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




This is the place to share views of your shop, woodworking tips and methods,
mug shots, special tools or machines, finished work--you name it!
    We prefer digital images via e-mail, but prints or transparencies will do. Include your name, address, phone number and a paragraph or two explaining the photo(s).
    Not every entry will be used, we reserve the right to edit for length and clarity,
and we will not return photos.

P.O. Box 493
Springtown, PA 18081