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Rolltop 1 Rolltop picture 1

The Roll-Top Computer Desk

The Roll-Top Desk is one of the most popular classic designs for a writing desk. It features a special sliding cover made from hardwood slats call a tambour. Tambours are difficult to make but they are now available from speciality mail order houses, like Rockler, so this type of desk can be made by home crafts people.

The construction of a roll-top desk is a advanced woodworking project and should not be undertaken as a first project.

Woodware Design's version is a low-stress roll-top computer desk similar to ones used in the 1930's to include a large manual typewriter (seen in several motion pictures of the period). The keyboard and mouse are mounted on a pullout tray so that the desk can be narrow enough to be carried through most residential room doors. The upper space houses the monitor but has room for other pieces of electronics or a set of pigeon holes. A tambour of a readily available type and size is used so that it need not be modified. The base has two simple cabinets with pullout shelves for the computer and small printer.

A number of variations on the basic design are possible and tambours come in two widths, 50 inches and 60 inches. Working from this width, our standard version of the roll-top desk is 53 inches wide and our wide version at 63 inches has more leg space. The narrow version does not have enough room for most printers to be put in the base.

Adding small pigeon holes to any version of this disk is fairly easy but requires thin lumber. The pigeon holes are simply two small independent shelf units and are screwed in place.

It is possible to build a classic double curve roll-top computer desk, but this variation on the design can only be used with flat screen monitors or lap-top computers. It will not hold a full sized monitor. This design requires the more expensive cable tambour that can bend both ways. If you are interested in any of these variations, please e-mail me.

Any roll-top desk is a senior woodworking project. It requires hardwood in both .75 and 1 inch finished thickness. This desk requires construction of eight rail and stile panels with floating inserts. Two of which have a curved front. The track for the tambour must be cut with a router and the use of a radial arm or table saw is a must. A biscuit joiner is highly desirableness.

The materials for this basic desk cost about $900. When completed the desk will be worth about three times that value.

State of this Design

The standard single curved design has been built.

Rolltop 2

Pictures of this and most of our other projects can be seen in our Picture Gallery.

  1. Ordering the Sketches

    This design includes twelve detailed sketches that are critical to your successfully building this desk. Here is where to get all the ordering information.

    The plans for our major projects are brought to you on the Honor Plan. You may look at as many plans as you like, but when you start to build please pay for the plans you use. These small payments are critical to keeping this Web Site open.

  2. Desk Construction Steps

    You can make this desk by:

    1. Downloading and printing this text.
    2. Ordering the Sketches.
    3. Studying the information and locating materials.
    4. Deciding which of the options suit your needs.
    5. Purchasing materials, both local and mail order.
    6. Cutting the wood pieces.
    7. Building the six base panels and doors.
    8. Assembling the base and back.
    9. Building the keyboard shelf
    10. Building the desk top and upper shelf.
    11. Building the two top side panels.
    12. Building a guide and routing the tambour channel.
    13. Fitting the tambour.
    14. Finishing the top assembly.
    15. Assembling the entire desk.
    16. Finishing the assembled desk.
    17. Installing the computer.
  3. Discussion of Sketches

    After you order the sketches, these notes will help you understand them.

    1. Roll-Top Computer Desk

      The Roll-Top Desk is shown face on with major dimensions. The printer and computer are in base cabinets, the keyboard is on a pullout tray, and the monitor is behind the tambour in the top section. A spring loaded door hides the keyboard when it is pushed in.

      The side view shows the simple curve style originally developed for manual typewriters and featured in many 1930's movies. There is a wide top shelf suitable for books and speakers. At 29 inches maximum width, the entire desk can be carried through all the room doors of most houses.

    2. Roll-Top Computer Desk, Side Removed, Sketch #2

      This sketch is shows the side view and half a front view with the side panel, tambour, and doors removed. Note the track for the tambour runs across the top and down the back. The keyboard drawer door has long coil springs to keep it closed. On the side of the keyboard tray are pieces of shaped wood to help the door move freely over the keyboard.

      Behind the keyboard tray is a cable tray which keeps the many computer cables under control. There are also three cable grommets and several cable cut-outs.

      If you wish to push the desk right flat against a wall, you may cut out the toe molding down low and route out access opening for AC outlets in the back of the lower cabinets.

      The computer and printer rest on pullout shelves to make installation easy. The back is a single piece of hardwood plywood for economy and strength.

