Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Winchester desk.... a DVD review......

This DVD is not what I expected it to be. That surprise however, didn't turn into disappointment. What I expected was seeing an old Winchester desk from the late 1700's and how it was put together. Instead this DVD is about how that Winchester desk is made and put together.

almost 3 hours long
This is a long DVD but my attention span didn't wander and I watched the entire DVD in one sitting. The two builders of the desk  (Jeff & Steve) use this desk as a teaching tool. They take it to shows and woodworking clubs to show how they made it by copying 18th century woodworking joinery. Jeff does most of the talking (99.9%) with Steve the silent partner chirping in occasionally.

This is a slant top desk, with pigeon holes and drawers under the lid, and it sits on top of a carcass of 4 drawers. The one they present is made of walnut with most, if not all of the secondary wood being SYP. It is made with a mixture of hand and machine work using the same joinery in the same way the old guys would have done the desk with just hand tools.

This was a very interesting DVD to watch. They start with the feet and the bottom. Jeff explains how each part is made and why as they put the desk together. He explained about the different ways the bracket feet were reinforced at the miter. One was an alternating stack of blocks where the end grain of each block was 90 degree from it's top/bottom neighbor. I hadn't seen that way stacking blocks before.

Jeff and Steve not only build restoration furniture, they also restore furniture. Throughout the video Jeff mentions specific problems he has seen with furniture brought into the shop to be repaired that is related to the part of the desk they are talking about. The old guys had the same problems with splits etc due to changing seasons like we do. Jeff did say that with the modern climate control we have now that is less of a problem.

From the bottom he goes to the top explaining how the slant lid was made and how it is attached. I really like the part on the pigeon holes and small drawer building. I was surprised to see that the small drawers were put together in the same manner of their bigger cousins on the bottom part of the desk.

If you were ever curious about loafers, what they are, and how to make them correctly, this video has all the info you need. I learned a few things here that I didn't know. I also learned a lot about carcass construction, drawer making, and quarter columns which have a nice stopped bead detail. Jeff shows a scraper jig in the video and how it is used to do the beading on the quarter columns.

I think the most interesting part of the video is the secret drawers in this desk. There are a baker's dozen. Some could quibble on that number and say it's less but they made it and they are counting them. Most of the locations I knew of and had seen in other desks. However, he showed me two small hidden drawers that were concealed in the loafers. I thought that was a bit clever. The whole downside is that the secret drawers aren't so secret anymore.

If you want to know how a desk was made in 1795-1798 buy this video. You won't see how each individual part is made. What you will see is each individual piece and how and where it goes on the desk. You'll see how they all fit together and the way to put them together.  In the beginning you see parts scattered about and at the end you see the completed desk.  It isn't glued but just held together by it's joints and a few screws. That tells you something about the construction techniques in this desk.

I'm not sure that this would appeal to everyone mostly because it's not a how to video. This is more of a detective how it was done.  I liked it and now that I have seen it I'll put in my library with the other DVD's. I'll have it to use as a reference tool on how the old guys did things because a lot of the joinery in here can applied elsewhere. I would definitely like to see this presentation in person.

Steve and Jeff also have a woodworking school that you go to and make this desk. The website is

accidental woodworker

stupid laws
In Prescott Arizona, no one is permitted to ride their horse up the stairs of the county courthouse.


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