Off Topic: New Shaker Desk

Shaker writing desk

This pine Shaker writing desk features three hand-cut dovetailed drawers and a traditional oil finish topped off with paste wax. Click image to enlarge.

When I’m not building custom humidors, I can generally be found in the workshop concentrating on any number of projects. Most recently, I just finished the final coat of paste wax on a new Shaker writing desk outfitted with three dovetailed drawers.

Shaker furniture isn’t about fancy joinery, exquisite inlay, or high-gloss finishes. Instead, it’s construction centers around perfectly executed joinery (not necessarily complex) and only those elements required to make it function for its purpose. Ornamentation is subtle–in the case of this desk, a simple cock bead along the bottoms of the aprons and stretchers is the only “bell or whistle” to speak of.

Old Growth: Wide Boards

The piece was built from pine obtained from a locally felled tree. The holy grail of fine woodworking is the “super wide board.” Old growth trees yielding 18-in. wide stock are all-but-gone from our forests. Luckily, this tree, which had been damaged in a storm and thus had to come down, was sawn into a variety of plank sizes, some of which were as wide as 18-inches!

dovetail jointIn this image, you can get a sense of the typical half-blind dovetail joinery used by the Shakers to join drawer fronts to drawer sides. A difficult joint to execute flawlessly, the half-blind dovetail joint is a joy to behold–a real “head-scratcher” for those unacustomed to furniture construction methods.

Dealing with Sap

Pine is an inherently “sappy” wood, and while consructing the drawers for this desk, I had to come up with a way to set the sap and keep it from weeping to the surface over the course of time. This is similar to the way in which Spanish cedar used in cigar humidors  sometimes weeps small, sticky globs of sap. In my case, I turned to an old tried-and-true method to set the sticky stuff: I baked my wood. That’s write, I plopped the drawer parts (before milling and assembly) into my oven and baked them at about 160-degrees for one hour before taking them back into the shop. You can read more about this process in an article published at one of my favorite woodworking websites,


  1. That’s beautiful pine and a very nice desk. Where are you located and what kind of pine is it?

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