Walnut Shaker Lap Desk

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Project by FJPetruso posted 02-19-2009 05:56 AM 27310 views 24 times favorited 25 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I like to make projects that fit in with my re-enacting & camping hobbies, so a couple of years ago I found some great plans for a Shaker Lap Desk & some beautiful Walnut lumber & was ready to build. But like many of us my shop wasn’t ready. Since finishing my new shop I now have the tools set up for resawing lumber, which is what I needed to do for this project & finally got started. This project requires wood thicknesses of 5/16”, 1/4”, 3/16” & 1/8”. It was thouroughly enjoyable just walking over to the table saw & ringing the edges of the panel & then just walking over to the band saw & re-sawing the panel without having to move stuff from pillar to post for a half an hour or so to access the top of the tool..

This project also required making hand-cut dovetail corners & edge joining some thin wood. I think I did OK for my first time on “half-blind” dovetails. The front of the drawer was the “blind side” & is 5/16” thick. The sides of the drawer are 1/4” thick. I think it would have been a bit easier working on thicker wood the first try. But I believe it was fairly good. Making the molding for the bread-board top was fun. I made a couple of changes to the plans… I just added a strip to the top & the lid to give the hinges a bit more wood to grip into. The only hardware is a tiny pewter knob that I saved from somewhere years ago, some wire brads, a couple of old brass tacks for drawer slides & two store-bought hinges. I took a propane torch to the hinges to burn the cadmium plating off. (I took care to give myself plenty of ventilation because of the cadmium fumes.) This gave the hinges a nice patina that matched the hinges real well. I topped the thing off with a couple of coats of Tung Oil applied with some 280 wet/dry sand paper. This allows the sand paper to grind up the walnut, mix it with the tung oil & fill the grain & joints a bit. I then finished with 2 coats of tung oil applied with a cloth & after drying the gloss was removed with an X-fine scotch bright pad.

This Shaker Lap Desk is very light for it’s size, about 14” X 20” X 6.5”, which makes it easy to carry. I thought about adding handles & a lock but I believe the Shakers had it right by relying on only simple lines, the beauty of the wood & their own skill.

-- Frank, Florissant, Missouri "The New Show-Me Woodshop"

25 comments so far

View BigFoot Products Canada's profile

BigFoot Products Canada

711 posts in 3843 days

#1 posted 02-19-2009 06:18 AM

GREAT job. I really like this!!

View oldskoolmodder's profile


801 posts in 4129 days

#2 posted 02-19-2009 06:20 AM

Nice work Frank. The size makes it nice and big enough to do just about anything on.

-- Respect your shop tools and they will respect you - Ric

View pete57's profile


134 posts in 3860 days

#3 posted 02-19-2009 06:45 AM

you used 280 sandpaper wet with tung oil for a finish? what ould tat look like with a paste wax finish? I have two walnut shaker tables that I am building and am looking for the perfect finish?

-- Humble Wood Servant

View FJPetruso's profile


330 posts in 4159 days

#4 posted 02-19-2009 07:05 AM

The tung oil dries with the saw dust suspended in it This fills joints & grain. I slipped when I didn’t say that there is a light sanding between applications of tung oil. I don’t think that paste wax would dry to a hard enough finish. I believe that boiled linseed oil can be used the same way though. I used this method with tung oil to finish some rifle stocks. I used many more applications because of the use of rifles outside & in bad weather. The multiple applications gave the grain a very “deep” look, almost 3-D.

-- Frank, Florissant, Missouri "The New Show-Me Woodshop"

View 93mwm's profile


59 posts in 3869 days

#5 posted 02-19-2009 07:14 AM

the original “laptop” i like it

-- mwm! Before you criticise walk a mile in their shoes, and when you do criticise you will be a mile away and have their shoes!

View sharad's profile


1118 posts in 4254 days

#6 posted 02-19-2009 07:57 AM

A very good piece of work. Is a drawer to the side a normal feature for a shaker lap desk because of convenience or you have done the change?

-- “If someone feels that they had never made a mistake in their life, then it means they have never tried a new thing in their life”.-Albert Einstein

View Derek Lyons's profile

Derek Lyons

584 posts in 4018 days

#7 posted 02-19-2009 08:04 AM

Sharad; the same feature appears on Thos Jefferson’s lap desk.

Nice work Frank!

-- Derek, Bremerton WA --

View WoodSpanker's profile


560 posts in 3842 days

#8 posted 02-19-2009 09:03 AM

Wow, that is really beautiful! Walnut is my favorite wood to work with, and you have done it justice! Thank you for showing me this!

-- Adventure? Heh! Excitement? Heh! A Woodworker craves not these things!

View GMoney's profile


158 posts in 4253 days

#9 posted 02-19-2009 02:58 PM

Beautiful, just gorgeous! I love the shaker stuff and I’ve wanted to build this one for some time now. Great work, esp. with making the hinges more authentic. There are a number of similar patterns floating around, did you use one of those? Thank you for posting and explaining your build.

-- Greg, CT

View CharlieM1958's profile


16283 posts in 4668 days

#10 posted 02-19-2009 04:14 PM

Very nicely done, Frank.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 4211 days

#11 posted 02-19-2009 04:18 PM

Very nice. All us old “Civil War veterans” used to carry desks like this through the campaigns.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View blackcherry's profile


3343 posts in 4273 days

#12 posted 02-19-2009 05:02 PM

I’m a big fan of Shaker piece and this one is why….simple and very slick…Blkcherry

View mtnwild's profile


3474 posts in 3977 days

#13 posted 02-19-2009 07:08 PM

Great job on that. Love the walnut too. Thought of making one of those also. Fun project.

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

View lew's profile


12821 posts in 4205 days

#14 posted 02-19-2009 07:25 PM

This would make any Shaker jealous!!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View LocalMac's profile


281 posts in 3855 days

#15 posted 02-19-2009 11:19 PM

This is a great piece. I lug around a scattered assortment of pens, pencils, paper, and plans throughout the house and it drives my fiance crazy. This would be perfect for storing everything together.

-- Don't tell her I'm in the shop!

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