually pleasing. There are several different ways to remedy this and way you're finishing your project (paint, stain, etc) can impact which you choose. I personally like to use wood filler for pieces (or more specifically, edges) that will be painted - once dry and sanded, the paint adheres beautifully. However, stain does not. For pieces that will be stained, pre-glued edge banding of the same species of wood as the plywood will take stain the same, ensuring the even color.

Workbench in a garage with iron-on edge banding cut to a shorter length.
Iron-on edge banding makes plywood edges appear much more finished.

Treat the edges of your plywood - edge banding, wood filler, whatever, and then sand the edges to ensure everything is smooth.

Now for the time consuming part - finishing. I chose to pre-treat my pieces that were to be stained with pre-stain wood conditioner to ensure an even finish. I treated all sides of my pieces but you can get away with only treating the outside faces since they are most visible. Stain or paint as desired, following the manufacturers recommendations. I used a semi-gloss enamel paint. After 24 hours of allowing the stain and paint to dry, I applied a polyurethane topcoat to the stained pieces and desktop - 3 coats for the desktop, 2 coats for everything else.


If you want to create something truly unique (whether that's a tiger paw or something different altogether) and combine paint and stain on the desktop, there's a few extra steps. I'd recommend starting there first, drawing your design in pencil until you're happy with it. Using a wood burner (you can get them at The Home Depot, Michaels, Amazon...they're pretty inexpensive), go over your outline. This will do two things: first, it will make your design pop, giving it a 3D look when you're finished; second, it will provide an edge barrier for the stain so it doesn't seep. Paint first, using a small brush to get in all the nooks and crannies. Apply at least two coats of paint for durability. Once your paint is dry, go back and stain, using another paintbrush. Depending on how detailed your design is, it might need to be a tiny paintbrush. Wipe away the excess stain as you go. Allow everything to dry and finish with 3 coats of a gloss polyurethane topcoat.

Step 4: Assemble


This is the simplest part and oh-so-satisfying! Start with the drawer. Apply wood glue to the dado cuts on the drawer sides and front/back. Fit the drawer bottom into the 1/4" grooves, hold in place with clamps and secure with 1" finish nails.

Desk Frame:

Now for the desk proper. Start by attaching the left and right vertical supports to the bottom pieces.

Desk frame on its side, showing the under side of the bottom support with pocket holes.
Attach the bottom supports to the vertical pieces using pocket screws.

Add the back to the left side. Add the bottom shelf to the right side. You'll want to wait to attach the top shelf until after the desktop has been attached, otherwise there isn't enough room to operate the drill without using a right angle or snake attachment.

Left side of desk frame, showing bottom support attached to vertical supports and the back piece installed using pocket screws.
Left side of desk frame with back installed.
Right side of desk frame on its side showing shelf attached with pocket screws.
Right side of desk frame with shelves being installed.

Depending on where you're fabricating and where the desk is going, you might need to do the final assembly in the room it will be located. Luckily, this desk is basically four separate pieces: the desktop, left side enclosed space, right side shelves, and the drawer in the center. Move those pieces to the desks final intended space.

Left and right desk frame components in place with drawer in the center.
Desk frame pieces in place with the drawer in the center.

Drawer Installation:

Install the drawer first since you can move the left and right side pieces to ensure it fits perfectly. Seriously, this will be the easiest drawer you'll ever install. Position your left and right components into place, using the drawer to eyeball the amount of space to leave in the center. Attach the slides to the left and right components first, ensuring they are at exactly the same position on both sides. Release the interior portions of the slides and attach to either side of the drawer. Replace the drawer, adjusting the left and/or right components to ensure the drawer slides freely.

Desktop Installation:

Leave the drawer completely pushed in and place the desktop on top of the desk frame. Adjust it so that the overhang is equal on either side and the front/back. Attach from the under side with pocket screws through the pre-drilled holes in each of the vertical supports.

Shelf Installation:

Now that the desktop is installed, install the last right side shelf using pocket screws.

Drawer Face:

The last step is to install the drawer face. I like to use the these Rockler Woodworking Drawer Front Installation Clamps to take the guesswork out of the process - they allow you to make sure the face is level and even on both sides. Use 1" wood screws to secure the drawer box to the face. Position the drawer pull in the center of the drawer face, marking the attachment points, predrill the holes and then attach the pull.

Orange drawer with stained drawer face in place to be attached.
Attach drawer face using drawer front installation clamps.

Step 5: Style & Get to Work!

Okay, the get to work part can wait, you can sit back and enjoy your handiwork first...partially because you need to let the topcoat cure - you don't want to ruin all your hard work! Usually the manufacturer's recommendation is about three give it some time before you add computers and monitors and filling shelves with knickknacks.

Chestnut stained desk with orange accents.
Completed desk with custom orange tiger paw, orange drawer and shelves.

Safe to say, Mr. Harbin is quite pleased.

Masculine office with a wall of bookshelves, orange drapes, custom desk, and intricate light fixture.
Not gonna lie, it's a pretty sweet office.

I love when a sketch comes to life!

Chestnut stained desk with orange accents and center drawer.
There's no way Mr. Harbin isn't going to smile every time he sits down to work!

If you make your own desk we'd love to see it! Tag us on Instagram @reddesignedinteriors and #reddesignedtutorials

Want to build your own but don't have time right now? Save this pin for later!

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