Monticello Lap Desk #1: So Small ... But So Tough

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Blog entry by jcontract posted 05-12-2012 01:00 AM 2416 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Monticello Lap Desk series Part 2: Homework? I thought those days were over! »

I’ve attended a few classes at the Philadelphia Furniture Workshop in the past. Classes on Sharpening, hand-cut dovetails, but I never had the chance to take a project class. When the Jefferson Lap Desk was offered, I jumped at the chance. I was looking for a challenge, and boy did I get it.

First a little about the desk. The original desk was designed by Thomas Jefferson so that he could write in his coach while traveling between Monticello and Philadelphia. The original is housed in the Smithsonian. I haven’t yet seen the original, but Mario and Alan describe it as “flawed”. Jefferson would more then likely be surprised that it has survived and actually has become a national treasure of sorts. The original was hastily built, and cross grain issues have severely warped it.

Yet the design really fascinates me. It’s like the original laptop. It has a foldout surface for writing, and a small drawer to keep pencils and paper and such.

Mario and Allen, the instructors at PFW are awesome. A great place to take a class. They cautioned us that this project would best be described as fussy, but they are patient and rally want all of us too succeed.

So this post finds me about midway complete with the build. We have attended 2 full weekend classes with homework in between.

So I will post some shots, with some description, then pick up from there.

A shot of the bottom panel of the carcass. We’re using a good quality mahogany. It’s very easy to work.

Dry fitting the sides of the carcass

The carcass pre-glue up

The glue-up

The writing panels are fitted with breadboard ends to help control movement

On to the homework before next class!

2 comments so far

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 3916 days

#1 posted 05-12-2012 03:53 AM

Sounds like an interesting class.

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View HarleySoftailDeuce's profile


320 posts in 3623 days

#2 posted 07-28-2017 03:49 PM

Nice job! Did you use the Fine Woodworking plans ? I’ve just bought some mahogany for this project.
Where did you buy your lock and hinges ?
I’m going to try to find some hinges where the barrel is below the writing surface. I do believe they are available form a good source; Horton Brasses etc.
Did you make your box thickness 3/8 on all sides ? I was thinking of going 1/2” thick but that might be too heavy.
Love some of your thoughts.

-- Paul, Bristol,Rhode Island

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