DIY herringbone desk – popsicle sticks are not just for toddlers!

This DIY was not born out of necessity. There are about twelve million projects around the house that require my attention, and playing with popsicle sticks to make a computer desk was not one of them.

This DIY was born out of curiosity. I saw Melissa @shipsfurnitureflips make over an old sideboard using popsicle sticks to make a herringbone pattern for the top, and I knew I wanted to try my hand at it as well. Since I had nothing to flip, I decided to build it.

I started by running out to the craft store and clearing theirs shelves of popsicle sticks. I ended up using just over 7 bags, 30 sticks in each. I decided on the dimensions of the desktop, 2’x4′, just because that’s the size of scrap plywood I had in my garage.

The very first step of this project definitely tested my commitment: I needed to cut off the rounded parts from every popsicle stick. They are tricky to cut since the wood is a little flimsy and splinters easily. After trying several things, I settled on using large garden shears. That seemed to work best for me, but took a few hours to get all my sticks squared off.

Once that was done, it was smooth sailing. I figured out the middle line of the plywood lengthwise and began to arrange my popsicle sticks in a herringbone pattern, making sure I followed the line and stayed level. Most tutorials for laying herringbone pattern have you follow the middle line first, the full length of the project, and then build up the sides. However, I found it easier to start in the middle and build out to the sides, moving across the desktop as I went, to prevent my herringbone from shifting to either side and becoming uneven.

I used wood glue, covering a small portion of the surface at a time and laying down the herringbone pattern before moving on to the next little section. One of the more nerve-wracking parts of this process was the fact that popsicle sticks want to curl up and buckle once they come in contact with the glue. Laying down the pattern across the desktop made it easier to work in small sections and make sure that all of my popsicle sticks were nice and flat before moving on to the next part. I used a piece of parchment paper and scrap plywood to lay on top of completed sections and clamped it tight to make sure my sticks are flat and the glue gets under each of them evenly. The parchment paper prevents it from sticking.

Once all of my desktop was covered and I liked my herringbone pattern, I had to clean up the edges. I used my circular saw to cut off a very thin sliver on each side to make the edges straight, not jagged. I was worried that the circular saw would splinter the edges of the popsicle sticks, but it worked really well, leaving them nice and straight.

Once my edges were nice and clean, I finished them with a 1″x2″. I mitered the corners for a more polished look and attached the boards with glue and finishing nails.

Remember when I said that cutting off the rounded sided of popsicle sticks was going to test your patience? I was kidding, this next step really will! After my herringbone pattern was laid out and finished, I had to wood fill the entire surface. And after that was dry, it had to be sanded down. This step is a commitment, but once you see the beautiful, smooth and perfect herringbone pattern that emerges after sanding, it will be all worth it! I went over the desktop with 80 grit and then with 220, to get it ready for stain.

Here it is, trimmed, wood-filled and ready for stain.

While waiting for the glue to dry on the desktop, I worked on the desk legs. This was truly a scrap wood project, since all I used were leftover 1″x4″ boards from previous projects that I had on hand. I determined the hight of the desk – I wanted it to be anywhere from 29&1/2″ to 31″ tall. Then I built the desk supports.

I decided to stain the desktop and paint the legs: I love the contrast that look creates! I get this stain from Lowe’s, custom tinted in weathered oak, and it’s my absolute favorite go to. I used a small sample of Benjamin Moore’s Iron Ore paint I already had for the bottom portion. Then everything got three layers of this topcoat in clear matte, and my herringbone pattern desk was complete!

I love it in my son’s room: herringbone and plaid are such a good combo for a boy’s bedroomroom!

This is such an inexpensive, relatively simple and highly satisfying project! This herringbone technique could be used in so many different projects: in a decorative tray, as a top of a console table, as cabinet fronts or even as a backsplash in a bar or a small kitchen. I hope you give it a try, and I hope you love it as much as I do!

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