This beautiful cherry secretary began with a misfortune.
SHOP OWNER: George Dart
LOCATION: Havertown, PA
This secretary originated from a 2003 hurricane, which toppled a cherry tree into my daughter's home in Silver Spring, MD. My son-in-law, Jim, and grandson, Luke, are shown sitting on the tree in their back yard. They decided to have it sawn into 4/4 stock and give the wood to me, together with a branch full of turning blanks.
After the cherry had air-dried, we decided they needed a secretary desk made for their living room. Accordingly, Lizzy searched the Internet for plans and pictures and found a piece of furniture, which they liked. Three years later an older Luke is standing in front of the transformed tree, only a few feet from where it poked a hole in their wall.
I built the desk and bookcase as separate items. Together they stand 81 inches tall. There was normal variation of tone and color in the cherry stock, and I was careful about grain and color matching during glue-ups. All the wood used came from the same tree and I surfaced it in my shop. The plans were poor and gave only sketchy details, so work progressed slowly. Furthermore, I made a few mistakes and had to re-do some assemblies. I wound up making two bookcases, but was able to recycle most of the first.
The desk features an ample interior and writing surface. I constructed the cubby drawers from 1/2" cherry stock in accordance with the plans. If I were to do it over, I would have reduced the width to 3/8-inch. Each drawer will hold about a pound of $50's. I decided to construct a separate section of envelope dividers, which front-load between the right and left drawer columns.
Hinges for the writing surface lid support were a real problem. I could not find hardware, which worked properly, because the barrels of the hinges stood above the hinge straps after the hinges were mortised. Closing the lid caused it to be displaced upward. Finally, I found the perfect hinges, salvaged years ago, in the bottom of a tin can. I cleaned them up and asked my son, Ken, to mortise them into the lid and desk for a perfect fit. The plans required pull-out lid supports, and I also incorporated these. The dual supported writing lid is strong enough to withstand swinging monkeys, or my grandsons!
This picture shows the finally completed secretary with lid down and envelope divider unit installed. After fabricating the desk and bookcase units, I set all assemblies outside in the summer/fall sunshine each day for a couple weeks to let the cherry darken naturally. I did not use any coloring agent except sunlight, a spit coat of SealCoat shellac, and several applications of water-based poly. It was a difficult project because the plans were so poor. However, I think it turned out well, and the proud owners don't seem to mind having their fallen tree back in their living room again!. . . George Dart
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