Rolltop Desk

Part I—The Base

This classic rolltop desk is an ambitious undertaking for the advanced woodworker, but well worth the effort, as the end result is an impressive and useful piece of furniture that should last for generations. With its paneled sides and back, we believe it represents one of the finest examples of its type to be found and can be displayed with pride anywhere.

The desk shown was made from black walnut salvaged from old buildings and accumulated over a long period of time. Most of these desks were made of oak. however, and this would be an appropriate and far more economical wood to use.

The drawer sides are best made of W stock, while the drawer bottoms are of %" plywood. Drawer frames can be made of any clear, well-seasoned hardwood, but those front rails that can be seen should be of wood that matches the exterior of the desk.

For the base, start with the end-panel assemblies. All of the lumber in the basic framework of the desk is of %" thickness (actual), with the exception of the raised panels, which are of X" stock.

The raised panels are cut using a shaper with a Rockwell panel-raising cutter. The outer edges

of each raised panel are cut to %" thickness to fit into a corresponding groove in the stiles and rails (Detail A, p. 234).

The stiles and rails are joined with % x 2" dowels, two used in each joint. The grooves cut to hold the raised panels and center stiles B should be V wide and %" deep for an easy fit of the panels and to allow for movement due to changes in humidity. Do not glue the panels in place. The center stiles B have tenons Vi" thick by X" long on each end. These tenons fit into the rail grooves and can be glued in place; the 22W length includes the tenons.

The kneehole-panel assemblies are constructed exactly like the ends with the exception of the rear stiles, labeled A2 in Figure 1. These stiles are 2J4" wide rather than 3". The back-panel assembly (Figure 2) is constructed in the same manner as the end and kneehole panels.

The drawer dividers are detailed in Figure 3. It's advisable to make them slightly wider than the 12" shown. Note that guides are not required on the two uppermost drawer-divider assemblies G. After they are joined and glued, run one side through the jointer to be assured of straightness. Then trim the opposite side with the table saw to an exact finished width of 12". The sides will be

both straight and parallel, an important point since this is the framework that holds the end and kneehole panels together. The drawer dividers are held in place with counterbored screws into each stile.

When all dividers are installed, you will have two drawer units, or pedestals, which are then attached to the back panel assembly. Two %"-square cleats K are glued along the rear inner edges of the kneehole panels. Screws are then driven through these and into the back panel. The ends of the back panel also have cleats J of the same thickness so that they too can be screwed into the end panels (see Figure 1).

The kneehote-drawer guides 11 and 12 are also used to hold the top slab. These guides are each glued up from two pieces, then screwed flush with the top inside edges of the kneehole panels. Holes are bored up through the guides for counterbored 3" screws driven into the top (Figure 8).

The kneehole drawer, unlike the rest of the drawers, is not dovetailed at the front corners. Instead, the back side of the front is dadoed to receive the sides. A pencil-trough insert can be made by using the table saw to make a cove cut in a piece of suitable stock, which is then glued in place against the rear of the drawer front.

Figure 7 shows the construction of all other drawers using half-biind dovetails at the front corners. These joints can be cut w ith a router and dovetail jig. For those who lack the time and equipment, rabbet joints can be substituted for the dovetails but this will necessitate cutting the drawer fronts from l/6"-lhick stock to allow the rabbets to hold the sides. This substitution will affect the overall length of the drawer sides and the location of the drawer guides.

Before assembly, you may want to run small grooves in some of the drawer sides so that partitions can be added as needed for such things as canceled checks and card files. The drawer fronts should fit in their respective openings with a slight clearance at the top and both ends.

The drawer pulls (Figure 9) can be individually shaped from quarter-round stock or by using the lathe-turning technique in which a turning square is glued up with a %" piece in the middle. A 2&"-diameter cylinder is turned and cut to produce four or more pulls when cut into quarters. The pulls are 6" long and have finger grooves hollowed out with a router or dado head and table saw. After splitting the turning into two parts, position the pieces over the dado head and clamp them to the table, then slowly raise the spinning blades.

