Flexible Roll-top Slats

How do you re-cloth the slats of a roll-top desk so that it flexes easily without the glue stiffening it?

W. Patrick Edwards: The best glue for canvas backing of slats on roll-top desks is urea modified animal protein glue. It’s traditional and easy to clean up if it leaks between the slats.

Michael Dresdner: The key is to keep the glue from between the slats, and that means putting just enough glue on the slats to bind to the cloth, but not enough to leak out and infuse the cloth between the slats. There are a few ways to help ensure this. I roll the hide glue onto each slat with a small, low-nap paint roller, then carefully set each slat in place. That applies glue just where needed: just enough of it to prevent squeeze-out and creep. Though I find it riskier, some folks prefer to iron on the canvas. Apply hide glue to each slat and let it dry. Set the slats in position glue side up. Lay the canvas atop the glued surface and iron it on with a hot iron set on the linen setting. The heat will reactivate the glue and stick the cloth to it.

Tim Inman: I like hide glue for its ease of use, lasting power and authenticity. After the glue has set up, I fold the tambour over the edge of my workbench to “break” the joints and leave them pliable where they need to flex.

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