The Khartoum Desk
All students on our cabinet making courses make a solid wood piece. This term Simon Calder has made a special desk that incorporates elephant tusks (not real ones!). It was inspired by the years he spent working in the Sudan and a fascination for the Victorian Nile Campaigns of 1883 to 1889. He says he strongly identifies with colonial style furniture.
[This is an archived post – the images are no longer available]
Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, means ‘the Elephant’s trunk’ in Arabic and is named after the meandering paths of the Blue and White Nile rivers as they converge at Tuti Island. I thought it would be rather tricky to incorporate a wooden Elephant’s trunk into a desk so I decided two merging tusks would be a fitting tribute.
The desk is constructed from burr elm and sycamore. The sycamore contrasts well against the chaotic splendour of the dark elm, whilst a subtle ebony inlay creates uniformity within the linear shapes of the side panels. The irregular hollows found in the burr elm have been filled with a clear epoxy resin and polished to reveal the wood’s underlying patterned beauty.
Constructing the Legs
The legs were moulded by a process of sanding both with mechanical grinders and by hand (using rasps, sandpaper and carving chisels). The legs are attached by steel rods that are fastened into the main upper body.
The front legs defy conventional design by emerging approximately 10 cms past the margins of the upper desk sides. This is to create a classical “M” shape that is formed when the front legs compliment the merging curve seen at the rear.
The compound curves seen in the rear merging tusk-like legs were constructed in 3 separate sections, with calculated angles to keep the grain running vertically through the entire load bearing section.
The Main Body
The individual panels forming the main carcass are mainly fastened with concealed Japanese pegs. This was decided due to the unavoidable warping nature of burr elm. The pegs considerably strengthen the joints, whilst allowing for further movement within the wood. I also think they are more aesthetically pleasing than other joining methods.
Photo of the finished article to follow!
Simon Calder (Student 2009)