Interesting arts and crafts mystery desk

cslambertMay 15, 2014

Hello everyone! Please click HERE to view pictures of a peculiar old desk I found for 30.00 in a peddlers mall.

At first glance, it seemed like a typical oak desk, but upon closer inspection, its quality became apparent. Hand cut dovetails on drawer and cabinet carcass, scribed mortise and tenon joinery, elegant turnings, an interesting scribed 2 tone design on the drawer carcass side. all solid quartersawn oak and ash, save for drawer bottoms-- which are plywood. Nails are round. I assume 1920-1940 on this piece agewise.

I am not sure what purpose of the desk was used for, but it certainly appears to be a custom job by a professional/ talented amateur. There are several small drawers (all missing knobs unfortunately) that have no sides. Just an ash front rabetted into a poplar ply bottom, and a poplar back butt jointed and nailed into the ply. These appear all original.

I wonder what purpose these drawers would have served? Maybe the craftsman got lazy after all of the other good craftsmanship on this desk and skipped the sides?

Anyone have any answers or observations on this piece?

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THIRTY DOLLARS! I hope you bought it!

You don't show how the drawers fit into the piece ... that's important.

Can you post more with a focus on the drawers?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 9:00PM
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Hey thanks for your response, and yes i bought it. Being a woodworker I knew what an undertaking this kind of project would be, and how well executed the work is. I imagine its worth at least 30? :P

As for the drawers: The bottoms slide on dado grooves in the drawer casing. The drawers themselves measure 15" deep 11 3/4 wide and 2" high. Let me know if you need more photos or dimensions :)

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 9:24PM
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Customized for something besides the usual drawer contents.

Possible to hold flat boxes of something, or ledgers.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 10:07AM
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That makes a lot of sense-- especially since flat boxes probably would have helped keep the drawers ridged. A couple more clues-- each drawer has black pastel like Chicken scratch markings, with some blues and reds here and there. I also found a scrap piece of transfer paper behind the drawers. Lastly there's a marking in pencil on the side of drawer casing that says "S.O 5972"

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 12:24PM
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Did one of the sideless drawers hold a typewritter?

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 2:33AM
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Looking at the other photos of the desk I doubt the sideless drawer (and it would have to be the top one) would have supported a typewriter because there isn't anything to support the weight. Those old typewriters were heavy, as I'm sure you know. Plus there would be no advantage to having the typewriter on a drawer as it would have to be permanently open- the drawer is too shallow to be closed with a typewriter on it.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 9:46PM
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Colleen is right-- these drawers are relatively delicate. They were definitely meant for something relatively lightweight. The mystery continues :)

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 1:15AM
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That is an uncommon drawer construction. The contents would have to be something that would not spill out when the drawer was opened. A ledger or album is a possibility. Other possibilities are maps or art portfilios, maybe drawing papers. The absence of the sides makes it easier to lift a sheet of paper off a stack.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 4:24AM
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