Congress Hall Desks

CONGRESS HALL DESKS
A dream commission and a technical challenge.

SHOP OWNER: Dan Minzner
LOCATION: Quakertown, PA

    Q. What has 176 legs, 600 BF of Mahogany, 100 inkwells and gallons of blood, sweat and tears?
    A. Philadelphia's Congress Hall.

    Here is a sampling of the desks I built for Congress Hall in Philadelphia, PA. Earlier in my cabinetmaking career, I couldn't imagine being able to build so many desks in such a short period of time. This photo shows only a few of the many desks that I built for this particular project--there were thirty in all, some curved and some straight.

    When I was approached by Independence Hall Historic Park to bid this project, I was amazed that they would consider a small time shop such as mine. As it turns out, shops in North Carolina and Thomas Moser had turned this job down! For a large shop, a job like this only slows them down; to them, a job of this size is merely a crumb. For me this job was a seven-course meal.

    One of the most challenging parts of the job was to construct the curved, slant-front desk tops. After many hours of nail biting and a bit of down-home engineering, I decided to construct forms out of plywood and Dow blue foam insulation. They worked like a charm. I made the slant section of two layers of bending ply, three layers of 1/32-in. veneer, and finally, two layers of 1/16-in. mahogany.

    Space...the final frontier. My shop is small and jam packed with big machinery, leaving little space for two hundred running feet of desks. From February to August, my shop was a jigsaw puzzle. But, overall, it was a great project and a nice feather in my cap. Each time I go into Philly I find it hard not to stop in and watch people admire my work.

...Dan Minzner

 

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