    3. Roll-Top Computer Desk, Top Views, Sketch #3

      The top view shows top section with its shelf and desk top, the keyboard level with the desk top removed, and part of a base with the keyboard tray level removed.

      The two cable grommets in the top let you place electronic devices like speakers or a lamp on this wide shelf. The top section is attached to the desk top itself with Desk Top Fasteners that allow some expansion of the wood. The keyboard door actually attaches under the Desk Top.

      The Keyboard Tray has lots of space for an ergonomic keyboard, a mouse, and a pencil box. It comes out on heavy duty drawer guides. The cable tray strengthens the base of the desk and provides a space for cables to be tie wrapped out of sight.

      The base shows the center drawer guide under the sliding shelf and space at the back for cables.

    4. Roll-Top Computer Desk, Top Shelf & Desk Top, Sketch #4, Top

      The Top Shelf is made from .75 inch thick hardwood edge glued with either tung and grove or biscuits. The bottom is dadoes for the sides and back. Holes for the cable grommets are shown. A small fill strip hides the gap between the tambour and the top.

      The Desk Top is made from 1 inch thick hardwood edge glued. The back edge has a cutout for the plywood back (which is thinned by a dado). The back is also notched in two places for cables. The bottom has recesses for the hinges and handle of the Keyboard Door.

    5. Roll-Top Computer Desk, Plywood Layout, Sketch #5

      All the hardwood plywood pieces for this desk can be cut from one sheet. If you have the sheet cut across at exactly 49-5/8 inch (First Cut) in the store, it will be much easier to carry home.

      The CPU and printer under shelves can be made from inexpensive plywood if you want to save the hardwood material for other projects. Their back sections are cut away to allow cables to pass down and out.

      If you wish the desk to sit absolutely flat against a wall and you need to get at AC outlets or phone jacks along that wall, you can route out the two openings shown.

      If you will using the desk against a wall, you may add only a 1 inch hardwood strip to the bottom of plywood. If you want to back to go all the way to the floor, the strip must be 3.5 inches wide.

    6. Roll-Top Computer Desk, Keyboard Tray & Cable Tray, Sketch #6

      The Cable Tray is a simple piece of fir plywood or low cost wood with two shallow sides. It's bottom is pierced with four 2.5 inch holes, big enough for a printer connector to pass through, and about thirty .5 inch holes for tie wraps to secure cables. This tray is also an important internal strengthening member.

      The Keyboard Tray is shown first complete and then in pieces. The bottom is hardwood plywood and the trim are hardwood. The two small pieces of molding are hardwood and keep the keyboard from sliding around when the tray is pulled out. The long front piece has a routed grove underneath for a finger grip. Keyboard Door Cam is two pieces of wood that push the spring loaded door out of the way as the keyboard is pulled out.

      The sides of the desk at this level consists of three pieces. There is a False Shelf Edge that looks like a continuation of the keyboard tray but does not move, A wide Side Piece with a curved front, and a simple internal mount for the drawer guide. The Side Piece has three Desk Top Fasteners on the top to mount the desk surface.

    7. Roll-Top Computer Desk, Keyboard Door & Brace, Sketch #7

      The Keyboard Door has cutouts for the hinges, is thinned above the keyboard to allow the use of tall ergonomic keyboards, and has material rasped away so that the door springs don't bend over a sharp edge. The inside bottom edge is also rounded. This door hangs under the Desk Top.

      The Brace goes across the leg area and is set back an inch. It is held in place by two screw blocks. It is rather thin in the middle and all the exposed edges are well rounded.

      A large number of simple screw blocks are used. These have two screws in one direction and one at a right angle. All but two go inside where they will not be seen and greatly strength the joints without making screw holes on the outside.

      The computer and printer rest on simple pullout shelves with center drawer guides. Four Shelf Skid strips are used to keep these shelves from tipping sideways. The strips must be the same height as the drawer guide.

    8. Roll-Top Computer Desk, Side Panel, Sketch #8, Printer

      The four side panels are simple rail and stile construction with loose inserts. These are very like kitchen cabinets doors. This work is best done with a router mounted in a table. Pieces marked with dashed extensions are best made long and trimmed after the panel is assembled. The two finished inside panels need to be trimmed off .5 inches on the back edge.

