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Thomas Jefferson's Lap Desk

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Project by Oldtool posted 10-03-2017 07:08 PM 1043 views 6 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I needed another project to work on & came across this Fine Woodworking article by Lon Schleining with instructions for creating a copy of the lap desk Thomas Jefferson used to script the Declaration Of Independence. As this project offers extensive hand tool work, I proceeded with construction.

I made two of these desks, the first constructed out of my stock black cherry, however Lon suggests the use of plywood which would have solved my first problem, bowed lids with the cherry. I then secured some mahogany for the second attempt, which worked out well. I read that mahogany is good at retaining its flatness when milled thin.

This desk deviates from the overall dimensions in height, because the smallest ink well I could find was taller than the original. In addition, Lon, who couldn’t get his hands on the original for the article, assumed the drawer bottom was set into rabbets in the 1/8” drawer sides, so I used drawer slips for strength. The bottom slip can be seen in photo 6 above, and this is the inside slip:

For the case sides, the article assumes hidden & mitered dovetails are used, while Lon used splines. I opted for hidden and mitered box joints, somewhat easier than dovetails but just as strong. Photo 5 above shows this, with the completed case like this:

Resawing the mahogany to just over 3/8” and 1/8” pieces then hand planing to final dimensions proved to be fun as mahogany mills like warm butter. All in all, this was a fun project to work on.

Thanks for viewing.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln





17 comments so far

View recycle1943's profile

recycle1943

1479 posts in 1436 days


#1 posted 10-03-2017 07:12 PM

a good challenge and you won. – NICE !!

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

13751 posts in 3911 days


#2 posted 10-03-2017 07:36 PM

Lovely desk. I hope it gets frequent use.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View AJ1104's profile

AJ1104

342 posts in 1473 days


#3 posted 10-04-2017 12:53 AM

A great desk. Jefferson would be proud to use it. Great job!

-- AJ, Long Island. New York

View oldrivers's profile

oldrivers

1177 posts in 1380 days


#4 posted 10-04-2017 12:56 AM

You did a mighty fine job.

-- Soli Deo gloria!

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

26700 posts in 2152 days


#5 posted 10-04-2017 01:23 AM

Really nice work

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View knockknock's profile

knockknock

411 posts in 1987 days


#6 posted 10-04-2017 09:03 AM

That looks intricate to make, well done.

View Ron Aylor's profile

Ron Aylor

1652 posts in 461 days


#7 posted 10-04-2017 11:28 AM

That’s some craftsmanship, Tom. Great joinery. From my vantage point it looks like the original!

-- Ron in Lilburn, Georgia.  Knowing how to use a tool is more important than the tool in and of itself.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

1060 posts in 396 days


#8 posted 10-04-2017 11:39 AM

That’s a fine-looking desk. Bookmarked for me to tackle once I can cut a couple dovetails in a row without a disaster. Now I have a goal to practice for!

-- Dave - Minneapolis

View CL810's profile

CL810

3695 posts in 2802 days


#9 posted 10-04-2017 12:49 PM

Very nice work Oldtool. Details are great and hand skills are mighty fine.

-- "The only limits to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." - FDR

View helluvawreck's profile

helluvawreck

28755 posts in 2680 days


#10 posted 10-04-2017 01:26 PM

This is a nice reproduction of Jefferson’s desk. Based on the pictures I have seen it’s close if not an exact copy. You did a fine job on it.

Jefferson's desk

helluvawreck aka Charles
http://woodworkingexpo.wordpress.com

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View James E McIntyre's profile

James E McIntyre

25 posts in 1106 days


#11 posted 10-04-2017 02:49 PM

Great craftsmenship and use of hand tools. I’m building a 21” high arts & crafts clock from QSWO and was going to resaw the oak to 3/8” to cover the clock movement and tile from the back I know the oak will bow. I have a piece of mahagony and was wondering if it would bow like the oak when resawed. Now I know it won’t. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

-- James E McIntyre

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James E McIntyre

25 posts in 1106 days


#12 posted 10-04-2017 02:59 PM



-- James E McIntyre

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1785 posts in 1783 days


#13 posted 10-04-2017 03:01 PM

Wow that is beautifully done. Very nice work

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View jim65's profile

jim65

948 posts in 1747 days


#14 posted 10-04-2017 03:03 PM

I love this box, I have seen the article and will say you did an absoutely fantastic job on the build, beautiful!

-- Jim, Marostica Italy

View ArtMann's profile

ArtMann

645 posts in 630 days


#15 posted 10-04-2017 06:12 PM

African mahogany?

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