Is My Mid Century Modern Desk An Homage or a Cheap Knock Off?

CNC & Machining Digital Fabrication Furniture & Lighting Home
Is My Mid Century Modern Desk An Homage or a Cheap Knock Off?

I needed a desk for my office. Being a maker that is also loaded down with fancy tools, I couldn’t bear to go to the store and buy something. I decided I wanted to make something, and the design would have to be one that I wouldn’t mind looking at for long periods of time.

My home is a Mid Century Modern style home, so I thought I’d look up some furniture of the same style. A quick google search turned up this desk.

This was designed by Helmut Magg in the early 50’s as a writing desk. I’ve found it for sale in a couple spots for almost $5,000. Looking at the construction, I thought I could probably design my own to make out of plywood on the giant CNC router in my shop.

I looked at the image, decided what I wanted to keep, and started working on my design. Basically, I liked the overall shape, and I liked how the wood grain works on the side pieces (flowing at the same angle as the legs)

In Autodesk Fusion360, I designed my own. This is where things start to get muddy. I looked at his, then put it away and designed my own. All my angles and measurements are actually different than his. However, I very obviously was designing something to look pretty much just like his.

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The first cut on the router went pretty much flawlessly. The only problem was that I forgot to add pocket holes for the upper shelf. That’s something I remedied with a quick bit of gluing later.

After a test fit, I decided that the 90 degree front of the plywood desk top – where your arms rest – was bothering me. I wanted the angle of the front of that ply to match the angle at the front corner of the desk. A quick pass through the table saw remedied that.

Before I could glue most of the desk together, I had to assemble the two side pieces. I could have routed these as a single piece, but then the wood grain wouldn’t have matched the leg angle. Instead, they are two pieces that I joined with some dowels.

You may notice I have a super fancy dowel jig. I made that, and so far it has been great.


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After the sides were glued up, it was time to assemble the entire thing. I drug it into the house and clamped it all up. We had freezing temperatures and wood glue typically doesn’t like freezing.

At this point, all that was left was to sand it, put some boiled linseed oil on it, and then several layers of polycrilic with sanding in-between. So far, I’m loving it.

There are a few things I’m going to update about the design to make it a bit sturdier though.

  • adding a piece that goes across the back legs and vertically to reduce overall wobble.
  • adding pockets into the desk top so that the cross braces will actually nest there as well.

the big question at this point, however, is what to do with the files. Do I share them even though this is a knockoff of Helmut Magg’s work?


edit: I’ve decided to share the Fusion 360 design files. You can with them, what you want, except sell them I guess.

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I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity I see in makers. My favorite thing in the world is sharing a maker's story. email me at caleb (at) or You can find me on tiktok, talking about my animals at TikTok

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