Slant-top desk complete

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This topic contains 31 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Joe Bottigliere 7 months, 2 weeks ago.

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  • #3443

    Roger Schroeder
    Participant

    Hi, Guys,
    There was much to be gleaned from your posts as I struggled with the angles needed to make a slant-front desk. And that’s despite the numerous references to trig, Pavlov’s dogs, nuns, gazintas, flagels(?), and scuch(??) Looks like
    I need a specialized dictionary when I start soliciting advice on this forum.
    The desk, which is about half scale and made from walnut and oak primarily, took a little under two months to complete. My references were photos of what ebay sellers call, interchangeably, railroad station, post office and plantation desks. A full-size version of mine would likely have been made around the time of the Civil War.
    The leather for the top came from a friend many years ago, and most of the miniature desks I construct use that material. Hardware was purchased from Horton Brasses. I will always remember advice given to me by Charlie James years ago: Buy the best hardware you possibly can. I figure, with shipping, the knobs, hinges, escutcheons and some bolts to hold the top in place set me back about $150. A good investment? Well, I’ve come a long way from Amerock.
    Again, thank you for the advice, suggestions and … the flagels?
    Roger Schroeder

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  • #3446

    Joe Bottigliere
    Participant

    Beautiful job, as usual, Roger.
    How did you adhere the leather to the wood? What adhesive did you use?

  • #3447

    Roger Schroeder
    Participant

    Joe,
    I’m tempted to give you just the short answer. But let me offer the long one.
    I always use a framework for the writing surface. Into that I insert 1/2″ plywood for my gluing surface.
    Okay, to answer your question I apply white glue because of the slower drying time. But first, I sand smooth the framework, not the plywood, and apply a finish. This way, when the leather is in place, I don’t have to worry about getting oil or lacquer or varnish on the leather.
    I then apply the glue to both the plywood and the leather. I place the leather on top of the ply, put waxed paper over the leather, a piece of plywood over that and clamp. Sadly, I don’t have a vacuum bag. If I did, that would be preferable to 12 shop clamps. After clamping the leather down, I wait a couple of minutes, then remove the plywood and waxed paper. The reason? Glue squeeze out. Yes, there usually is, and I make sure to wipe the excess away. Then I reclamp and let the assembly dry overnight.
    The first time making a leather desk top I didn’t take these precautions and the result was a ruined piece of leather.

  • #3448

    Charlie James
    Participant

    Roger, that is one beautiful piece! Nice job…Turned legs are a nice addition.

  • #3449

    Joe Bottigliere
    Participant

    Nice tip, Roger. Thanks. Not sure if I ever will leather a surface, but you never know. I always liked the look of those antiques with it. I will keep this in mind.
    I seem to remember, years back, Ian Kirby (who was big on leather surfaces) told us how he would apply a finish to the leather surface. Not sure if it was oil or some film finish, but it was in an attempt to preserve the surface. Does anyone else remember that?
    Another question. Do you secure the leather in a groove or fold it over the edge of the plywood or is it simply applied flat? I would think you have to be pretty precise if it just applied to the surface. How do you manage that?

  • #3450

    Roger Schroeder
    Participant

    Hi, Charlie,
    I agree. Turned legs add a lot to a piece like this desk. And after turning spindles for about 40 years, I can pretty much eyeball what I’m doing repetitively. Plus, lathe work is just fun and you can achieve symmetry pretty quickly. I love the look of segmented bowls, but I still prefer the lathe for furniture work.
    One of the reasons I choose Victorian-style furniture is that I can get the most out of my tools. I bought an English-made lathe many years ago with 48″ between centers. So that’s one tool that gets some use. And I come up with designs that include scroll work and even some carving.
    Taking a month off from woodworking, but anxious to start another project before spring.
    Roger
    PS. Be prepared for many more posts that delve into cabinetmaking techniques and issues. All the questions I’ve kept bottled up for years will come out.

  • #3452

    Daryl Rosenblatt
    Participant

    The only time I glued leather was to face my Moxon vise; I used contact cement, which I never liked. I wish I knew then that Titebond would work. The leather did adhere quickly and well, but the fumes were awful, and I don’t know how long the leather will stay on the wood (although it’s been about 4 years and so far so good).

    I agree with Joe, it takes some extraordinary precision if the leather isn’t folded over. So let me ask: if you fold the leather over on all corners and fasten it from behind, does the leather still have to be glued? If so, can you also use hide glue with a veneer hammer?

  • #3453
    Ben Nawrath
    Ben Nawrath
    Participant

    Great job, Roger! You’ll have to come share your work at a cabinet makers meeting sometime, we’d love to have you. I’ll bring flagels 😀

    Daryl, I used cork sheets on my moxon. Spray adhesive worked fine.

