Countinghouse Desk

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16.000 Woodworking Plans by Ted McGrath

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This desk is representative of the type generally used in mercantile establishments in the early nineteenth century. There were many variations, some with an impressive array of pigeonholes and drawers, and, of course, a matching high stool. Admittedly, the need for these desks went out with handwritten ledgers and eyeshades, but they still have great charm as decorative furniture with considerable storage space, if a mirror is fitted to the underside of the lid. the desk makes a most unusual vanity or dressing table.

Construction is relatively straightforward, and although the example shown is made of white pine, cherry or maple may be used for an equally handsome natural finish. The legs are cut from 2"-square stock (actually IV) and they are tapered on all four sides, down to 1" square at the foot. The taper should begin about 7" from the top end, just below the drawer frames. A taper jig will be helpful in roughing out the legs, though they should be finish planed after being cut with a table or radial arm saw.

The drawer frames and the upper rail are cut from pine (actual) The front and rear drawer frames are secured to the legs with two %" dowel pin>. Side rails are glued and clamped between the front and rear leg assemblies, and the center rail drawer support in doweled to the front and rear frames. The top rail is glued in place flush with the tops of the front legs Ik- sure to set side drawer frames in from the outer surfaces of the tegs to allow for the addition of side panels, which are inset W.

The side panels are added next and are glued and nailed to the lower side frames. Use finishing nails and set them below the surface. The counter may now be glued to width from two or three boards. The front to rear dimension of the coun-tertop is exactly the same as the distance between the outer edges of the front and rear legs. The counter is fastened in place overhanging the front legs by %" leaving a space at the rear for the backboard.

Cut the box sides and front as shown in the detail and join to the counter with blind %" dowel pins. The front of the slanted box can be joined to the sides with two dowel pins at each corner as shown, but a dovetailed box joint at this point will add considerable visual interest to ihe piece A chest lock and escutcheon should be added to the front of the box. The mortising for this hardware can best be accomplished before the front is joined to the sides flic rear box top is glued and nailed to the sides.

Enlarge the pattern for Ihe backboard and transfer the shape to a . * 10" board After shaping the backboard, lastcn it to the rear counter edge and box sides with glue and finishing nails. The upper sides ol the desk can now be shaped and fastened to the counter edges and backboard. The front edfie of the counter should extend about ''<" beyond the front ends of the upper sides.

The upper drawer supports are cut from Yi" pine for a snug fit, and fitted in place with glue and nails. The pigeonhole shelf is assembled separately to lit snugly inside the box, and is fastened by gluing and clamping the plywood top to


the underside of the box top. The Y*" partitions are best cut by resawing from a thicker board. If plywood is used, the problem of hiding the plies can be solved by omitting the curved front edge and gluing a thin strip of pine over the plywood edge. If you wish to take the time, the partitions are best fastened by cutting stopped dadoes in the top and the bottom shelf; otherwise join the pieces with glue and brads.

The lid consists of a glued-up stab of ¡4" stock with the grain running as shown. Edge cleats arc of stock and are fastened with Y" blind dowel pins. The Ya" recess thus formed on the underside of the lid can be used to hold a vanity mirror secured with small moldings bradded in place. The back edge of the lid should be planed to a bevel. Brass hinges of the type shown arc found at most hardware stores, and look very attractive against stained wood.

The large drawer and two smaller drawers are made up with %" fronts, rabbeted and grooved to receive Yl" pine sides and Y< bottoms. Glue the sides to the fronts, and when they are dry drill through the sides into the fronts for three Y" dowel pins per side. This process makes a sturdy joint without resorting to dovetails.

Sand the entire piece carefully and round off all sharp edges If you have used pine,,» hlllc dis tressing with a tire chain and a») will add acterto the piece. Distressing should be d«>nc be fore the stain is applied Brush or wipi on the stain of your choice, looking for areas where glue smears prevent the stain from gcitin}.> in tinwood. Small glue-smeared areas can be shaved off with a chisel or gouge down to the bare wood for restaining. Do this before the stain on adjoining surfaces dries to facilitate blending of the patched area. Small gouged areas will blend in with the overall distressing.

After the stain has dried, seal the entire piece with a thinned sealer such as shellac mixed half-and-half with alcohol. Next, sand lightly to cut raised grain "whiskers." Finish the piece with at least two coats of satin varnish. After allowing plenty of time for drying, go over all visible surfaces with 4/0 steel wool to remove dust specks and give the piece an even, soft sheen. Finally, add the hardware of your choice. The Chippendale drawer pulls shown on the example are not rcall> authentic for a nineteenth-century piece, bui they ccrlainly look good with a dark slain. You may wish toconsidcr Hcpplewhiteembossed oval pulls lor the large drawer, and small round brass knobs for the small drawers.

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