    9. Roll-Top Computer Desk, Top Side Panel, Sketch #9

      The two top panels are the most difficult parts of a roll-top desk to make. They are rail and stile panels like the lower ones but the front edge is curved. Their frames are also made of 1 inch thick material. A pattern is provided in Sketch #12 and available full size in a separate file to help you rout the curves (see below).

    10. Roll-Top Computer Desk, Doors, Sketch #10

      Again simple rail and stile construction. The two Under Door Pieces simply fill in a space.

    11. Roll-Top Computer Desk, Toe Molding, Sketch #11

      The seven pieces of toe molding go around the bottom of the base. If the desk is to sit away from the wall you may want a long piece across the back too.

      The two temporarily braces are needed to install the tambour. They can be made from any lumber and are screwed and clamped in place.

    12. Roll-Top Computer Desk, Tambour Track Pattern, Sketch #12

      This pattern can be transferred to plywood and used to guide a rounder to make the track for the tambour. A separate file is provided with the pattern in full scale (see next). The lower cross pieces and corner block define the position of the side panel. These will have to be removed and reinstalled on the opposite side for the second panel.

    13. Roll-Top Low-Stress Computer Desk, Tambour Track Pattern, Full Size

      This full size pattern can be mounted on plywood and used to guide a router to make the track for the tambour (instructions below). Print out the first two pages of this file and check to see if the 4 inch by 4 inch squares are exactly 4 inches on a side. Also check that the router body on page one (shown 5.75 inches wide) is the same width as your router body. If this these do not match, drop us an e-mail and we will scale a plans to suit your exact needs.

    Rockler order link to first page
  4. Materials

    The Roll-Top Low-Stress Desk is shown made from hardwood and hardwood plywood. It uses a special door or tambour and a fair amount of fancy hardware.

    1. Wood
      • Red Oak, .75 inch thick @ $5.50/bf ------ 44 bf ----- $242.00
        • Panel frames -- 3 inches by 130 inches
        • Panel frames-- 2.5 inches by 312 inches
        • Door frames -- 2 inches by 122 inches
        • Toe rails -- 3 inches by 157 inches
        • Top shelf -- 16 inches by 53 inches
        • Miscellaneous -- 6 board feet
        • Door inserts -- 2.6 square feet
        • Panel inserts -- 9.5 square feet
        • Top panel inserts -- 5.4 square feet

      • Red Oak, 1.00 inch thick @ $6.50/sqft --- 18 sq ft --- $177.00
        • Desk Top -- 29 inch by 53 inches
        • Top panel fronts -- 7 inch by 52 inches
        • Top panel tops -- 2.75 inch by 30 inches
        • Top panel frames -- 2.5 inch by 120 inches

      • Plywood, .75 inch oak, 4 x 8 ft ------ 1 ------------ $54.00
      • Pine (secondary wood), @ $3.50/bf ------- 5 bf ------ $17.50

      • Tambour, 50 inches by 27 inches, canvas backed ------ $150.00

      ------- Lumber Subtotal: $580.50

      Assembly Hardware:

      • Center Drawer Guides, 19 inch @ $5.50 each -- 2 ----------- $11.00
      • Drawer Guide pair, 14 inches @ $15.50 each -- 2 ----------- $31.00
      • Biscuits, #10 ---------------------------- box of 100 ----- $8.00
      • Screw, flat-head, #8 x 1.5 inch ---------- box of 100 ----- $4.00
      • Screw, flat-head, #10 x 2 inch ----------- 4 -------------- $ .75
      • #6 finishing nails ----------------------- 1 lb ------------ $1.50
      • Brads, .75 inch -------------------------- 1 box ----------- $1.50
      • Desk Top Fasteners with screws, pack of 8 --- 2 ------------ $8.00
      • Springs, 10 inch ---------------------------- 2 ------------ $6.00
      • Screw in Eyelets ---------------------------- 4 ------------ $ .75
      • Feet, polished nickel glides---------- 2 sets of 4 --------- $5.00
      • Glue ------------------------------------- 1 pint ---------- $4.00

      Finish Hardware:

      • Handles, 3 inch -------- 5 --------------------------------- $25.00
      • Hinges, 2 inch ------ three pair --------------------------- $15.00
      • Tambour Lock ----------------------------------------------- $11.00
      • Cable Grommet, large --- one ------------------------------- $ 6.00
      • Cable Grommets, small -- two ------------------------------- $ 9.00

      ------- Subtotal: $145.25

      If you order these materials over the Web, please use our Rockler link:

      Rockler order link to first page
    2. Finish:
      • Stain -------------------- 1 Quart ----- $ 8.00
      • Shellac ------------------ 1 pint ------ 6.00
      • Shellac thinner ---------- 1 pint ------ 4.00
      • Tung Oil ---------------- 2 bottles ---- 18.00

      Finish Subtotal: $36.00

    3. Omissions and Contingencies (~15%)( Tax, sand paper, etc.) $138.25
    4. Estimate Total Cost -- $900.00

    This is only an estimate (made in the spring of 2001). The price may vary in your area. Getting a good price on the hardwood is critical to keeping the price down.

