TAMBOUR DESK

Levi Stillman -Cabinet Maker

Springfield, Mafs.

Primary Woods:       American Cherry (Prunus spp.)

 African Mahogany (Khaya spp.)

Secondary Woods:         Poplar (Populus spp.)

   Pine (Pinus spp.)

           Chestnut (Castanea spp.)  

Hardware: Cut Nails. Blunt Screws. Small upper knobs (original} are 4-piece construction: iron screw set into two piece turned sheet brass knob with decorative brass washer.  Sheet iron locks on 3 larger drawers. Brass and iron lock on tambour (see enclosed full size drawings}.  Original desk slide knobs are turned from solid brass with a (round to square} tapered spike set in to fasten it to the wooden slide. Hinges on desktop are replaced. Canvas back of the tambour is also replaced.  Knobs on the large drawers are replaced with old knobs, 2 unqualified holes (2 ½” O.C.) for original bail type handle on each side of each large drawer. Inlayed cast brass escutcheon liner on each side of tambour, only one is functional. One is missing. Original oval sheet brass escutcheons held with four pins are missing.

Dimensions: 45 7/8” High Including 6 5/8” turned legs.

21 Ό” Deep Carcase- 22 3/8” w/hardware.

40 1/16” Wide Top- 39 1/16” Wide carcase.

 

Drawer: Top 4 1/8” High by 31 7/8” Wide by 20” Deep.

Center 6 1/8” High by 35 Ό” Wide by 20” Deep.

Bottom 7 1/8” High by 35 Ό” Wide by 20” Deep.

 

Top: 15 5/8” High

      11 13/16” Deep

      39 1/16” Wide w/13/16” Thick by 12 3/16” Deep by 40 1/16” Wide Top.

 

Writing Surface:  18 ½” Deep folded out, 9 3/16” folded up.

39 1/16” Wide

15/16” Thick including veneer

9 degree slope  

Tambours: Solid Mahogany beads/reeds 3/16” Wide by 5/16” Deep by 13” Long -146 in number, 158 feet of molding.  2 -Solid Mahogany center stiles 11/16” Deep by 1 ½” Wide by 13” Long. Lock plate on right side strike plate on left.

The tambour desk in cherry, mahogany and mahogany veneer with fine reeding/beading decorating the upper tambour as well as the five fine reeds/beads, stop cut into the square (cherry) front legs. The reeds/beads run from just under the writing surface on top down to the 7/16” inlayed mahogany cross banding that continues across the bottom of the piece just above the legs. The legs are turned with matching beads; bobbin and inverted vase, terminating from beads to finely tapered bottoms.  All four legs are turned on the lower 6 5/8”; only the front legs are reeded.

The excellent American craftsmanship is apparent upon examination of the desks structure. All joints are tight, loose panels where appropriate and attention to detail indicate a mechanical mastery of the trade, together with the design, proportion and selection of materials gives this desk a position of historical significance. The American execution of a Hepplewhite/Sheraton pattern in local and exotic hardwoods provide a rich source of information concerning styles, materials, tools and techniques. The value of the data obtain just from the drawer locks gives a unique look at how materials (in the form of locks) were originally provided and how the individual craftsman had to prepare the lock for final installation and use.

Careful consideration of proportion, detail and craftsmanship are apparent in this properly sized example. The tambour desk superstructure is ½ the height of the desk/drawer case. The depth of the cabinet is ½ the overall cabinets width. The height of the cabinet less the turned legs is the same as the width of the cabinet. The careful division of the superstructure into: 6 drawers~ three are 23/4” height and 8” wide, two drawers 2 Ό” high by 11 1/8”wide and one center drawer 2 Ό” high by 8” wide. Three sets of 3 openings, 2 ½” wide by 65/8” high by 9 ½” deep and two sets of two openings, 1 Ό” wide by 9 Ύ” high by 9 ½” deep with 3/8” cross-banded dividers. The 3/16” dividers are poplar the back 7 ½” and only the front most 2” edge is mahogany. Profiles of the dividers are enclosed. The scalloped front brackets at the bottom of some of the openings are newer additions and do not match original material or craftsmanship.

The tambour desk pockets have been repaired with automotive body putty (Bondo) on the rear cross grain tracks. One original tambour original insertion wooden plug is in its original position. This allows the tambour to be inserted in the superstructures track. Some looseness in this structure is due to glue failure at the bottom carcase dovetails. The back of the superstructure top is made of two 5/16” thick pieces of cherry splined together and nailed to the back. On the left back side of the superstructure a piece of mahogany has been used to make repairs in the cherry side. Repairs to the hinge area of the desktop have been made with mahogany; with some trimming of the slides these are the only minor repairs to the original.  

Additional Information:  

The two wider drawers in the superstructure are both signed “Joslyn” in pencil on each bottom. Also penciled in is ”N 9” and “No 3” on one and “N 7” and “No 1” on the other. All drawers are also numbered. The superstructure is designed so as to allow the drawers to be opened when the desk section is not folded out.  When the tambour is opened the center and side reeded section together are twice the width of the lower reeded legs.  The lower side panels of the carcase are framed in front and back with the legs (stiles). The center panel is Ύ” thick by 18” wide by 13” tall. ‘The center panel is Ύ” thick with rabbets cut in the edges to fit into the grooves, panel is not glued or fastened to the framework allowing for natural adjustments. The lower framing (rail) is 5” high and the upper framing (rail) is 5 ½” at the back and 4 Ύ” at the front. It is exactly 5” wide in the center of the sloping desk section, again attesting to the impressive attention to detail and execution.  Although the original finish is gone and has been replaced with a modern finish (see crack pattern enclosed) evidence of the original finish and alkanet stain are still visible between the carcase and superstructure and on drawer sides where it has been protected from exposure and fading.

The writing surface has had repair work done at the hinges, which are also replaced. The red leather-writing surface is in excellent condition but is not the original surface.  The desk support slides are constructed of cherry with mahogany veneer and has cockbeading on the front, exposed edge.  Original stop screws are missing. The slides are constructed to operate smoothly at the 9 degrees slope. Because of slight carcase shrinkage the slides were trimmed at some time previously to operate smoothly in the finely fit slide pocket. Remnants of the original dark green felt that top the slides are still visible, new lighter green felt, however, has been added at the time when the slides were trimmed.

The 3 large drawers are constructed of poplar: ½” sides, 5/8” back and ½” bottom. The drawer fronts are of pine with figured mahogany veneer on the exterior front surface to a thickness of 13/16”. The edges of the drawer fronts are then trimmed with 3/16” thick mahogany veneer: the top edge is fully covered with veneer, the bottom is only on the front 3/8” and the drawer front side edges are Ό” wide and form the edge line of the dovetails. All trimming veneers are neatly mitered at the corners. Slight shrinkage with little damage has occurred since this desk came to Utah from Virginia 5 years ago. (1989)

 Drawing - 1989

Click on thumbnails below for large view of photographs taken during the documentation  process, use Browser's Back Button to return to this page.

Front view of deskFront view of desk

Side view with top removedSide view with top removed

Front view showing interior details, doors openFront view with doors open and desk top open

Stillman's signatureStillman's signature

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