Collectibles-General (Antiques)/roll top desk


drawer side
drawer side  
Very Large Desk
Very Large Desk  
QUESTION: Dear Sir, I have just found this desk in a garage on property that my husband has inherited years ago. I am desperate for advice.
I hate my desk, I just turned 50 and decided to get myself a gift. While I was perusing online my husband suggested I use this one. I did not know it existed. (Can you believe what one can find in THEIR OWN garage? my prayers were answered in such a surprising way.)
I love it. I can't wait to get it home and clean it up. I was wondering if you could tell me a make and year. I do not know where to find a name. I looked in the top drawer but I think it has been replaced as the sides have nails holding it together and the others are dovetailed,(I think that's the word). It looks like it could be a Cutler, but there is no stamp or insignia on the roll top. I even googled the key plate. It is so rough that I doubt a company would have this quality. The in-sides of the drawers seem to be handmade, they look chiseled. There is a large leather mat sunk in the writing surfaces. And there is a slit on the left arm under the  raised molding. The top part has a simple carving. Whoever made this desk put a lot of work into it.   I see you do not want cell phone pictures but it is all I had. So you have my sincere apologies.  I have fallen in love with it, which is why I want to do something so I can use it every day. I'm guessing drill a small hole. But I don't want to hurt it. Is there a panel I can knock out instead? I read where someone drilled into the back and into the tambour.  I shuddered, I easily could have done that. I have searched for a finish carpenter on Craigslist and have come up with zilch. But I am still looking.

Also, What is the best way to move it. I want to take the top off, but my husband says it is fine the way it is and I am over thinking it. I'm guessing he is worried it will never fit together again. And he believes it is so heavy that he does not need to tie it down in a pick up truck. So I am quite worried. I like antiques, while he-only old cars)
I thank you for your time, even if it is only to say you know nothing. I just feel lucky it has dropped into my life, well now the fun begins. I wonder who I have to bribe to bring it home?
Thank you so much,

sorry the knowledgeably factor was not up to your standards.  please tell me how i could have improved on my response.

cutler would have been marked.

there were a couple of thousand companies making roll top desks and this one is a bit above the standard grade.

i dont know what you mean when you said 'drill a small hole' you will have to explain that one.

however, if you move it in a truck and do not wrap and tie it down you are asking for trouble, breakage and drawers scattered from git to go.  does your husband transport a new treasured old ar on a trailer without strapping it down, i think not!

these comeapart easily but pictures should be taken.

there will be screws around the outside of the underneath of the writing surface.  They may be accessible from outside or maybe you will have to remove the drawers to get to them.  ud screw and lift the top off--the writing surface and up will come off in one piece.  next, your will see screws holding the drawer pedestals together where the center drawer is and where the privacy board is in the rear.  remove the screws and you now have the center drawer, top and bottom support for it, two drawer pedestals with drawers, one privacy panel, and one top section.  wrap it, pack it tie it and move it.  Mark where the screws came out to put them back in the same place.  if some are stripped, when you put it back together place wooden toothpicks in the holes to tighten the screws.

while it is apart is the time to clean by waxing it with dark oak color, toluene free Briwax.

should take 5-10 hours to wax and clean.

contact me when you run into problems and you will.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Sir, Your knowledge is top notch. I am quite satisfied with your response. I know you are very -very knowledgeable.
I just wish you could have told me more about the desk- any thing I could use in deciding a range of years it was manufactured or any other details.
You were very helpful in suggesting ways to care and transport it. This is why I believe you deserve the volunteer of the year.

thank you for your explanation

looking at the desk, one this nice and with all the extras 1875-1890 is as close as you will get towards a date.  if there is a patent date on any of the metal parts, locks or other wise, figure 0-8 years beyond the patent date.

the drawer sides are chestnut, that is also noteworthy.

if i had this for sale in my shop, clean and ready all elements functioning properly it would price at 5000-6000.

again, thanks for the explanation, sometimes i do not give things the time needed when replying in this forum

Collectibles-General (Antiques)

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robert klein


In regards to American antique, vintage and collectible furniture I can help with wood identification, styles, age, periods, historical coatings, materials, techniques, repair, restoration, refinishing, and value. I do not study mid century and later furniture nor do I deal in lamps, and other smalls. You may ask for values and I will give you current market values, I will not give you 'feel good' values. Understand that there are many factors that contribute to market value. If you want a feel good, unrealistic number, please call a local inexperienced appraiser. It is my desire to help you and in doing so I increase my knowledge as well. For that I thank you.


I have been in the antiques furniture and restoration business and in the sales of antique furniture for 40+ years and have continued my education in the trade attending workshops and seminars by various organizations, institutions, and private collectors.

Professional Refinishers Groop, Int., AIC, Antiques Dealers Association

BA Florida State University BA University of West Florida 1971

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