The lumber yard had a good selection of 8/4, 6/4, and 4/4 stock but nothing thicker than that, so the legs will be laminated and the base of the desk will be made from 6/4 material. Then I turned my attention to the top and things took an unexpected turn. On the pile was a board with a live edge that was unlike every other straight grained piece in the pile. There was sapwood, the grain went every which way, the planer had torn the faces up badly, but you could still see what it could look like. It shimmered, the grain undulated forward and back; it was unique and distinctive. Unfortunately, only 8' was usable, so that would mean the desk would have to be the minimum width I believe to be acceptable--4'. I decided to give it a try.
Once I had the two pieces for the top roughed out, I needed to joint the edges for the glue-up. I went about it as I always do and got a big surprise: it didn't work. My plane skittered along the edge, sounding like a railroad train going clickety-clack as it tore out grain. The seam had noticeable gaps that moved around each time I tried. I posted a request for advice on Woodnet and got back a number of suggestions. Even though I thought my plane was sharp, I resharpened carefully. I moved the chipbreaker as close to the edge of the blade as I could get it with the naked eye. Finally, I dampened the boards with alcohol. It was a totally different experience and after a few passes I had a tight joint.
I had decidedly mixed feelings about trying to plane the top. The planer at the yard had torn the board badly because of the many grain reversals. I wanted to end up with a 7/8" top, so I only had 1/16" of material I could remove. The success I had jointing the pieces encouraged me, but removing that much tearout and keeping the top flat seemed daunting. I confess: I succumbed to temptation. My guild has a 4' wide belt sander in its shop and a professional member offered to help me use it.
I am somewhat in awe of this behemoth with its massive sanding belts and I just couldn't help laughing as I stood there with my completed top almost before I realized what had happened. Do I feel guilty? Yes, but the wild grain was just too much for the current state of my hand tool skills. Now that I have confessed I can move on to cutting 16 mortises by hand to assuage my guilt. I won't be using the horizontal mortiser the Guild has. :)