Hidden Compartments – Slant Front Desk

I wrapped up the pigeon holes with exception of the hinges on the door and the lock. I will need to turn the column for the small vertical drawers on left and right of the door, typically called “stamp drawers” they are considered a “hidden compartment” by some but most know to look for them.

I have often made small boxes that sit in the back of the pigeon holes and appeared as the backs, or put a box, similar to the pigeon holes, in the back of the “door” compartment. They are much like a match boxes.

Stamp Drawers - Left & Right of Center Door

Stamp Drawers

Stamp Drawer Interior

Stamp Drawer Interior

Behind Lower Drawers

Behind Lower Drawers

The main one on this desk is the one hidden behind the bottom drawers. When you tell people to try and find them, the “stamp drawers” are always found, the ones at the back of the pigeon holes on occassion are found, but the one with the sliding divider in the back of the drawers isn’t ever found, well except for “now”.

Secret Compartment in Place

Secret Compartment in Place

Lower Drawers In Place

Lower Drawers In Place

Check out the March newsletter where I showed you how I hinge a crown to create a hidden compartment. People are always surprised and love it!

I initially thought of using Birdseye Maple for the contrasting wood, but found a piece of “Quilted” maple I had that has some nice vertical “blistering” going on, so I couldn’t avoid the temptation.

I oiled the maple with some Waterlox to bring out the incredible “chatoyance” (holographic) figure, then I will sand it back like a trace coat and use a clear finish. Since oil is amber in color, by sanding it back I remove some from the surface and then the “pure clear” will highlight the figure even more. I will use a waterbase clear. Waterbases are pure clear and remain so. I’m going to use the new “Vermont Coatings” clear just to give it a shot. I could also use some General Finishes High Performance, or for a quick finish, I could use a spray can of “Deft”.

Note the photo showing the contrast. Now this will be the initial contrast, but as the cherry darkens on its own, and the maple will lighten a little or better put “mellow” in, it will be quite nice.

This piece is getting “antiqued” hardware. The locks are not antiqued because it’s not possible to antique the locks as the solution will damage the internal steel workings. I always wipe a thin coat of wax on the steel box of the lock, as well as put a few drops of oil on the inside, just to be sure nothing ever rusts. I have a little “antiquing” trick for the locks. A good steel wooling and a light wipe with some gun-bluing, and you’re good to go. You can simply let them tarnish on their own as well. And of course, you know who did the hardware, as always, Horton Brass. Just the best.

Now I got a video out there in “cyberspace” about screws, and using steel screws prior to using your brass ones. This is especially true in antique color because if you scratch the slot of the screw up it looks like $@&#!

The other thing that is often an issue is getting the hinge holes drilled in the center. The Snappy “self centering” bits are super.

Now here is something you don’t want to hear: “Period Furniture”. You don’t use phillips or square drive screws, it’s just not acceptable. Now on my construction (i.e. feet mouldings), where they aren’t seen, I do use the square heads, but I always use a little glaze or something to “hide” them.

The biggest problem with slotted brass screws is they break easily and are a pain. I mean, God Forbid, you have to use a regular screwdriver, but such is life. HOWEVER, there is definitely a huge difference in the quality of the brass screws, and just like steel screws, there are soft, cheap, or tempered and strong. Simply put, I have tried them all. Horton Brasses’ screws are the “top dog” and they have Phillips as well (I think…). Now again, use a screw lubricant (Bees Wax – toilet bowl ring), but I promise you Horton’s screws are stronger than any I have ever found, just a fact.

Both pieces are being scraped and sanded, and finish is moving on. They should be ready to leave over the weekend or first of next week, hopefully. We will show them to you when they are complete.

Later this week, a couple of local wood workers have built themselves a “Tavern Settle”, it’s a table whre the top flips up to make a bench seat, made out of pine, and they want it to look old, so I’m going to help them do it. Might be interesting to show you as well.

So let’s see… Finish the Stepback and Desk, I will be the rest of the day finishing up locks and hardware and “diddlin'” with everything, then take it all apart and “get to finishing”. I done told ya’ll, I only build this stuff so I can finish it. I’m strange – I like to finish.

In between coats I still have about 3 days of filming to do. But by week’s end, we should be in good shape and ready to move on to “other stuff”. The seed press – Got a tiger maple free standing mirror to do, and as well I want to do my Colonial Hanging Cupboard as a video project. That Ken has about got all the “Video Players” up and working. Just a note, Ken’s wife is in the hospital with a blood clot in her lung, please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

UPS just dropped off a load of DVDs and cases, and with this blog, the girls are pretty busy as well.

So another cup of coffee and it’s get to it time. This past weekend it was in the mid-70’s here, and today it’s the same. Gettin’ spring fever.

Later ya’ll,

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8 Responses to Hidden Compartments – Slant Front Desk

  1. Monte West says:

    It’s Monday and you did what you said you were going to do. Thank you for showing all the hiding places on the desk. They are great. I liked to one at the top of the desk the best.
    I found Snappy Bits about 10 or 12 years ago and could not work without them. It is a lot faster to switch between a drill bit and a driver than the other method. I think I have all of there sets in one big case, that they may not sell now. It keeps me from losing them.
    I understand what you are doing to keep the light color of the maple and I like it. There still may be a chance to get me to use water base finishes now that they are much better.
    Snow all gone.

  2. Wow amazing work, thanks for posting all the pic’s. I hear pigeon holes are an extreme test of one’s patience. :0

    Monte…water based. Just make the time. Get some General Finishes and play. You’ll be amazed at how intense the color is. Love the water based topcoats.


  3. Ace ..they test ..eye sight, patience and ones resolve .to the max….but over the years i have done a few, these are not super bad…no carved fans, serpentine drawers all that stuff….but still quite time consuming

  4. David Pruett says:

    Charles –

    WOW! Excellent work. Thanks for sharing so much detail and wonderful photos. Very inspiring! I always enjoy how you weave in the construction details. You had me bitting my lip as I was reading about the challenges of brass screws . . . I unfortunately have some bad memories and a snapping sound still in my mind!

    Best Regards,

  5. Ken Weinert says:

    Two questions:

    * do many people notice that the drawers are shorter than the depth of the pigeonholes?

    * what are the two holes for in the front of the hidden compartment? Is it to allow for air to escape when you close it up?

  6. ken , no they do not notice the depth difference…its one of those things you just dont see….as to the small holes they are as a result of the groove on the inside for the bottom to sit in…unless you do a 1/2 blind dovetail..the grooves will show as you see…

  7. Mike says:

    Have you done any maple with multiple coats of Waterlox only? If so, does it really make it that much darker than lacquer clear coat?

  8. mike it doesnt make it that much darker and has a nice coloron maple, especially figured..its good stuff

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