How to make a rustic industrial desk with reclaimed scaffold boards

If you love the rustic feel of reclaimed wood and like the styling of the industrial movement then this industrial desk will be right up your street. This post will go into detail of how to make your own desk using reclaimed scaffold boards, which is a great way to do your part for the environment. This DIY scaffold board desk not only looks great but is very durable and will last for many years to come.

You’ll need some basic DIY experience, a small list of tools and a few days to construct your own industrial desk. If like me you’re making your own furniture because you like the challenge and you’re trying to save a bit of money then I’ll tell you how to source materials and tools on a budget.

Materials for your desk

To kick things off your going to need some basic materials to complete the job.

Firstly you’ll need some scaffold boards. You can source these from a number of different places but if you want some really cheap ones then you might need to do a little digging. Try these recommendations:

  • For the cheapest boards you should try ringing around a few local scaffold companies. They might sell you a few, or better still give you a few for free. You won’t know until you ask. Expect to pay between £0 and £10 for a 10ft board.
  • Look on eBay, Gumtree or local market places for used scaffold boards. There’s normally a few out there but expect to pay between £8 – £12 for a 10ft board.
  • Look for companies who specialise in reclaimed scaffold boards such as The Scaff Shop in Somerset. They sell reclaimed boards, can sand them and cut them to size. All of their pricing is on their website. Expect to pay about £15 for a standard 10ft board or £42 for a sanded 10ft board. This might be the most expensive route but it’s going to save you a fair bit of time.

Table legs. Again, you can get these from a number of sources including eBay but my favourite place has to be Etsy. There is a great range of products from handmade suppliers who may be willing to make custom sizes and bespoke orders to suit your exact requirements. You can use whatever legs you like. For my projects I like to use X legs, trapezium legs and also hairpin legs.

You’ll also require:

I’ve been using Ronseal varnish to finish my desks but it’s up to you how you finish your masterpiece. Varnish will provide the toughest and longer lasting finish but it’s important to seal the whole top to prevent moisture penetrating the wood. Stick with a satin or matt finish as a glossy finish will show up marks and food stains too easily.

Tools

You’ll need a few tools to complete the job to a decent standard. One tool that many of you won’t already have might be the biscuit jointer. This is quite an expensive tool but will ensure the boards are joined together level, which is an important part of the build. I’ve been buying from a company called Tooled Up recently because they have a vast range of tools at very competitive prices. I’ll provide links to all the tools I’ve been using.

Save money on your purchases

I’ve been using Topcashback for all my materials and tool purchases. My wife has also been using it for all our everyday household spending and together we’ve accumulated over £2200. Here a snapshot of my earnings over the last couple of years:

Not bad for clicking a link on all the items I’d be buying anyway. It’s basically free money. Enough free money for a nice little holiday abroad.

Step by step guide to build an industrial scaffold board desk

Before you get started you’ll need to make sure your boards are dry. You can’t work with wet boards as they will split and crack easily as they dry and the varnish won’t apply to them properly. You can test the boards with a moisture meter and want them to be somewhere between 5% and 12% moisture content. If they are above this make sure to dry them first. To do this you can put them in your house, ideally near a radiator with a dehumidifier running. They can take a few weeks to dry fully. Make sure they are stored flat and if stacking them make sure to separate them with spacers to allow air to circulated between each board.

Step 1. cutting your materials

Cutting your boards to length. You can make this quick work with a sliding mitre saw with at least a 230mm cutting depth. I’ve been using my Evolution R255SMS with an upgraded 80 tooth (cross grain cut) blade. This upgraded blade leaves a much nicer finish on the wood.

If you don’t have a mitre saw then you can always use a circular saw or even a panel hand saw. Both wont be as accurate as a mitre saw but this doesn’t always matter on rustic furniture.

Before you start you may need to remove the end bands from the boards. To do this I usually slide a chisel between the band and the board and leaver it off. If the boards are quite old then it has been known for the nails to snap off. If this happens you can either pull the nail out with some locking pliers or you can just hit the nail inside the board with a nail punch. Just make sure it’s knocked in about 5mm under the surface as you don’t want it to snag on your sander or planer.

