How to Design and Build a Vintage School Desk

desk with apple and books on top
  • 3-9 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-500
What You'll Need
Tape measure
1/4-inch plywood sheets
2x4 Wood
2x2 Wood
Locking hinges
12-inch drawer slides
Drawer glides
Circular saw
Wood glue
Lacquer finish

Designing and building a vintage school desk for your student will help you save on space in your home and give them a place in which to prepare their homework. Vintage school desks can be built from custom plans purchased online or from pictures of old school desks like the ones you used as a child.

Step 1 - Design Vintage School Desk

Go online to find pictures of vintage school desks that you want to incorporate in your design. You may be able to find build plans for a desk or be able to guesstimate the dimensions of the desk you want to build. The desk will be built using plywood sheets, 2x4 wood for legs, and the box drawer and locking hinges for a raised top desk.

Step 2 - Purchase Materials

Once you obtain the dimensions for the vintage school desk, go to a building materials store or home improvement store to purchase the materials for the desk. Getting the dimensions are important because it will tell you how much wood is needed for the top, sides, drawers, draw bottom and braces for the desk.

Step 3 - Cut Pieces of Wood to Dimension

Use the circular saw to cut the wood to the desired dimensions of the vintage school desk. After the wood has been cut, sand the wood to remove any rough edges.

Step 4 - Build Drawer Box

screw in a piece of wood

Based on your vintage school desk dimensions, build the box structure for your desk drawer. Use the 2x4 wood to build the sides and back of the drawer box. Take two pieces of 2x2 wood to create the front of the box, leaving sufficient space for the drawer to slide into. Place drawer glides on both sides of the box structure for the vintage school desk.

Step 5 - Attach Legs

Attach legs to the box structure, using 2X4 wood cut to your design dimensions. Attach the legs to the box using wood screws that are placed in counter drilled holes on the side. Use at least two screws per leg. Use a level to make sure that each leg is at the correct height.

Create a box brace attached midway from the top of the drawer box structure and the bottom of the vintage school desk legs. Attach a piece of 2x4 wood to the front and sides of the desk. This will create a brace and strengthen the desk.

Step 6 - Build the Drawers

man cutting a sheet of plywood

Use the plywood as the drawer bottom and attach 2x4 wood cut to size for the sides, front and back of the drawer. The 2x4 wood sides can be attached flush to each other and screwed together with wood screws. Use wood glue and brads to attach the plywood bottom to the sides. Attach opposing drawer glides to the drawer and a drawer pull to the front. Place the drawer inside the drawer box to make sure it pulls in and out.

Step 7 - Attach the Top and Paint

Take the plywood top and using the hinges, attach it to the drawer box assembly. The hinges should lock when the drawer is raised, giving you additional access to the drawer’s contents. Stain or paint the wood and allow it to dry before using your new vintage student desk.