As can be seen in Figure 6, the pull-out writing boards consist of a piece of %" particle board ve-

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neered on both sides. This veneered panel is edged along both sides and front with % x strips. The whole unit is joined with tongues and grooves or with %" dowel pins.

The desk top is glued up from %" stock, edge joined, and reinforced with dowel pins or Vt," plywood splines.

It's a good idea to seal the underside of the top with several coats of varnish before installing it. On the outer edges, the top is held with screws that go down through the lop and into the rails of the base unit, and also into the top rail across the back. These screws are countersunk flush with the top since they will be covered when the rolltop unit is installed. If you wish to use the desk alone, without the rolltop unit, counterbore the screws and plug the holes with plugs cut from the face grain of scrap stock. The rolltop unit can be built at a later date as time and finances permit (see Part II, following).

BILL OF MATERIALS—DESK BASE

Req'd T

w

L

Key Part

Pes. Req'd

T

w

L

Panel Assemblies

Drawers (Figs. 4 and 7; 3 req'd)

Base Ends (Fig. 5; 2 req'dI

Drawer Assemblies

A slile

4

X"

3'

29*

HI front

5

X*

4X*

12*

B slile

4

x*

2X*

22)4"

sides

10

)4*

4!4*

22X*

C rail

2

X"

3"

23*

back

5

X*

4)4*

nx*

D rail

2

X*

4*

23*

bottom

5

X"

11)4*

21X-

E panel

6

W

6)4*

22)4*

Drawer (Figs. 4 and 7; 1 req'd)

H2 front

1

X*

7X*

12*

Kneehoie Sides (Fig. 1 ; 2 req'd)

sides

2

54*

4X*

22X*

AI stile

2

X*

3*

29'

back

1

4X*

I1X*

A2 stile

2

X*

2 Si*

29*

bottom

1

X*

MX*

2IX*

H same as Base Ends

C same as Base Ends

Drawer (Figs. 4 and 7: I req'd)

D same as Base Ends

H3 front

I

X*

I2X*

12*

E same as Base Ends

sides

2

54*

12X*

22'/.*

back

1

54*

12X*

MX*

bottom

1

X*

MX*

21X*

Back ¡Fig. 2; 1 req'd)

X*

Kneehoie Drawer Guides (Fie. 8)

A stile

2

2)4*

29°

II

2

X*

2)4*

27)4*

B stile

3

X*

2X*

22X"

12

2

¥<"

IX"

27)4*

C rail

1

X*

3"

41*

D rail

I

%"

4"

41*

E panel

4

K*

8X*

22S4*

Cleat (Fig. I)

J

2

X*

X'

29"

Cleat (Fig. 1)

Front Base Trim (Fig. 4; 2 req'd1

K

2

X*

X*

29"

F

2

X*

4*

12"

Kneehoie Drawer (Fig. 8; 1 req'd)

L front

1

X*

3)4"

20)4"

Drawer Divider Assemblies

sides

2

X*

254*

20"

(Fig. 3; 7 req'd)

back

1

X*

2)4"

18)4"

G front rails

7

X*

IX*

12"

bottom

1

)i*

as req'd

as req'd

rear rails

7

X"

lit*

9*

side rails

14

x*

154*

26"

Desk Top

guides

7

x-

x*

21*

M

1

X*

31*

49*

Writing Board (Fig. 6; 2 req'd)

Bottom Drawer Divider Assemblies

P veneered part.

1

X*

9)4*

22«*

(Fig. 3; 2 req'd)

board

(includes (includes

H front rails

2

1)4*

12*

tenons)

tenons)

rear rails

2

1)4*

9"

front edging

1

1*

IX*

12"

side rails

4

X*

1)4*

25%'

side edging

2

V

IX*

22*

guides

2

x*

X*

20 J4»

stops

2

X*

X*

X*

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Wood Working 101

Wood Working 101

Have you ever wanted to begin woodworking at home? Woodworking can be a fun, yet dangerous experience if not performed properly. In The Art of Woodworking Beginners Guide, we will show you how to choose everything from saws to hand tools and how to use them properly to avoid ending up in the ER.

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