Monday, April 1, 2013

Rolltop Desk Restoration for Amateur Radio

I needed a place to put my amateur radio stuff. Power supplies, radios, microphones, QSL cards, and so on. Through great effort, I was able to clear a four foot space in our "computer room", a spare room given over to computers and my electronics desk. But I needed a new desk to fill that space. The two I have available in the garage are both too large.

This Saturday was our amateur radio club's monthly breakfast. Afterward would be a perfect time to see what the local thrift stores have to offer. The closest thrift store to the restaurant where we hold the breakfast is also our family's favorite. But when my daughter and I stopped by, they weren't open yet. So we crossed town to fill the car's tank with gas, then swung by another thrift store. The door was open.

The New Desk's Base and Cubbyholes, So Far:

Use "View Image" to see full size original.

We walked in and had a look around. Then one of the workers told us they weren't open yet. We made our way to the door, then he told us it'd be OK. We were about 20 minutes early. There was a beautiful, if a bit well-used, rolltop desk there. I borrowed a tape measure, and sure enough, it's four feet long. The question was whether I could get it home. After a bit I discovered that the whole desktop would lift off. A few measurements, and it looked like it would fit in the car. So we bought it.

It was a tight fit in the car. The fellow at the Salvation Army Thrift Store was a great help. We got it in, and home.

My daughter helped me clean it up. I had her take some oil to it. The beauty of the wood started to show. After a bit, I realized that this desk would really look good with a bit of work. As much as I wanted to just get it in place and start loading it up with amateur radio stuff (and get the walkways in the computer room clear enough to get through), I decided to do some refinishing on the desk.

And what results! The desk is made of real hardwood. The color is natural. All it takes is some linseed oil to bring it out. I used a mild stain as well, but it only enhances the wood's natural color, it doesn't change it.

The Top, So Far:

Use "View Image" to see full size original.

I also put some new fabric on the rolltop. The old fabric was pretty awful looking. It's been hidden behind the cubbyhole insert, but I'm pulling that out and putting it on top of the desk to make room for the radios on the desktop. I picked out a fabric with a look to match the period appearance of the desk itself. It was a struggle to install the new cloth, but I managed, and the rolltop goes up and down well, still, though I'm planning on a little more tuning before all is done, there.

Now I'm looking at my power supplies and thinking I need to put some sort of veneer face panel on to keep them from looking too ugly for the desk. Next thing you know, I'm going to have to get another desk for my ordinary ham radio gear, and fill this one with beautiful vintage equipment!

It's going to be a couple more days, I'm guessing, before I can actually put this desk into service. But the work is well along, and having such a beautiful new desk is going to be reward enough for the sacrifice of walking around boxes for a few extra days.


  1. Wow! A gorgeous piece of work, there. And yes, you can find some nice things through the Salvation Army - it's one of the few charities I unreservedly support.

  2. Thanks! It turned out really well. I've got my radio equipment on it now. I checked into a net on 2m last week and they reported that the new desk sounds great. ;)

  3. Cool! Wish I could find a home like that for my gear.