New England Slant-lid Desk-on-Frame

CVR_DESK_OnlineVersion When it’s time to begin a new furniture project, I go to my scrapbook of “To Do” pieces. (It’s not really a scrapbook – it’s a folder on my desktop.) If nothing there catches my attention or the selections are less than stellar to me on that day, I search a number of trusted antique websites and auction houses. I’m seldom disappointed. Desk_Open_LeftA few months back, I was in “find the next project” mode when I stumbled upon a New England desk-on-frame. It wasn’t a superb desk, but something about it caught my eye. Something about it was puzzling. Slant-lid style desks are not the easiest pieces of furniture to build with the many small drawers, fancy-cut valances, as well as sculpted and shaped dividers. Most often, these desks call for a bit of experience. This desk, however, was sitting atop a base that was as simple as can be found, having four tapered legs and four nondescript aprons with no cutouts or design ­– a newbie woodworker easily builds the base, even with the leg’s simple cuff banding just off the floor. As a result, I felt a “struggle of experience” between the upper and lower units of the desk on frame. One leaned to difficult while the other was too simple. Plus, it featured simple stringing around the drawer and had an inlay design at the center of the lid. I was hooked.

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17 thoughts on “New England Slant-lid Desk-on-Frame

  1. Very well presented article

  2. Great article that you can learn a ton of cabinet construction techniques from!

  3. I really appreciate the detail that has been put into this article!

    1. Thank you, Joe.Our plan is that this is indicative of what we’re bringing to the table on many of the articles published at 360WoodWorking.

  4. Great build, lots of detail. And now I know what lopers are. I am a little confused about breadboard ends. You use them under the assumption the panel is going to expand, right? If the breadboards are exactly as long as the panels are wide, what do you do with the expansion? I ask because when I moved from the desert to the coast all my tabletops expanded beyond my breadboards.

  5. Glen,

    I’ve downloaded the video however I cannot play it. The only thing available in the 500 MB file is the PDF. I have tried all players and everything. Is there anything special that I need?


    1. Hi Bud,

      The videos are embedded in the PDF file, they appear as images across the width of a page and there is a gray bar above the images that indicates the image is a video. Click on the image and the video should play. This post explains our PDFs in more detail.

      Hope this helps, let one of us know if you’re still having trouble. With some operating systems and some machines there may be another hoop to jump through.

  6. Well written, and I really appreciated the inclusion of how you finished the walnut. Getting a consistent color with walnut has always been a struggle for me.

    Thanks so much!


  7. Lots of detail and techniques I wasn’t aware of before. The leg tapering on the jointer was very informative. So glad I have subscribed and look forward to more great projects.


  8. The first video in the article has a glitch starting a 1:09 and continues to 1:33. Otherwise, I like what you’ve done.

  9. From the photo,it looks like you are using shellac that has not been dewaxed. Does that create any problems or caveats when using lacquer or other finishes on top of it? Or, perhaps the amount of wax in that particular product is not significant?


    1. Mike,

      I’ve used these shellacs for many years and can recall only one problem with adhesion and that was a lacquer going over the amber shellac. While the two shellacs are not considered wax free, there is, in my opinion, not enough wax to make a difference.

  10. The base frame would make a nice sugar chest base.

  11. I really appreciate the patient attention to detail in describing primary and sometimes secondary and tertiary methods of work to make a cut or form a joint. Also, like the helpful cautionary hints to make sure the “student” craftsman is properly focused. And the clear sketch up drawings complete the picture.

    All in all an excellent article and better than any of the other wood-magazines!!


    Keith Smith

  12. I’m interested in using shellac, however I’m confused about the level of wax in the “canned ” version. Is there enough to create a problem?

    1. Anthony,
      It’s true. There is wax in the Zinsser shellac (both clear & amber) and its Sealcoat Universal Sanding Sealer is wax-free. In all the years in which I’ve used the pre-mixed versions, and Chuck is also in the same camp, I’ve experienced a problem once. I had a small (quarter-size) area to which a topcoat didn’t adhere – I’ve come to believe that there was another reason for the problem.

      There is not enough wax in the product to cause problems, in my opinion.

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