  • #3454

    Charlie James
    Participant

    Leather is worth using for writing surfaces or for surfaces that you want to soften a bit. White glue works fine, hide or yellow glue would work as well. It has a thickness and making the transition is difficult to hide so I find it best to buttress it against a slightly higher surface. That can be done in a few ways, the easiest is to wrap it around a piece of thin ply and set it into a preformed well. If you put some type of padding under the leather and then wrap it around ply you can stretch the leather, glue the folds underneath making sure to cut the leather like an envelope at the edges. A veneer hammer wouldn’t really work since that would stretch the leather too much and encourage springback. You could also glue leather to the surface of the ply, clamp it flat and cut it to size with a knife or sharp blade.

  • #3455

    Roger Schroeder
    Participant

    Hi, again, guys,
    All good tips and questions so far.
    I’ve used white glue for four of these miniature desks, and after five years since the first one, the glue is still holding.
    I don’t know about putting a finish on leather other than the stuff I buy for my car at an auto supply store. But ultimately, and I’ve seen dozens of antique desks with leather surfaces, the leather will ultimately dry out and look like, well, you know, the “s” word.
    The leather I’ve been using is almost 1/16″ thick, so I’ve taken the easy way out and just glue it flat to plywood. But Charlie’s suggestions are good ones and based on centuries of woodworking experience.
    The attached drawing shows pretty much my construction methods. It takes about three tries on scrap wood to get my router settings just right for the rabbet cuts. But once assembled so that the leather lays flush with the edges or is just proud, boy, that’s a good feeling of accomplishment. Oh, and that is the reason I glue up the framework and ply, sand, plus apply a finish before gluing the leather. Doing these woodworking operations with the leather in place is risky if not impossible. I do pre-cut the leather to fit the plywood, but leather has a tendency to stretch with even a small amount of use, so I have to be careful and sometimes need to cut the leather down a bit before gluing. That means trial fitting. Well, the results are in the photos.
    And yes, I’d be happy to discuss all this, plus more, at the cabinetmakers SIG. Without the flagels.
    Roger

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  • #3457

    Daryl Rosenblatt
    Participant

    Since the humble Flemish Flagle is the official food of the LIW, (Making it Flemish Flagle Food for Fools), I think it’s required that Ben bake some fresh ones (Fresh Flemish Flagel Fool Food), and it better not be on a Friday.

    Back to the real world. Whether it’s leather or some other non wood material, it’s an interesting topic to explore. While we have to deal with different expansion abilities of wood, adding leather, or metal (and ferrous vs. non ferrous) introduces even more variables. I’m in the middle of designing a table for my new model ship (I’ll post a photo here), since it’s copper hulled, I want to introduce copper. But it does change how it’s built, much less designed, finished, etc. But some of it is already built (I’m bringing it to the LICFM meeting in March).

    It’s a great topic. Has anyone “mixed” materials in their projects (I do recall MIke Josiah using crushed stone or something for a turning…am I right about that?). What did you have to do to deal with the differences?

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  • #3460

    Daryl Rosenblatt
    Participant

    Arrgh, for some reason the top photo is upside down, but when I open it in PhotoShop it’s right side up. So either stand on your head, or pick up your monitor and turn it around.

  • #3463

    Charlie James
    Participant

    Looks fine to me. Beautiful job…

  • #3464

    Joe Bottigliere
    Participant

    Roger, what do you mean, Charlie has centuries of experience? I agree, he’s no spring chicken but really does he look that worn?

    Daryl, Great job. Can’t wait to see it in person (or in object – you know what I mean). I can’t imagine the patience required. What is the estimate of time it took?

  • #3465

    Charlie James
    Participant

    I have been around a long time…

  • #3466
    Ben Nawrath
    Ben Nawrath
    Participant

    Mixed media, hmmmm good topic idea!

    I recently posed the question in an online forum on how to resurrect the leather strop wheel for my worksharp which has dried out and hardened. Someone suggested soaking it in minderal oil. I haven’t tried it yet but I will report back my results. How do they treat leather for belts? I have some decade old belts that are still fine. I’d also think shoe polish would make an interesting finish!

  • #3467

    Joe Bottigliere
    Participant

    Ben,
    I have solid, all leather belts that have dried out and begun to crack but they too are decades old. My first strop was a used belt and last me longer than I’d like to admit. I’m sure the tanning solution used has a lot to contribute to leather’s longevity. Though, I do think it will last a long time on its own. I’m not so sure it’s the leather that has dried out and hardened but rather the compound you’ve applied. That needs to be replenished and scrapped off if not used for long periods of time. (At least, this is what I’ve experienced.) Regular use will control that. Some people have suggested that strops be prepared with some oil before using the first time. I have never done that and my strops have worked just fine. I would not recommend soaking the wheel but rather scrape off the old compound as best you can and rub a little mineral oil into the leather. Then add some fresh cutting compound.

    s for shoe polish, I think it would work. After all, it is just colored wax. Ok, there is probably other junk in there but it little more than just that. Unless you are referring to the liquid stuff with that little fuzzy ball on the stick. I don’t know what that is! I’ve read of guys using shoe polish (from the can), as you would any wax, and the color is complimentary tot he wood used. That’s fine but it’s pretty expensive for what it needs to do. I use natural colored and dark colored waxes depending on the wood and effect I want. But go ahead and try it and let us know how it worked out.

