Home > Techniques, Tools and Schools, Writing Desk > Writing Desk – Part 2

Writing Desk – Part 2

Continuing from the Writing Desk-Part 1 there are more hints to its past:



Turning to the right side of the desk a single quarter sawn oak board rounded on the outside edge supports the desk. The left side, however is of an entirely different species consisting of two boards stained in an attempt to match. Comparing the two pictures it is very difficult to see the difference. If you click on the picture on the right it will enlarge and you can see that the wood is clearly not quarter sawn oak and does not match the left side.

Turning the desk around immediately reveals that the back is missing. A piece of plywood is crudely screwed to the back of the cubby holes to prevent papers from falling out. There is clear evidence that there was a back attached at one time. A rabbit runs down the right side and there are nail holes in the shelves. The left side is again different: A rabbit has been cut along the left side of the desk, however the drawer slides and shelf are not dovetailed into the side, instead they are attached with nails. Images can be enlarged if you click on them.




In summary we have a simple quarter sawn oak writing desk that is rather appealing. It has simple clean lines, works great but has a few adaptations.

A lock that is covered with a handle, an entire side that is replaced with a different species of wood, changes to the attachment of the shelves that is clearly done by a different woodworker. A missing back and evidence that this piece was painted black at one time and then restored. A few phone calls and there are a couple of different possibilities.

1. My wife’s great grandfather earned his living moving from farm to farm threshing grain. In payment for threshing, items were often taken in trade: furniture, food, tools were all exchanged. Could this desk have been made and bartered.

2. My wife’s grandfather would trade food from his garden to workers at the local steel mill in exchange for items he could not make himself. A 50# bag of potatoes brought home many useful items.

3. Like many people growing up in the 30’s and 40’s, other peoples discarded items could be rebuilt and repurposed. Discovered in scrap yards and dumps entire homes could be furnished with quality items. Many of us continue to rebuild wonderful items from the past.

Scanning the internet my wife found a picture of a similar desk attached to shelves. Could this desk have been part of a larger unit?


Spend some time looking around your family’s home, maybe there is a little history to discover and share.

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