    The fanciness of the finish hardware is also your choice. You could also omit the lock, and the cable grommets if you choose. Use scrap for the secondary wood will also help.

    The bottom line is that this is one of our most expensive desks to build. If the estimate and degree of difficulty looks difficult to you, consider some of our other desk designs.

  5. Tools

    This desk is a major woodworking project. It is designed so that it could be build by an amateur woodworker with a decent home shop. To build the desk as shown requires the use of a radial-arm or table saw, router, biscuit cutter, and common hand tools. A table for the router is a big help.

    Rockler order link to first page
  6. Fabrication Notes

    This is not intended to be a detailed step-by-step construction guide but rather a number of points to consider. It is your desk and you can build it to suit your likes.

    1. Options

      Look over the desk drawing as decide what you are going to do:

      1. Equipment Space -- Go over all the computer equipment you wish to support with this desk and determine if it will fit in this desk. Take particular care in considering the monitor. You might measure your monitor and sketch it on the tambour routing pattern. The CAD drawings are and exact 10 = 1 scale but Acrobat .PDF printouts may be are reduced by a farther 5%, so check before scaling directly off the drawings. If you plan to get a larger monitor soon, you should take some measurements at a local computer store of possible choices. If your next monitor will be one of the new flat screen ones, they are very thin but rather wide. They should fit well but reduce the space for pigeon holes.

        An exercise, Air Typing is given on our Web Site to help you determine the height you need for the keyboard shelf, the monitor, and the angle for the monitor. You may wish to adjust the height of the base slightly. Also you may wish to reduce the width of one base to suit your exact equipment, particularly if your printer is not 18 inches wide (this will give more leg room).

      2. Double Curve -- It is possible to build a double curve roll-top computer desk, but this variation on the design can only be used with flat screen monitors or lap-top computers. It will not hold a full sized monitor. The double curve style will require a different tambour and different side patterns. If you are interested in that style, please e-mail me.
      3. Choice of Tambour -- This desk was designed for a canvas backed tambour 50 inches wide and 27 inches long requiring a .5 inch track. If you use a different one, adjustments maybe be needed to the desk dimensions. You can choose a 60" tambour and use the wide version of our plans. If your tambour uses a slightly wider track then there should be no problem, just use the correct router bit. This will increase the cost of materials by about $200 ( more hardwood and a second piece of hardwood plywood).
      4. All the Way to the Floor -- The back plywood is not wide enough to go all the way to the floor (see sketches #2 and #5). If you are placing the desk against a way, you can add a one inch hardwood strip and leave a open space for the floor mouldings. If you are going to have the desk away from the wall you may want to add a full width strip or a back toe rail.
      5. AC Outlet Access -- If you are going to use the desk a against a wall, you may want to route out holes in the back for access to AC outlets on the wall(see sketches #2 and #5). These need to be about 3.25 inches tall but the height above the floor may depend on your specific house.
      6. Keyboard Door Cam -- The Keyboard door is spring loaded. The cam pieces (see sketches #2 and #6) push the door up so that it will miss the keyboard. These cam pieces are add-ons so that you can change them later if you need to. The cam should basically be a silhouette of your keyboard. The keyboard space is sized to accept even the large ergonomic keyboards. If you want to place something else beside the keyboard (pencil box, telephone, etc.) then its silhouette must include that too.
      7. Pigeon Holes -- A internal wooden structure with pigeon holes and often a small drawer are a standard part of classic roll-top desk design. These were very important when the desk was used for organizing personal or business corespondent. For a computer desk this is less important, there are fewer envelopes, more 8.5 by 11 inch flat paper, and more electronic equipment. These don't fit conventional pigeon holes well. Also if you later get a wider monitor, you may have to remove the pigeon holes or remake them. Woodware is working on two pigeon hole units for this desk. Please, drop us an e-mail if you are interested in building pigeon holes.
    2. Making Flats from Boards

      Wood is a dynamic material produced by living processes. It has great strength, beauty, and utility but it does have properties that you must deal with. Wooden boards expand and contract with temperature and humidity. They expand across the grain far more than along the grain and the side away from the center of the tree expands more than the side closest to the center of the tree.

