Archive for February, 2016

Restoring A Rolltop Desk Back To It’s Former Glory

Monday, February 15th, 2016
Roll top desk1

Here is the before picture of the rolltop desk. The desk in pieces.

Growing up, I was impressed with rolltop desks. I remember seeing one in just about every western movie and TV show I had ever watched. A marshal, judge, doctor, banker, or someone of importance sat at one.

Decades of building custom furniture, and repairing antiques, I finally had a rolltop desk visit the workshop. After nearly a century of office work, this desk was in dire need of repair and refurbishment. Just about every joint was loose or broken.  I was able pull several desk parts free with little effort. The finish had worn away long ago with the wooden drawer runners. The shine of the brass hardware had tarnished to a near black patina. Drawer handles are iron, and had discolored badly as well.

First order of business, the desk was completely disassembled. Joinery was chiseled clean. The wrong glues has been used in numerous failed attempts to hold it together, for just a bit longer. Some of the drawer bottoms where held in place with drywall screws or nails. The poplar wood drawer slides were very well worn, as were a few of the drawer’s bottom edges. The bottom edges of the of the drawers had worn to a con-caved profile, sliding for decades on the drawer guides; these drawer guides are nailed to the sides of the desk.

New pieces were made to match where old worn sections were no more. The writing areas were originally covered with a green baize, bordered by gold-leaf tooled leather. I used fish glue to lay down the new green billiard baize. I then inlayed the tooled leather border. I really like the green baize. I have a fair amount of it left over, and intend to use it on one of my personal projects…

The finish I applied was a coat of linseed oil to enrich the depth of the walnut, followed by coats of shellac. This desk is now ready for the next one-hundred years of work. This is, to me, the Master’s workbench of the office world. I was honored to be able to restore this amazing rolltop to its former glory.

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Another BEFORE picture of the rolltop desk being put back together.

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Broken dovetail drawer.

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After picture of desk restored to its glory.

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Finished writing surface with green biaze with tool leather trim.

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Front view of rolltop desk closed.

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Pencil drawers with freshly polished brass hardware.

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Detailed view of the green baize and tooled leather border.