Roll Top Secretaries Desk #2: Project Done

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Blog entry by Jim posted 09-07-2010 06:22 AM 6343 reads 1 time favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Tambour is done Part 2 of Roll Top Secretaries Desk series no next part

Well the Roll Top Secretary Desk is now finished.

It’s been many months in the making. What’s really amazing is that I didn’t really have any “Oh No, what have I done!” moments with this project. Everything just went together well and did what it was supposed to do. I wish all my projects went like that.

Some of the real turning points of the project were:

I was buying the canvas for the tambour, wondering if there was a better way. I’ve made tambours before and have never been really happy with them. They feel cheap and when they bend, you can see the canvas backing. I wanted this desk to be really special and was contemplating buying a pre-made tambour from Lee Valley. I didn’t want to do that because I wanted the entire desk to me something made with my own hands. I got home from picking up the canvas and there was an email from Rockler advertising their Tambour Bit Set. The tambour doesn’t use canvas and the slats interlock. That sounded like just what I was looking for. They were expensive but no more so than the cost of buying a pre-made oak tambour. I got online and placed the order. I’ve blogged earlier on making the tambour. That was a huge and very time consuming part of the project but I’m glad I did it that way. Every time I walk by the desk I run my hands over that beautiful oak tambour and whisper a thank you to Rockler for that well timed ad.

I knew I wanted to include a special hiding compartment in the desk. After all what’s a roll top without a secret compartment. Then one day I was browsing ebay and saw an ad for an antique post office box door. The 129 year old door came from the post office in Tombstone Arizona. I placed a bid and to my dismay, I didn’t win the auction. I was outbid by someone willing to spend some real bucks. The days passed and I received an email from the person selling the Post Office Box Door. He explained that the person who won the auction has not paid within the designated time period and was offering me the door for my bid price. I agreed and several days later it arrived along with a letter of authentication and the metal door is stamped with a manufacture date of 1881. This door was in place in Tombstone at the time of the Gunfight at OK Coral. I decided to make my secret compartment, not so secret and incorporate the door into the desk.

I made several trips to Lee Valley over the course of the project to pick up things like drawer runners and Antique Bronze hardware.

The last thing I did was making the drawers. They were all made with hand cut dovetails. I’m new at making hand dovetails but was very pleased with the results. I followed Shannon Rogers through his Olympic Dovetail Video and they went together beautifully. You’d almost think I knew what I was doing :-)

I gave the desk to my wife today. She was all smiles, she loves it which makes me all smiles :-) This was a great project, definitely one of my personal favourites.

-- Jim in Langley BC Canada ---

3 comments so far

View douginaz's profile


220 posts in 4030 days

#1 posted 09-07-2010 01:25 PM

Hi Jim, truly and inspiring piece. I love the mailbox door, How cool is that? I have a had a couple of rounds with the tambour on smaller scales, mostly appliance garages and can empathize with your pain. Not sure I would want to tackle the whole cable and tension part, my hat is off to you. You have made a wonderful piece that can be handed down for generations. Have you considered printing off your blogs and placing it under a drawer for future generations? That, I believe, would be a true treasure for some future owner. Great job on the piece, the patience you have shown working with oak ( I hate oak) is huge. Thanks for sharing and thanks for reminding us of what being a craftsman is all about.

Bask in the Glory, you deserve it.

Doug in AZ.

-- If you need craft books - please visit our small business at

View Jim's profile


253 posts in 3673 days

#2 posted 09-07-2010 03:51 PM

Hey Doug, I never thought of printing off the blogs and making them part of the desk. What a cool idea! I will absolutely do that, thanks!!

-- Jim in Langley BC Canada ---

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3701 days

#3 posted 09-07-2010 03:59 PM

Nice desk.

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