Brigham Young's Secretaries Desk

This is one of four desks that were built for a number of Brigham Young's office staff.  It was built at the Public Works and was undoubtedly a William Bell design.  The desks were made of pine with river birch rollers and black walnut (from a packing crate) that surrounds the writing surfaces.  The writing tops are of canvas and were originally painted to look like leather.  Each of the writing boxes are hinged and have locks.  The top rotates on the lower apron where there are rollers that allow the top to easily turn.  There is a center pivot under the superstructure in the center of the desk on top.  One desk section has a lock in the back that unlocks the superstructure allowing it to hinge open and access the center pivoting assembly and a secret storage space.

Desk before restoration - 9 layers of overpaint

The desk had been over painted and grained on 3 separate occasions resulting in 9 layers of over paint.  The last layer was painted and grained to imitate walnut.  This is the condition of the piece when it came into the shop.  After spending over 100 hours removing the layers of over paint, 96% of the original painted and grained finish was preserved.  The remaining 4% had worn off to the wood.

Desk after over paint is removed showing original painting and graining

It was amazing to see the different colors of marble and rosewood that this piece revealed from under all the over paint.  There is green, brown and amber colored marble, red rosewood and yellow brown on the canvas writing surface to imitate leather.  The desks and superstructure are grained to imitate rosewood.  After this piece was varnished, a newspaper was placed on the top to keep the dust off.  Some ink transferred to the varnish and by holding a mirror up to the top you could see a date of June 10, 1856.  So I imagine this piece was built around that date.

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