Custom Slant-Top Desk

In addition to the photos of a great project, this reader’s submission covers the process he went through creating a custom piece for his client.

This commission began with a telephone call from a lady in southeastern Pennsylvania asking if I could build her a Slant-Top Desk, in Cherry, and then came that P word; PRICE. At first I didn’t understand the designation of Slant-Top as applied to a desk. I have built a few desks and the tops were all horizontal. They were of a contemporary design for a corporate piece of furniture.

I had asked the lady if she had something on paper, a picture or a sketch. Something that I could relate to. The next day I received a picture of a Colonial Slant-Top Desk that probably dated from the mid 1700s to the early 1800s and it thru me for a loop. I had never tackled something of this magnitude. A bit of research would be in order. I had never constructed a Ball/Claw Cabriole Leg as I am not a wood carver.

In further communications with her I suggested the Cabriole Leg, that type that was shown in the photo, it would have a pad type of foot as I couldn’t find a maker of a Ball/Claw leg that would fit her construction, and within her price range: not at $95.00 per hour for a carver of claw feet. After some deliberation she reluctantly accepted this type, and after receiving the length and height dimensions that she wanted of the unit, I submitted final, two dimensional, drawings for approval. Although the lady wanted cherry I did suggest Tiger Stripe Maple, as shown in the submitted picture, at an additional stipend but the added expense, and wood type, would be unnecessary for her needs. Any way, she was astounded at the cost I had given her as she had made other inquiries and the prices quoted varied as much as $4,000.00 between shops. This lady also promised, after the piece was completed, to give me the prices as submitted by the other shops, to compare with mine.

The Slant-Top Desk would be in Cherry.

With a few telephone calls and more E-Mails back and forth with some changes in the upper unit and a few nips and tucks in the front apron configuration I received a deposit to begin work. The finished size of the Slant-Top Desk will be 21″ deep x 39″ wide x 41″ high and it will have fifteen different drawers and eight letter slots. The leg is 12-3/4″ to the top of the knee with the post being 1-3/4″ square and 10″ in length, as noted in the 1″ grid drawing. I can only imagine that the dimensions given were to fit into a specific area.

The only exception to this commission was that there was to be no time limit. As with other commissions, I always try to build within a given time. The client would be given, from time to time, the opportunity to inspect progress and when finished, final inspection and delivery. Finish, was to be in Shellack and bees wax with a possible light staining for color after an inspection.

There are fifteen drawers and eight letter slots. The dovetails are in 1/2″, 3/8″ and 1/4″ size. There are no hidden compartments.

Bill Kirk

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Slant Top Desk

Slant Top Desk 2

  • Jeff Semones

    Very nice !!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Dean

    Bill, I really like the finished product. Nice work! It looks “authentic”. I know when I watch an HGTV show where they remodel a room in a home owners house, the last few minutes of the program they do a “reveal” of the finished room so the viewers can see and hear the customers reaction to the finished product. I was a little disappointed that you didn’t explain what your customer thought of the final product. Would it be possible to tell “the rest of the story”? Thanks Bill.

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