      The result is that, if you are not very careful, forces will build up and warp and crack your piece of furniture. You can reduce this problem but being very careful when gluing up wooden flats like the Desk Top and Top Shelf.

      To glue up the top shelf, desk top, and other flats for this desk, use the following steps:

      1. Limit board width -- Do you use boards that are too wide. Look at wide boards and see if you can determine the point nearest the center of the original log and rip the board thought that point.
      2. Alternating lay up -- Carefully look at the end of each board and draw an arrow pointing to the center of the original log. Lay the boards out in the order you plan to glue them up. Rearrange the boards to alternate the arrows, one up the next down. If this flat warps it will then warp into gentle S curves instead of one large hump.
      3. Biscuits versus Tung and Grove -- Biscuits have generally replaced tung and grove. You do have to have an expensive tool to install them but they save huge amounts of expensive hardwood, speed the process, and work better. Use biscuits for this project.

      The Desk Top is attached to the base (and the top section to attached to it) primarily with special hardware called Desk Top Fasteners. These are simple flat pieces of metal that allow one screw to go each direction. They let the wood expand and contract a little without cracking. These need to be let in to either the Desk Top or the panels. The drawings show them let in to the panels.

    3. Making the Base

      The desk base is two boxes each with have two panel sides, and a panel door, they fit into one plywood back, and have an internal plywood sliding shelf. They have no top.

      1. Making the Panels

        The making rail and stile panels is now largely an exercise with the router. Having a router table is best. The dimensions of the pieces are shown in sketches #8 and #10, with the outlines needed for the edges and ends. Pieces that have extensions shown in doted lines indicate that it is best to make these pieces long and trim them after the panel is assembled.

        The loose insert pieces should not be glued in but allowed to float freely so that they do not crack with temperature and humidity changes. These maybe made of thinner material or even hardwood plywood.

      2. Making the Boxes

        The sides and doors of the base boxes are rail and stile panels (see above). The back is the large plywood back with dadoes for the inside panel. The bottom of the bases are pieces of .75 inch plywood with short legs below them (see sketch #5 and #7). The backs of the bottoms have cut-aways at the back for cables and access holes in the middle for the drawer guide screws. There are also two hardwood fill pieces below the doors (see sketch #10).

        The bottoms have shelves that pull out. These have heavy duty center drawer guides, hardwood trim on the front, and secondary wood trim on the back. Under the shelf are two wood strips the same height as the center drawer pull so that the shelf does not rock.

        Inside the base boxes are a number of wooden screw blocks with one screw in one direction and two at right angles. Screws through these allow you to assemble the box parts without the screw heads showing on the outside. They also avoid trying to screw into the edge of plywood which provides no strength.

        You may also use #6 finishing nails in this assembly by pre-drilling the holes. This can easily be done by cutting the head off a nail and using it for a drill bit. Be careful not to mark the wood with the end of the drill chuck.

        The doors are hinged 2 inch ornate brass hinges. The legs extend one inch below the box, have simple metal feet, and will be later covered with a toe molding.

      3. Assembling the base

        Fit the side panels into the dadoes in the back. Use pieces of wood scrap and the side piece to check that the panel is at the right height, remember the plywood does not go all the way to the floor. Screw the side panels to the back with interior screw blocks. Install the under shelves and leg parts. Fit the Brace (Sketch #7) between the two boxes and about 1 inch in from the front. Install the shelves with the center shelf guides and slides.

    4. Making the Keyboard Level

      The Keyboard Tray is a simple wide tray to hold the keyboard and mouse. It is made from .75 inch hardwood plywood and trimmed with a hardwood front. The sides are wide enough to mount the heavy-duty drawer guides.

      1. Making the Keyboard Tray

        The keyboard tray is made from .75 inch hardwood plywood. The sides are dadoes wood to mount the heavy duty drawer guides. The front is attached with biscuits and extends far enough to the sides to cover the drawer guides. The front piece has a grove routed under it so that it is easy to pull out with the fingers. The back piece is simply there to keep things from sliding off.

