Build a Shaker Lap Desk – Part I
In this three-part series, learn how to build a beautiful Shaker lap desk tailor-made for today's laptop computers.
Designed to function as a miniature traveling office, the classic Shaker lap desk was indeed the laptop of its time. With room for paper, envelopes, pens, and a small inkwell drawer, similar designs—like the model used by Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence—continue to draw attention for their precise joinery on a miniature scale, and harken back to an earlier era when pen and ink were king. This traditional lap desk can still be used for writing while sitting in an easy chair. Better yet, with the center divider removed, it can be used to store your laptop computer, cords, and even thumb and flash drives in the tiny inkwell drawer. For those in search of a weekend project to hone their joinery skills, this project offers a carcase of exposed dovetails, breadboard ends designed for the long haul, and plenty of small-scale details that come together to form a piece that’s sure to spark many a conversation.
Built of pine like the original, the desk requires about 7 to 8 bd. ft. of lumber milled to 3/8-in. thickness. The tiny inkwell drawer, perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of this project, is constructed from 1/4-in. stock, and the top features hardwood breadboard ends secured with cherry dowels.
Dovetailed Carcase Hones Your Hand Tool Skills Begin by tackling the 12-in. by 19-in. carcase. To make the desk more comfortable for writing—or typing—the top is set at a slant, with the back measuring in at 4 in. high and the front at 2-3/4 in. The two sides are cut to reflect this taper, beginning at 4 in. and tapering down to 2-3/4 in. at the front. Before proceeding to the dovetails, be sure to cut out a 2-1/2-in. by 3-in. opening to accommodate the inkwell drawer on the right side.…