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I just saw this question about how to join pieces of a bed frame in order to dispose and reassemble it without damaging the wood. I want to pose a similar question about a registration studio desk. The reason for a separate question is that joints are to be placed differently from the bed frame, therefore different solutions may be viable.

My main concerns are:

  • Ease of reassemble and structure movement;
  • Stability (firm structure and ability to hold the required weight);
  • Ease of construction (I'm not a woodworking expert).

Material, measures and weight

I'm pretty much wood-agnostic and, given my ignorance, would go for the best size-for-bucks option. I'm probably going for fir. I have a Leroy Merlin store available nearby, and am considering having a slab like this roughly cut for me (sorry, I can't find an English Leroy Merlin catalogue, but the image at least should give you the idea).

Quick desk sketch

The desk board should hover at roughly 32 inches (82cm) from the ground, while the drawer under it should sit at 25.5 (63 cm) inches. The overall depth is supposed to be around 24 / 25 (60 cm) inches as well, while the drawer should be around 12 inches (30 cm) deep. Minimum width for the drawer is 53 inches (140cm), but could go up to 63 (160 cm) depending on considerations about future purchases.

The drawer is supposed to only support a digital piano and some additional weight from playing, so from 24 pounds up to probably 30 (12 to 15 kgs) or so. I'm not sure if and how to account the additional weight from body pressure during play. The desk board should support at most the same weight of the drawer, as the items I would put there are considerably lighter than the piano itself.

Methods I've ruled out

Glue and / or naked screws: obviously, glueing pieces of wood with screws makes for sturdy builds, but makes it impossible to disassemble the desk afterwards. Screws can be unscrewed, but 3 / 4 cycles of screwing / unscrewing are going to ruin the wood.

Methods I'm taking into consideration

Wood thread inserts: this was proposed as a solution for using screws without damaging the wood. The inserts act as a "fixed" "middle" screw so that the wood is "damaged" only once and actual screws and bolts can be used multiple times without damaging it. Illustrative picture below (the inserts are shown separate from the pieces but they should actually go inside the holes). As far as I understood, I am to use inserts in both wood pieces I want to join, but I'm not 100% sure. Also, do I need to glue the inserts in their "housing" or is the outer thread sufficient for the purpose?

wood thread insert

Pipe structures: this seems to be a big thing on Pinterest where I looked for reference. Pipes seem to come relatively cheap (even if not fully customizable in size) and are infinitely recombinable. You typically create a structure with pipes in order to support the wood boards, which are not required to hold weight anymore but just to provide some additional binding (and of course the desk top). In this case I was suggested to use a combination of pipes with flanges "permanently" screwed to the tabletop (and the other components) and pipe couplers to connect the flanges with the pipes structure.

Mortise and tenon joints. I saw some videos illustrating how relatively easy and cheap it is to make a mortise and tenon joint and how strong it is. I'm not sure if this joint is safe to disassemble and reassemble, if no glue is used on the tenon.

Questions

What is the best joining technique among those I presented for this particular case? Do you know of better techniques I could use? Are there things one needs to be aware of, that a novice might not take into account?

Thank you in advance and sorry if this turns out to be a duplicate, it's just hard to understand what would be the right "reassemble" keyword.

  • "3 / 4 cycles of screwing / unscrewing are going to ruin the wood" actually this is not always the case. It depends a lot on the wood type, the screw type. At best threads directly formed in wood can last years, even with constant use. – Graphus Apr 11 '18 at 13:05
  • Did I miss it or did you specify the material(s) you'll be using? – Graphus Apr 11 '18 at 13:05
  • The generic technical term for furniture that can be easily disassembled and reassembled is knockdown furniture, so check out knockdown hardware. There are also several questions here about desks and shelves that you will find helpful. – rob Apr 11 '18 at 13:10
  • Thank you all. @rob, I found some useful questions about knockdown hardware, I'm just not 100% sure that all hardware people refer to as "knockdown" is designed to be reassembled. Is it the case? – phagio Apr 11 '18 at 14:08
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    @phagio "Flat-pack furniture" is a term used to describe furniture which is assembled on-site and not necessarily intended to be disassembled later on, though it usually can be. IKEA is best known for this type of furniture. "Knockdown" is indeed the term to describe furniture (or its hardware) which can be disassembled and reassembled multiple times. The two terms are often used interchangeably. – mmathis Apr 11 '18 at 17:56
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As others have mentioned in the comments, methods and "connectors" drawn from the "Euro"-cabinetry (aka. flat-pack, knock-down (KD), "modern", and Ikea-style :) tradition are consistent with what you're asking for and also, interestingly, with the general slabbed style of your piece.

There's been a lot of innovative work done in that realm since WWII, which is where it all started (rebuilding bombed out European cities required cabinetry manufactured on an industrial scale rather than hand-made by carpenters). The usual material is particle board (note there are better and worse grades, you might want better than what Home Depot supplies). Often melamine-coated stock is used, which simplifies finishing. Edge-banding is a big part of the finishing when particle board is used. MDF is also suitable and Formica laminates are also used where more durability is desired. There's no reason you can't use solid wood and that is often done for cabinet doors for example.

Hafele is one of the more accessible suppliers in the US. Have a look at this link to see some of their options. Also a stroll around IKEA is a good way to gather ideas.

https://www.hafele.com/us/en/products/furniture-kitchen-living-solutions/connectors-shelf-supports/connectors/00c4d561f3ac98e261a2fcbcc8b0c2de/

Once you've settled on a connector/fixture type, you may be able to source it online from a distributor, although I've sourced directly from Hafele in the past.

There are also some good books out there. I have this one that I like:

https://www.amazon.com/Modern-Cabinetry-European-Construction-Techniques/dp/0806931892/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1523482325&sr=1-1&keywords=modern+cabinetry

  • Thank you scanny :) Your insight on definitions is precious, I'm going to bookmark your answer! About connectors, which types of fixtures do you see more suited to this task? Or they are rather interchangeable? Are push-in fittings (like hafele.com/us/en/product/push-in-fitting-as-frame-component/… ) strong enough? – phagio Apr 12 '18 at 7:46
  • I would be more inclined to think something like this: hafele.com/us/en/product/connector-housing-maxifix-system/… I don't think I would trust push-in fittings for a desk. Those are more for holding cosmetic panels in place and I don't believe are designed to withstand the racking forces inherent in a desk. – scanny Apr 12 '18 at 9:05
  • Thank you :) I think I'll go for cam locks and dowels, reinforced with wooden dowels. – phagio Apr 13 '18 at 12:51

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