Rolltop Desk Build Part 9

With the tambour complete, I turned my attention to the cubby hole section. This assembly makes up the small individual compartments for storing letters, files and miscellaneous items.

The assembly is made up of several 1/4″ thick boards that interlock using very thin grooves. Think of it like putting a 3-D puzzle together. All parts snap together in a certain order to hold them all together.

Pulling from my stock of thick boards, I began by re-sawing them in half, approximately 3/8″ thick (photo above). Then I ran them through the thickness planer to get them down to the 1/4″ final thickness.

Bcubby_partsecause the plans call for 9″ wide boards and I didn’t have any that wide, I glued up narrow boards to get the width required. And because these parts are relatively short, I was able to use a lot of the pieces left over from other parts of the build.

After a few hours work, I had the all the parts labeled and cut to size. Using a router, I cut grooves (dadoes in wood talk) in the panels so they would accept each other.

cubby_sub_assemblyI began by building the two, end sub-assemblies with glue and brad nails. At right, you can see they are mirror images of each other (they are pictured upside down at this point). Trying to get these parts together was like building a house of cards in a windstorm!

cubby_assemblyAfter the glue in the sub-assemblies dried, I glued in the horizontal center shelves and the top. Then I inserted the vertical dividers to make the small individual cubby holes.

Finally, the back was glued and nailed in place. For the assembly to allow the tambour to curve down in the back of the top, I had to angle the top and back of the cubby hole section.


This part of the build took around 15 hours over the weekend. At right, you can see the cubby hole assembly in place. It fit perfectly!

The next step is to work on the desktop and the drawer handles.

And, I’ve decided on a finish for this project. It’s a technique that is rarely used now. But, until 100 years ago, it was a very common practice for quarter-sawn white oak. I’m saving it as a surprise for you!

Read Part 10 here.



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