        The small molding pieces keep the keyboard from sliding when the drawer is pulled out. The front one is also one stop for the door. These are held on with small brads installed in pre-drilled holes. Do not glue the back molding on as you may later get a keyboard of s different side.

      2. Making the Cable Tray

        The cable tray organizes all the computer cables and braces the base. It can be made from scrap wood. The large holes should pass a printer connector (2.5 inches) and the small holes are for tie wraps (.5 inch). The tray is attached with screw blocks at the ends and is screwed to the base frames in the middle. It should be as far forward as possible without pinching cables between it and the Keyboard Tray.

      3. Assembling Keyboard Level

        The desk sides at this level are three pieces (see sketches #3 and #6). The outside pieces have a curved front, the False Shelf Edge continues the keyboard tray line around, and the internal Guide Mount connects them to the base. The Guide mount covers the two gaps and is held in place with screws and glue.

        The keyboard tray runs on a pair of heavy duty drawer guides. These must be installed between the tray side and the Guide Mount. Some fitting is needed. Be careful that the drawer guides stop with the front tray edge well aligned with the False Shelf Edge pieces. Also keep in mind, that the keyboard door will be held against the ends of the Keyboard Tray sides and the front molding with spring force.

    5. Making the Top

      The top is a glued flat of good hardwood 1 inch thick (see Sketch #4). Be sure to use the glue-up procedure described above. The bottom boxes attach to the top with six Desk Top Fasteners and back with glue and finishing nails (or screws) drilled through the plywood back.

      The cable grommet shown is a mail-order item. Plan where you will need your cables and cut the hole. Round over the front and side edges. The two small fill pieces of wood at the back can be made into the Desk Top or added after the top is attached to the back.

      The Keyboard Door is hinged to the under side of the Desk Top. You need to let in its hinges and route out a recess for the door handle so that the door can open all the way until it is flat against the Desk Top.

      The Keyboard Door (see Sketch #7) has the hinges let in, is thinned to .5 inch over the area where the keyboard is the tallest, has a rounded off inner bottom edge. It is fitted to the under side of the Desk Top and closed with two coil springs. Eyelets for the springs should be about 1 inch down the door and far enough back on Desk Top to apply only gentle pressure. Rasp away some of the door material where the springs touch.

    6. Making the Top Assembly

      The top assembly is made from two difficult to build panels and a wide top shelf.

      1. Top Shelf

        The Top Shelf is made from edge glued .75 inch hardwood. It has routed dado channels for the sides and back. Route off the front and side edges. The strip along the inside front edge will be installed when the tambour is fitted.

      2. Top Side Panels

        These are the hardest panels to build. The frames are from 1 inch thick hardwood so to have plenty of room for the tambour tack. The inserts are the same distance from the outside as the lower panels and the extra thickness is on the inside. The top piece is an extra .25 inch wide to fit in to the Top Shelf dado. The back pieces have a .25 inch deep dado so that they will appear to the plywood the same thickness as the lower panels.

        A separate file is provided with the full size curves for the front frame pieces. The curve is 1/4 of an ellipse. You may wish to leave extra material on the font of the frame and route a true curve when you route the tambour track.

      3. Routing the Tambour Track

        This is the most critical part of this entire construction. Sketch #12 shows the layout for a full size router guide to cut this compound curve. This pattern is also provided in a separate file full scale. It is a good idea to try this on scrap wood first. Here are the steps.

        • Print out the pattern.
        • Check that the 4 inch square grid is 4 inches each way.
        • Check that your router body is 5.75 inches wide.
        • Carefully draw pencil lines along all the edges marked Trim with a straight edge.
        • Trim these edges with scissors.
        • Carefully tape the pages together.
        • Double check the outside dimensions.
        • Glue the paper to scrap plywood.
        • Cut out the plywood along the correct line.
        • Sand the edge of the plywood.
        • Install the guide board for the bottom edge of the panel (no glue).
        • Install the corner block (no glue).
        • Place the side panel in the guide and check all dimensions.
        • Check the router depth on scrap.
        • Route the tambour track.
        • Remove the guide and corner block and reinstall them on the top side.
        • Carefully replete the process with the second panel.

        Additional lines are provided in case you wish to make similar patterns to cut the front and back edges of the curved frame members. Six Desk Top Fasteners should be let into the bottom edge of the top side panels.

