Pennsylvania Secretary

I built this Pennsylvania Secretary back in 2004. It was an article in Fine Woodworking Magazine by Ronnie Bird. I fell in love with the idea of making a piece as complicated as this with it’s intrical cubbies and drawers.

The door panels and desk lid were all sliced from a single piece of 2″ thick walnut. I sliced the wood by hand with my hand saw because the 13″ width of the wood was too wide for my band saw that could only rip stock 12″ wide. I remember it being a major pain the ass.

I used a bread board edge on the lid so that it wouldn’t warp. The joint works well because seventeen years later, the lid is still perfectly flat.

I cut the curvature of the drawers on a band saw and smoothed them with my oscillating drum sander. The panel on the small door was a piece of crotch walnut.

There are a few hidden compartments inside the desk where I kept my silver dollar coins that my Mom gave me before she passed away. The columns slide open to keep important documents but I never stored anything in them.

The drawer fronts were sliced from a single piece of curly walnut that I laminated onto a walnut substrate for each drawer. I cut the cabriolet feet on the band saw and then glued each side together.

The lid opens up to act as a working desk but it actually sucks as a desk. The lid is too high off the ground for my liking.

I built the sides and case with 7/8″ thick walnut with red oak secondary wood. I used red oak because I had a boatload of it when I bought a bundle of it from the company I used to work for. They sold it as oak fence boards so the quality of the wood was not the best. I didn’t care because it was seconday wood but it made the piece extremely heavy. I should have used white pine or poplar instead.

I used plywood on the back and drawer bottoms because the expense of making it was getting out of hand. I paid over $600 for all of the brass hardware and the walnut cost me over $800.

As nice as this piece is, it’s been used as a junk drawer all these years as we just store a bunch of crap in it. I used to store my cd collection in the top cabinet but I sold a lot of them a few years ago on half.com when I was uploading my collection into a digital format.

The secretary has been sitting in our garage ever since we got hit with the tornado last year. After the tornado, we had to take all of our furniture out of the house and into pods in our driveway while our house was being put back together. When everything was done, we never brought it back into the house because it’s too big and heavy to move.

I currently have it for sale on Facebook Marketplace for $1800 but I’ll be surprised if anyone buys it. It’s not an antique so it doesn’t have any value in that way and no one buys big pieces of furniture like this anymore. I may have to donate it or just keep it in the garage.

The secretary was fun to make, but I wouldn’t make it again. All it’s good for is to take pictures and show people “look what I made.”

UPDATE 7-16-21. After zero bites on Marketplace for weeks, I lowered to $500. We’ll see if it sells.

UPDATE 8-20-21 it never sold.

The Console Table Build

My honey-do list usually starts out the same. My wife will ask if I can make something for her and then asks how much it will cost in wood. I told her it would probably run around $60 so we headed to Home Depot and bought some white pine boards.

I bought a few 1″ x 10″ x 6′ to use for the legs. One 1″ x 10″ cut in half and ripped into 2 1/2″ wide segments would yield me two legs. After I laminated three of the boards, I sized them to 2 1/4″ square and then turned them on the lathe. I looked at the picture she gave me but I turned the leg from feel of what I thought it looked liked. When I was done, we both decided the bottom part of the leg looked too “boxy” so I decided to turn another leg.

The second leg turned out better than the first. When I threw a picture of both legs onto instagram, one of my followers said that he liked the bottom of the leg on right but liked the top of the leg on the left. I agreed so I refined the leg so the ball of the leg looked more like a ball and not a fat lazy bead.

After refining the leg, I made five more freehand. I’m by no means a master wood turner. In fact, my wood turning is passable at best. The only lesson I’ve ever taken on wood turning is watching The Woodwright’s Shop over the years. I take a ruler, a parting tool, and some calipers and try to make the sixth one to look like the first. In the end, I think the legs came out pretty good.

My wife wanted table to be fourteen inches wide by five feet long so I laid the legs on the top and decided the dimensions of each part of the frame.

After cutting out all the parts of the frame, I attached them to the legs with pocket hole joinery. This is a simple table made from construction grade material so I wasn’t in the mood to start cutting a bunch of mortises for mortise and tenon joinery. Sorry.

I sized and glued the bottom shelf to the lower frame. Ideally this would be best suited for plywood due to the expansion and contraction of the wood however, after studying the original picture, this is how the table my wife wanted was built so I went ahead and made it the same way. Eventually there will be a nice crack in the middle of the shelf, but that will just add to the farmhouse look.

I made the drawers as simple as possible as well. I planed down some of the pine to 1/2″ thick and made the sides with rabbeted joinery and a 1/4″ plywood bottom. I then simply glued and nailed a drawer front to the box.

In the end, this is how the table came out. Not bad for a weekend build. My wife will finish the table with some sort of weathered look stain. I’m happy with it and it’s one less thing off of my honey-do list.

Here’s the table completed with a stain Anita put on. It’s for sale at a design show. It originally wasn’t meant to be for sale, but we had such a good show, we needed more inventory to sell.