Sep 12, 2008

How to Make an Animation Desk, Part IV

All right. Once we pulled those clamps off, the desk was pretty well on its way to being done. There were still three significant steps to complete: attaching the top to the body via piano hinge, finagling the electricity for the light, and, finally, finishing up the disk itself.

1. The Piano Hinge

The top of the desk was all fastened on, including the bar that will hold it up at an angle and the light fixture. Here are two views, from the back and from the front. We needed to attach that top onto the body of the desk. First, we had to cut down the hinge from the original 3' to about 28". Using the router, we took out a roughly 1/16" deep and 1/4" thick strip along the front edge of the desk. We did the same thing to the bottom of the desktop (on the front side...I hope that makes sense). We then drilled the hinge in, top and bottom. The routing does a good job of hiding much of the hinge itself. Once it is attached, the desktop should hinge from the front (meaning that the back should lift up), leaving you with an angled drawing surface.

Here it is at this point:

II. The Light

Once the desktop and the body were attached, we could finally wire-up the light. We had already attached the light fixture itself to the bar on the back of the desktop. We decided that the switch would be a little off-center (to the left) behind the front of the desk body. We first hammered in the electrical housing (the blue plastic thing) and proceeded to attach the wires. We determined that it had been done wrong the first three times when we killed the circuit for a room in my house three times in a row. A simple Google search to here gave us exactly what we needed. Apparently, you shouldn't attach both the white and black wires to the switch. Only the black one. The white from the switch attaches straight to the other white wire on the end of the cord. After playing with it a little, we got it hooked up, and we finally got the light to run without throwing the circuit breaker, and here it is:

At this point, we were effectively done with the actual 'desk' part. A few finishing touches remained, but all the really hard work was done. All that was left was the disc.

III. The Disc

The disk (I think) is the hardest part of the project. You can save yourself a whole lot of pain by simply buying one. I, on the other hand, apparently have some masochistic strain, so opted to make one myself. If you want to do the same thing, read on.

At this point, we had two circular pieces of aspen: one that was 16 1/2" in diameter, and one that was 18" in diameter. Something very handy is the fact that the smaller one came from cutting the hole out of the desktop. This will come in handy later. For now, simply put that one to the side.

We took the bigger circle and spent a lot of time and sweat in curving the top edge with some heavy sandpaper (followed by a round of the fine stuff) (see picture). This circle is the one that holds the plexiglass and the bars, so my arm would be resting on it a lot. I wanted a smooth edge for that. Once it was sufficiently sanded down, we took the 16 1/2" circle. We centered it on the larger circle and attached it about an inch from the top and an inch from the bottom. We then measured out a 10.5"x13" rectangle, centered to the center of the circles. That size works well--it allows me to use 10f and 12f paper (which is good enough for me, in all my amateur-ness). Using the jigsaw, we cut through both circles. Now, on the back of the disc, you should have two curved pieces. These will fit into the hole on the desktop, and once sufficiently sanded down, should allow the disc to rotate freely. Put a few more screws into those pieces to make sure they are secure.

When that had been cut using the jigsaw, we pulled out our good friend, the router. One note: be very careful when using a router. My dad hates the thing (so I graciously let him take the lead this time around), and my roommate's dad lost a finger to his router while working on a project.

Anyway, we took the router and routed out a 1 1/4" wide strip (1/8" deep) across the disc, so that the edge butted against the rectangular hole. We made the strips straight by lining up a straight edge (a 1" x 2" x 36" piece of wood) and running the router against the edge. We made sure that the pegbars fit into the routed strips. They did, though a little loosely on the top. We used a little bit of wood putty, and once that dried, it was nice and snug.

Next, we took the 1/4"x1/2"x4' scrap pieces (we ripped them from other pieces) and cut them into two 10.5" and two 13" pieces. With the four tiny L-brackets (3/4"x3/4"x1/2", I think), we attached them to the interior of the rectangular hole, leaving about 1/4" (a little more is best) for the plexiglass.

We found the frosted plexiglass at our local Menard's (though it only came in huge pieces and only in 1/8"). We decided to use two 10.5"X13" rectangles stacked on each other (to get the 1/4" we were looking for), so we scored those out of the big sheet. We bought some superglue and some velcro (so in the future I could change the plexiglass if need be...that's why you want a little more than 1/4" of space when you put the wood pieces in). Sanding it down enough to fit, we stuck the plexiglass in.

We were almost done with the disc. The last step (if you want) is to bore a 1/2" diameter hole through the disc (about 1" below the top). I use it as a finger hole to help rotate the disc easily.

And that's it--all the hard stuff is over.

Final Touches

To finish the desk off, we sanded the whole thing down with superfine sandpaper and used tack cloth to pick up any loose particles. Using a dual stain/polyurethane, we coated the disk twice. After that, we cut out four square pieces of black felt to put on top of the legs and one long strip to put on the back of the desktop, all in order to protect the wood, which would otherwise scratch itself up from the opening and closing of the desk. I painted the back of the disk black (which, I think, looks pretty sharp). I bought a small desk lamp, too, which greatly helps in drawing (especially when I'm not using the backlight).

And, once again, here's the final product:

Thanks for reading--and good luck making your own!

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