Secretary Roll Top Desk

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Project by Jim posted 09-07-2010 04:45 AM 5007 views 7 times favorited 26 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve been working on this project for a few months. My wife really needed a place to do her paper and computer work. I thought she deserved something really special. This is the result. We don’t have room or need a full size roll top desk but the idea of having a roll top so she can slide it closed to keep papers out of reach of the kids and dog. The desk is entirely oak with the exception of the inside of the drawers which are Aspen.

The roll top consists of 26 individual slats. Most roll tops consist of slats that are glued to a canvas backing. I really wanted this to be special and didn’t want the usual canvas backed tambour because you can usually see the canvas when the tambour flexes. This one utilizes Rockler Tambour router bits that form interlocking slats. Each slat interlocks with the preceding one and the whole tambour is held together with steel cables (aircraft aileron cable) that runs though the middle of each slat. There are four cables in this tambour that run top to bottom. Because the cables run though the middle of the slats, they are completely invisible and extremely strong! The ends of each slat has a tenon that rides in the groove. The tenon makes the grove completely hidden.

The left side of the desk includes three envelope slots and two paper trays.

The middle is sized perfectly to hold a laptop.

The right side is holds a very special part. That is a 129 year old Post Office Mail box dated 1881 that came from Tombstone Arizona. This post office box was in service when the famous Gunfight at OK Coral happened just a stones throw away. It’s been installed here and the combination lock is fully functional. Instead of holding mail for Wyatt Earp it is a special spot where my wife can lock away small items for safekeeping or as a place to stash goodies so they are out of reach of the kids.

The remainder of the left side consists of two drawers that were made with hand cut dovetails. I’m very new to making hand cut dovetails so I’m very pleased with how well these turned out. The left side also provides for two paper trays.

There is a pencil drawer in the bottom of the desk is also dovetailed and the base of the desk has tapered legs.

It was a lot of work. The tambour alone took many hours but in my opinion it was well worth it.

The entire desk is finished with Danish Oil Natural.

My wife was all smiles when she sat at her new desk. She loves it!

-- Jim in Langley BC Canada ---

26 comments so far

View bake's profile


385 posts in 4189 days

#1 posted 09-07-2010 04:53 AM

this is really beautiful, you did a great job. I’m sure your wife will enjoy it for a very long time.

-- I love the smell of Home Depot in the morning, it smells like.......carpentry. Bake, Bar Lazy U Woodworks, Lehi,UT.

View schloemoe's profile


709 posts in 3450 days

#2 posted 09-07-2010 04:54 AM

nice looking roll top great job I bet you’re wife loves it!..................................Schloemoe

-- schloemoe, Oregon , http://www.

View fernandoindia's profile


1081 posts in 3456 days

#3 posted 09-07-2010 05:26 AM

That´s a very nice desk. Guess your kids will play around the box mail stuff, lol Really cool

-- Back home. Fernando

View DoctorDan's profile


281 posts in 3527 days

#4 posted 09-07-2010 05:30 AM

Fabulous Jim. Great job.
I’d love to see some work in progress pics if you some. Particularly of the tampour.

-- Daniel -

View Jim's profile


254 posts in 4157 days

#5 posted 09-07-2010 05:49 AM

Hi Daniel, I did a Blog on the tambour door with all the details and photos. You can see it here

-- Jim in Langley BC Canada ---

View Broglea's profile


687 posts in 3603 days

#6 posted 09-07-2010 05:51 AM

Jim – That is one nice desk. A wonderful idea incorporating the mailbox into the desk. This is a one of a kind piece. Thanks for sharing.

View RonPeters's profile


713 posts in 3392 days

#7 posted 09-07-2010 05:54 AM

Nice desk! And to think back in the 1800’s they designed it to fit a computer! :-)

The way that roll top works is really cool!

-- “Once more unto the breach, dear friends...” Henry V - Act III, Scene I

View papabear's profile


87 posts in 3858 days

#8 posted 09-07-2010 06:14 AM

Many hours, lots of patience and you have turned out yet another fantactic piece of work.

Where did you find the mail box door?

-- Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.

View Jim's profile


254 posts in 4157 days

#9 posted 09-07-2010 07:29 AM

The mail box door was an eBay find.

-- Jim in Langley BC Canada ---

View DavidH's profile


519 posts in 4255 days

#10 posted 09-07-2010 08:21 AM

Desk turned out great, nice touch including the post office box. I remember having one of these growing up, brings back a few memories, i’m not real sure what happened to it not that i think about it.

-- David - Houston, Texas. (

View Splinterman's profile


23074 posts in 3873 days

#11 posted 09-07-2010 10:37 AM

Hey Jim,
Now that is one real sweet desk…glad your wife loves it….excellent job all round.

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4759 days

#12 posted 09-07-2010 12:10 PM

Beautiful build, your wife should be happy. Very nice little incidentals that you made on the inside.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View CharlieM1958's profile


16284 posts in 4730 days

#13 posted 09-07-2010 02:21 PM

Fantastic job… and the old mailbox is a wonderful touch!

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

View Woodwrecker's profile


4232 posts in 4088 days

#14 posted 09-07-2010 04:01 PM

That came out beautifully.
The addition of the old mailbox is excellent.
The fit & finish are top notch.

Very nice project!

View shopmania's profile


701 posts in 3694 days

#15 posted 09-07-2010 04:06 PM

The desk looks absolutely AWESOME. Thanks for posting the blog on the Tambour already, so I don’t have to ask you! :) Great Job on the desk!

-- Tim, Myrtle Beach, [email protected] Just one more tool, that's all I need! :)

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