Mark up the boards with a tape measure and pencil and cut each one to length. You might want to take off the worn ends of boards as these can be quite rough and dirty. I use 3 boards for my desks giving the total depth about 66cm. You can use 2 for a narrow desk or even 4 for a very deep desk. It’s up to you. If you want a custom depth to your desk you will need to rip the boards through a table saw or cut them with a circular saw and guide.

Step 2. sanding your industrial desk boards

With all your boards cut to the same length it’s time to clean them up. I run a scraper or putty knife up and down them first to remove any larger debris before sanding. This makes the sanding process a lot easier. I then use my larger sander with a 60 or 80 grit sandpaper to clean the boards. This can be used to clean the edges also. You can see below I have also hooked up a cheap dust extractor to help minimise the dust particles in the air.

Always wear a respirator when sanding. The dust can be a killer!

I then move onto my 125mm orbital sander with a 120 grit paper to smooth the boards and all the corners.

With all the boards sanded to a 120 grit it’s time to prepare them for joining.

Step 3. cleaning the reclaimed scaffold boards

Now it’s time to clean up the edges of the boards so that they fit nicely together. To do this I run my planer down them. Line the boards up against each other to check for any gaps. Plane a little more and check for gaps again. I repeat this process until all the boards sit nicely against each other with no gaps.

I then line the boards up against each other and mark out 3 locations for the biscuits to sit. The biscuits will help all the boards line up evenly against each other and will ensure that the top surface of the desk is level and smooth. They do add a little extra strength to the desk top but not much. I mark the centre of the boards and about 120mm in from each edge.

It’s a good idea to number your boards at this point so that you know which order they go in after you’ve cut the biscuit holes. Now I cut into each marked location with the biscuit jointer.

I then lay out two sash clamps and line the boards up on top of these. Two of the board edges will now need to be glued. I apply the glue evenly across the whole edge of the board about 1mm thick. To do this I smooth out the glue with a popsicle stick.

Push the biscuits into their slots, some require a little tap with a rubber mallet. I then spread a little glue over these and push the boards together. I use the rubber mallet to tap them together.

Once the 3 boards have been glued together I put a slim strip of wood between the desk top and the clamp ends. This will prevent the desk top being damaged when I tighten the clamps.

I then gently tighten the two clamps enough to just push the 3 boards together. I then apply a stabilising piece of wood across each end and loosely apply two F-clamps to push all the boards flat and level with each other. This is required to ensure the boards don’t bow when I tighten the sash clamps.

Now I apply a 3rd clamp on top in the middle of the boards and tighten all three sash clamps and hard as I can. This will push all the boards nice and tight together. It’s worth further tightening the F-clamps whilst you do this.

It’s worth wiping off any excess glue with a rag at this point.

I now leave the wood to harden over night.

Step 4. treating the boards and finish the industrial desk

With the boards now securely glued together you can remove all the clamps. It’s now time for some further sanding. I tidy up edges with a 120 grit and then go over the whole desk top with a 240 grit paper on the orbital sander. To finish off I use a 240 or 400 grit sanding foam pad to get a really nice smooth finish ready for staining.

Staining the boards is relatively straight forwards. Just remember to apply the varnish following the grain of the wood. Apply a nice even coat to both sides of the desk top paying extra attention to the ends of the boards. Your industrial desk should now be taking shape.

varnishing

Allow each coat to dry for a couple of hours and rub down with the foam sanding pads before applying another coat. 3 coats should be enough to complete the wooden top.

Step 5.

The final step of this industrial desk is perhaps the easiest. Fitting the legs. Simply measure up and mark out with a tape measure and pencil. I tend to leave a 40mm gap between the edge of the boards and the edge of the legs to allow for skirting boards etc.

Lie the desk top face down on the floor and screw the legs on using a combi driver. Once secure flip the desk over and there you go. One sexy looking rustic industrial desk.

There we have it. One sexy industrial desk made from reclaimed scaffold boards. Beautiful!

Failing all this you could always just buy an industrial desk on Etsy. Here are a couple of my favourites.

Check out some more of my DIY posts:

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