The Evolution of a Writing Desk

Saturday, November 15, 2008 | Reader Comments | How-To | Reviews | Routers

Charles Wilson

A special thank you to Charles Wilson for sharing his Writing Desk project in this edition of SysNotes. While Charles has a rather innovative use of the Domino as a locking mechanism in his desks, the tools he used most during the construction were the Festool 1400 EQ Router and MFS Multi-Routing Template System.

We are including links to Charles' complete commentary about the project as well as an appendix he prepared about the use of the MFS system as more detailed references about the project. This is certainly an example of how Festool power tools can be used for fine woodworking.

PDF The Evolution Of A Writing Desk Project (1.4MB)
PDF Charles' Appendix - Using The MFS Multi-Routing Template (1MB)
PDF Jerry Work's Festool MFS Template Guide Supplemental Manual (3.4MB)

"This project is based upon a writing desk originally designed by Thomas Jefferson, on which he is reputed to have written the Declaration of Independence. There is an article written for Fine Woodworking that covers it in reasonable detail (requires membership to view).

I started constructing it from walnut that was left over after finishing a Media Cabinet that I built. I decided to use solid wood, and arrange the grain so that it wouldn’t suffer damage from seasonal humidity changes. In 50 years or so, we will see if I succeeded or not.

Charles Wilson

When the front board is opened, the writing surface is revealed. I made a pencil tray insert for the drawer (with a hidden recess underneath for concealing diamonds and other treasures). I made this piece as a gift for a friend, so I don’t have pictures of it with the protective writing surface and drawer pull.

This project is entitled 'The Evolution of a Writing Desk' because there is now a second generation design intended to address some weaknesses of the initial design. This item is intended to be traveled with, and the drawer should have some sort of latching mechanism. I wasn’t completely satisfied with having a crease in the covering used as a writing surface. And, though walnut is beautiful, I wondered how the desk would look in other woods.

Generation one went from outside to inside, with the case being constructed first, followed by the drawer being constructed to fit inside the opening. Generation two began with the drawer being constructed first. I had decided to make six units, two of each species (oak, cherry and walnut).

Charles Wilson

Drawer front bottom and back were joined with box joints with grain going from front to back of drawer. Drawer sides were sliding dovetails, again with grain going from front to back. The box joints and sliding dovetails were glued. Wood thickness was a little less than 3/8 inch.

The drawer sides were also dovetailed at the ends, but not glued to front and back pieces. A drawer face was glued onto the front of the drawer.

A slightly modified domino on the side of the drawer, with a notch cut on the lip of the bottom will provide the latching action. The spring is just a length of wood screwed into the side.The circular button, made with a plug cutter, pushes the end of the domino back into the slot to allow the drawer to open. A keyhole router bit is used to make the channel for the plunger.

Charles Wilson

Below are the components of the 6 drawers. The case into which the drawer slips had all of its grain lengthwise, and the sides fit inside rabbets in the top and bottom pieces. The grain of the closed end of the case is horizontal, and it floats in dados between the two sides of the case. A small rabbet is made into the top of the open end of the case to stop the travel of the drawer into the case. The writing surfaces were cut to uniform size, as were the spacers."

Charles Wilson

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