How I spent my summer vacation

Wanted…two news desks and a control center for Van Hoosen Middle School news show.  150+ hours later...the Van Hoosen Today crew are the excited recipients of a custom designed news room.

For the past three years Van Hoosen MS has been under construction and the news class has had to broadcast out of any location possible and under unimaginable conditions.  The crew persevered through it all and still produced a quality show.  When we were ready to move into our new digs we asked the students what they most wanted for their production room.  The answer was a professional news desk, so, that is what they got!

A parent volunteer, Bill Everson, met with the media specialist, media assistant, and students to get an understanding of the space available, equipment requirements, budget and what they wanted it to look like.  Little did we know that Mr. Everson would be the Tim Allen of “Home Improvement” to Van Hoosen. Bill spent countless hours creating a design for the desk that would fit all of the above requirements. A trip to the local lumber yard filled Bill’s van with beautiful cherry and oak, glue, varnish, drawer slides, hardware, etc. and began the adventure of creating two professional “curved” news desks along with a custom fitted control center for all of the equipment.

Bill’s basement, ping pong table, living room, kitchen, garage and driveway became the work and staging areas for this endeavor.  Most of the cutting and rough work on the desks was done in his basement, while the final assembly was done in the living room and garage as the finished desks would be too large to get out of the basement.

The design for the two news desks was to incorporate a curve which fit the news room better than straight desks and added interest to the desks that would be seen on camera. 

Figure 1                                               Figure 2

The request was for two identical news desks (Fig 1) that could be moved around the room and used together or apart, depending on the needs of a specific broadcast. The combination of curved features and the desire to have two desks led to the creation of templates that would then be used to cut the actual desk parts (Fig 2).  The templates were made out of MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) which is inexpensive and easy to work with.  A template was made for the top, shelves, and bottom curved pieces.

Figure 3                                        Figure 4

The bottom template also served to make the sub top of the core (Fig 3) that formed the news desks. The templates were used to mark the outline of the actual desk pieces; these pieces were then rough cut out with a jig saw.  The template was then temporarily attached to its respective piece and a router with a pattern following bit was used to finish the piece.  The core was made of ¾” maple plywood. The core was assembled with glue and screws outside in the garage.  The core was then finished with a skin of ¼” cherry plywood on the front and sides.  It took over 20 clamps to hold the front skin in place against the curved surface while the glue dried (a person can never have too many clamps!).  The top was then attached to the core: this was also made of ¾” maple plywood with a ¼” thick cherry edge.  High pressure laminate, for durability, was then attached to the top and trimmed flush to the edge of the top with a laminate router and flush trim bit (Fig 4).  Finally the corners of the two news desks were covered with solid maple and casters were attached to the bottom.  This completed the two news desks.

Figure 5                                                Figure 6

The control center (Fig 5) was designed to fit the space in the room and the specific equipment that it would hold.  It was made out of a combination of solid cherry and cherry plywood.  The base of the table was made of solid cherry including the legs. Unfortunately the local lumber suppliers do not stock lumber thicker than ¾” so we had to glue four 1 x 4 pieces of cherry together to get the 3” thick table legs that we wanted.  The table base was then assembled in the kitchen, upside down on the kitchen island (Fig 6); the only place big enough and flat enough in the house where this could be done.  The top, with the high pressure laminate already attached, was then attached to the base.  The equipment shelves were made from ¾” cherry plywood.  All of the exposed plywood edges were finished with cherry banding. The banding is real cherry that is very thin and about 1” wide. It comes with heat activated glue applied to its back side.  One simply irons on the banding to the edge of the plywood and then trims it flush to the plywood (thanks to Bill’s wife for the donation of the iron).

After all of the design work and initial setup of wood, laminate, etc.  I was recruited to help with the production.  Never did I imagine I would be drilling, gluing, sanding, varnishing, using biscuits, clamps, and a million other things I have never done, or ever thought about doing! I even used a table saw, drill press and jointer.

As I watched the desk being built I was amazed at the details, how many times we measured and measured again ( you know, measure twice and cut once), sanding until the wood was as smooth as a baby’s bottom, and using a wide variety of techniques for varnishing and finishing the desk

Yes, we could have purchased pre-made desks, had a design created for us, delivered and ready to go. If we had done that, we would not have the smile on our faces and the sense of accomplishment knowing that a piece of our hearts went into them, and a piece of both of us will be at Van Hoosen long after we are gone.

Read about Van Hoosen Middle School in the MACUL Special Issue of School Video News.