The Butler’s Desk – Workspace

This post continues a series in which I’m building a butler’s desk of American black walnut.  In the previous post the desk support drawer was created.  With the support now in place I can begin building the fold down desk and sliding tray which will make up the work space.

I debated how, exactly, to proceed in building the desktop surface.  Along with making the facade of the cabinet, this surface needed to be something which one could work at comfortably.  This consideration complicated matters initially, but ultimately ended up simplifying the end result.  I had been considering ways to make a frame and panel door but remained unsatisfied with how this would effect the appearance of the cabinet, so with some input from a good friend, I decided that splined ends in a solid wood panel would best retain the aesthetic of the cabinet without sacrificing the integrity of the door.

The immediate thought that comes to mind is that wood expands and contracts.  So I’m accounting for that in my door build.  Being that this is a well behaved wood that is mostly radial grain I can plan on a seasonal movement of 1/16″ in typical conditions in NJ.  So If I split that difference and plan on 1/32″ per side then I can work with that.

I begin work on the door by cutting long grooves for the  battens.


Then chopping out the waste, followed by paring the floor flat.


After fitting the batten, I can begin fitting the door for hinges.  The batten and hinges are the same width, making the installation very easy.



You may notice at this point that the bottom inside corner is radiused and the outside corner heavily chamfered.  In order to allow a free swing of the door through it’s intended radius both of those modifications had to be made.   To hide the tops of the batten, I’ve laminated a 1/8″ strip at the top of the door from the cut-off of the same material. I’ll leave a gap between the top of the batten and bottom of the lamination so that the top can shrink freely.

Next I remove the top of the cabinet and begin mortising for hinges.


The hinge is now fitted, the part below the radiused section of the hinge will be invisible in use.


The installed door:


To finish the right hand section of the drawer, otherwise exposed when left open, I have decided to make a leather upholstered sliding tray which can click into place to be used for a mouse or coaster, then be pushed out of the way to reveal the drawer space underneath.

I begin building a frame for that tray by sizing material.


Followed by cutting tenons and grooves.


Then mortising the receiving members and chamfering their edges.


And finally fitting together the frame.


Next I cut a panel to size in high quality baltic birch ply, cut tongues around the perimeter, then apply leather to the top surface.


Next I mold the shape of the corners into the leather and trim the sides back.


Finally the panel is fitted into the frame, the frame assembled, then the panel fitted to the grooves cut into the drawer.


The result is a complete work surface.


Next step is to install a door stop.


That’s all for now!  I hope you have enjoyed reading, please comment below.

The Butler’s Desk Get’s Detailed!

Brusso hardware can be purchased through my aStore purchasing through my aStore helps  to support the content provided on this blog.


  1. Pingback: The Butler’s Desk – Desk Drawer | Brian Holcombe Woodworker

  2. Pingback: The Butler's Desk - Desk Drawer - Brian Holcombe Woodworker

Leave a Reply