    7. Trial Assembly

      The tambour has to be fitted and installed to the top assembly before it is attached to the back. This can be done using the two temporary braces shown in Sketch #11. Attach the two side panels to the top shelf and check the fit with the back. Install the screw blocks but be sure the top short screw blocks do not interfere with the tambour track. Screw, but do not glue, the back brace to the lower screw blocks on the side panels. Install the front brace with clamps only, a strap clamp works best.

      Round any sharp corners on the tambour. Feed the tambour into the track from the bottom front. Try its movement. Fit the top trim piece to fill up most of the visible gap without touching the tambour. Fit two pieces of wood into the tambour track at the back to stop the tambour at the opening width you want. Install these with screws but no glue.

    8. Interior Finish

      When the tambour works smoothly, remove it. You will probably want to finish the inside of the tambour and all the pieces of the top section before final installation of this section. This way you can finish the tambour track properly.

    9. Final Assembly

      Reinstall the tambour. A good lubricant for wood running on wood is paraffin wax. Simply rub a piece of old candle over the tambour edge and in the track. Do not do this before the unit is completely finished. Check for smooth operation. You can also wax the keyboard door cam and the lower shelf skids after finishing.

      Place the top section on the Desk Top and carefully remove the back brace. Slide the top section back to connect with the back. Install screws in the screw blocks and desk top fasteners. Use pre-drill finishing nails along the sides. Recheck the tambour run.

    Rockler order link to first page
  7. Finish

    You may finish your desk any way you like. I recommend: oil stain, a spit coat of shellac, and two coats of tung oil.

    1. Staining

      Work with the stain color that you have chosen. Practice on a piece of scrap wood (both flat side and ends). Do not start on the desk until you are satisfied. Do not hesitate to write off an $8 can of stain and go purchase another of a different color. Even if you want a natural oak color, it is best to stain the desk with natural oak stain just to make all the wood uniform in color.

    2. Spit Coat

      A spit coat made of one part 3-pound shellac to five parts shellac thinner helps the finish stick to the wood.

      If your test shows that side and end grain are staining differently, you can apply a spit coat to only the one that stains darkest (usually the end). This will limit the stain penetration to more closely match the finishes. Test this on scrap first.

    3. Finish

      For this desk I like a modern tung oil finish such as:

      Formby Tung Oil Finish

      Tung Oil is applied with a cloth pad rather than a brush. This desk will take at least one 16 oz. bottle; two will be better. Follow the instructions on the bottle carefully and apply a liberal number of applications on all work areas. The toughest finish is needed on the keyboard shelf directly in front of the user. Once a bottle of tung oil is open it will spoil in a few weeks.

    Polyurethane can be used and produces a tough but thin plastic coating that can crack with long use. Tung oil produces a thicker more rubbery finish. Another classic finish, Spar varnish, produces a thick dipped in honey look and is great for finishing the spars of sailing ships.

  8. Cabling

    The internal cable tray makes a very good place for a multiple-outlet for the power. The computer cables can also be tie wrapped into it. Power and telephone lines can be passed down the back of the base compartments and out holes in the side toe boards. Speaker or lamp cables can be passed from the top shelf, through the cable grommets, down the cable dadoes in the back (behind the tambour), and through notches in the desk top to reach the cable tray.

    Detailed cabling instructions and plans for a remote power switch are given in our Web page under More Freebies. The remote power switch is optional but is really helps with this desk.

    Determine which side will be closest to the wall outlet. Screw the remote switched outlet box to cable tray. Route the switch cable up to the your user's preferred location. Re-install the switch box.

    Dress the cables neatly and tye then in place using tie wraps. Do not pull the tie wraps too tightly, the cable should be able to slide back-and-forth a little. Trim off all the tie wrap ends. Black tie wraps look best and last longest.

  9. Toe Molding

    The finish toe molding (see Sketch #11) provide a nice finishing touch. They are shown coped where they meet instead of being mitered. Mitered joints tend to open and catch on things. With the coping, the end grain of the two front piece shows on the sides but this is better than the crack in the mitered joint. The side pieces can be cut for a cable mouse hole and to fit wall molding as needed.

Rockler order link to first page

Thanks again for using a Woodware Computer Furniture Plans. We very much want to know how you are getting along with your project and would be happy to answer any questions by e-mail.

If you send us a picture of your finished desk, we would be happy to put it on our Web page. We need pictures of desk with real people standing beside them.

Don't forget to order the sketches.

Thanks again for visiting our Web site. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Tom Riley

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