  • #3475

    Daryl Rosenblatt
    Participant

    A quick search yielded this:

    https://www.doityourself.com/stry/how-to-repair-cracked-leather

    So the question becomes the value of your time and the supplies vs. what you are restoring. I confess I like my WorkSharp but never thought of getting the leather wheel. I’ve been using this one piece of leather as a strop for many years. One side with the chromium oxide, so it’s pretty green, and one with just the leather. Over the years it has a green tinge but that’s it. People would be shocked at how much steel can come off with a strop. It’s how I hone my carving tools (the WorkSharp is too aggressive for that for me).

  • #3482
    Ben Nawrath
    Ben Nawrath
    Participant

    What’s funny is I went online looking to plain old replace the leather surface, and found the mineral oil suggestion. Truth is, I haven’t used it much at all but I want to start. When I got my worksharp however many years ago, the leather wheel was a freebie/promotion at the time.

  • #3483

    Joe Bottigliere
    Participant

    Honestly, I use my strop every time I sharpen. But it’s one I made from scrap leather. I bought the Worksharp wheel but didn’t like it. It doesn’t allow you to use the leather facing downward. That prevents you from using the blade guide which means you need to strop the bevel freehand. In my opinion, that would just invite a very pronounced rounded cutting edge especially at that speed. That’s a no-no on my planes and chisels. I guess you could use the “wide blade” honing guide. But in that case, I may as well use my own setup which I can control very well. So I do.
    I haven’t played with it in a while, but if I can get the leather on the bottom, I might have a different opinion. With a strop on top and bottom of the wheel, you should be able to do a super job of polishing an edge.

  • #3491
    Ben Nawrath
    Ben Nawrath
    Participant

    I bet if you checked your clearances you could maybe cut away the leather so it’ll go in upside down, but it may only work on the extreme right side of the blade guide then.

  • #3502

    Joe Bottigliere
    Participant

    I did play with it a little but it does require more work, I believe the leather was hitting that ring under the plate. A thinner piece might work, but it’s hard to say. The existing leather is not all that thick to begin with.

  • #3503

    Charlie James
    Participant

    I made a strop from some leather and a piece of oak flooring. I glued some scrap leather to scrap flooring with regular white glue. Been using it for years now, never added anything to it, just compound. I was cutting flooring at the time..

  • #3504

    Joe Bottigliere
    Participant

    I bought a bunch of scrap leather off Amazon for about $10-$12. I took a 3″+ wide piece and glued it to 14″ long piece of 3/4 MDF. I drilled a 7/8 hole in one end to hook over a bench dog. On the bottom, I drilled two holes for dowels that accepts another block of wood in case I want to clamp it in my vise. I too just applied come cutting compound to the rough side of the leather. The strop is wide enough for a jointer plane blade and long enough that I can get a good stroke using my sharpening guide. Yes, I usually use a Veritas sharpening guide. But I do touch up free hand when I’m in the middle of working.

  • #3506

    Daryl Rosenblatt
    Participant

    My first strop was that four sided thing, back in my early days, when I thought I needed all the gadgets. So I got this “stuff” with no knowledge of how to use it. It’s the four sided thing with slate, a few leather strips, and such. And no, I didn’t realize you only pull on the blade. After ruining it, I got a scrap piece of leather, and that’s been it. It is pretty amazing how much steel can come off with one stroke on leather.

  • #3507

    Joe Bottigliere
    Participant

    If your steel coming off just from rubbing on raw leather, I think you need better steel!
    I have a new 4 piece set of Two-Cherries chisels, sharpened, but never used, I’m looking sell. Good price.

  • #3508

    Charlie James
    Participant

    This setup is kinda self explanatory. T-bolts ride in tracks with knobs on the front to lock in place.The back has 1/4-20 threaded rod trapped on the bottom and through some angle iron to lift the router incrementally. There’s some copper washers in the front to keep the face true. Cost me about $15 in material I guess plus the router…

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  • #3511

    Joe Bottigliere
    Participant

    I like it, Charlie. ONE DAY I’ll get around to making one. I actually designed my router table to accommodate a similar function. Instead of two rails, the “base” pivots at one end and the other has a single locking knob. An adjuster, much like yours, would attach to that end for fine tuning the setting. One day.

  • #3512

    Charlie James
    Participant

    Yeah, that works too. The vacuum hose attachment ends in a plenum (big word)under the router bit and with the drawer pushed in the vacuum works great.

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  • #3514

    Joe Bottigliere
    Participant

    Where can I get me one of them plenums?

  • #3515

    Charlie James
    Participant

    Well, I happen to have hundreds of plenums of all sizes in my shop. I can be convinced to sell them to you for $20 each…I’ll even deliver them for a small fee…

  • #3516

    Joe Bottigliere
    Participant

    I’d like to examine them first. I want only first class plenums. No seconds. Take a picture and send it to me.

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