The Shaker lap desk may be considered the predecessor of today's briefcase, writes Brian Considine. Lap desks are fine examples of the thought, care, and skill the Shaker woodcrafters put into the smallest piece, and the variety and detail of the joints make it a challenging project. Considine explains in this succinct article how to make and assemble the four sides and shelf, then the bottom and top, and finally the drawer. 

From Fine Woodworking #2