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Anyone ever build a fold-down secretary desk?

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  • Anyone ever build a fold-down secretary desk?

    You know the type I mean? Where the front flap folds down to serve as a work surface, then fold it up to hide all the stuff in there? A couple of questions:

    1) Recommendations dimensions for the fold-down part? I was thinking 16" sounds right, but would appreciate experience. Any deeper and I cannot imagine the stays holding it well or the flap feeling rigid enough while working on it. I'd like the flap to be deep enough such that when it is folded down there is still enough room between the desk surface and the top of the desk that you don't feel claustrophobic working there, and I would ideally like to be able to put a small flat computer monitor inside. But at the same time I don't want the flap so deep that it feels flimsy when working on it and supported by just the two stays on the sides, or takes up so much space in the room. (I plan to use 5/8" particle board walnut veneer, though open to suggestions if that's too flimsy).

    2) Recommendations for the make/model/type of stays that support the fold-down flap from the side? Attached is a pic of a model I found at Lee Valley that would seem to do the trick. Is it really strong enough for a 16-18"X42" fold down surface? The website seems to say so, but not sure they factor in that someone would be working on the surface, putting books, a laptop, leaning on it gently. Other recommendations?

    The desk will be about 42" wide (maybe 36") -- TBD. Attached is 3D sketch from the interior layout I am working on.
    Attached Files
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  • #2

    Re: Anyone ever build a fold-down secretary desk?

    I built one a few years ago and did a build thread on it, however mine is a more traditional design. Looking at my dimensions, the fold down surface is 13 1/2" deep and the height of the cabinet is 12 1/2" deep approximately. The total writing surface depth is about 20" give or take as there is a few inches inside the cabinet before the drawers begin. I, nor my wife have ever had an issue with the space, she'll have her laptop on it, I usually use it for just writing and other small crafts. I imagine you'll be fine with 16".

    For the supports, I used hinges on the lid and then slide out supports that go below so it is quite sturdy and I don't really have any doubts on the weight is can support. Those Lee Valley stays looks sturdy enough but my main concern would be the screws that go into the lid...I'm not sure how strong screws will be in 5/8" particle board, that seems to be the weak point in my opinion.

    https://forum.canadianwoodworking.co...secretary-desk

    Hope this helps a bit.

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    • #3

      Re: Anyone ever build a fold-down secretary desk?

      Originally posted by nugsthecat View Post
      I built one a few years ago and did a build thread on it, however mine is a more traditional design. Looking at my dimensions, the fold down surface is 13 1/2" deep and the height of the cabinet is 12 1/2" deep approximately. The total writing surface depth is about 20" give or take as there is a few inches inside the cabinet before the drawers begin. I, nor my wife have ever had an issue with the space, she'll have her laptop on it, I usually use it for just writing and other small crafts. I imagine you'll be fine with 16".

      For the supports, I used hinges on the lid and then slide out supports that go below so it is quite sturdy and I don't really have any doubts on the weight is can support. Those Lee Valley stays looks sturdy enough but my main concern would be the screws that go into the lid...I'm not sure how strong screws will be in 5/8" particle board, that seems to be the weak point in my opinion.

      https://forum.canadianwoodworking.co...secretary-desk

      Hope this helps a bit.
      What a great and detailed thread! Thanks for sharing the link.

      Comment


      • #4

        Re: Anyone ever build a fold-down secretary desk?

        nugsthecat Many thanks for your insights. I have similar concerns about the screws in a 5/8" particle board lid. The slide-out option you describe seems very sturdy, but I'm concerned my kids might forget to slide them out before putting the lid down. (Stranger things have happened!).

        Beautiful work in your build thread, btw.

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        • #5

          Re: Anyone ever build a fold-down secretary desk?

          On some of the old secretary desks the support slides came out automatically. I've never seem the mechanism by which they do so but there might be an added challenge for your build.

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          • #6

            Re: Anyone ever build a fold-down secretary desk?

            Click image for larger version

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ID:	1204111 For what it's worth I built a more traditional desk after seeing one in a Newfoundland lighthouse. The boards that pull out to support the desk surface are called lopers.
            ​​​​​​​ Click image for larger version

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            I'm not getting older, I'm getting worse.
            Bob
            Member Valley Woodturners

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            • #7

              Re: Anyone ever build a fold-down secretary desk?

              The stay you show in my opinion is too close to the hinge side so the cantilever effect would be too much for the screws, a poor design. the slide out rests will be far more practical, put a lock on the lid so the kids can't just pull it down.

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              • #8

                Re: Anyone ever build a fold-down secretary desk?

                I wasn't crazy about the visual effect of slide out rests or lid stays so I decided to keep it simple

                You pull the drawer out to support the lid in the down position...

                Hinges are standard butt hinges mounted flush with the writing surface. This does require a mortise for the pins.

                (NOT my images)

                Click image for larger version

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                There is still plenty of room for your legs under the drawer.


                Click image for larger version

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                Cheers, Don
                Wally in Calgary likes this.
                Don Kondra - Furniture Designer/Maker
                Product Photography
                My Acreage Bird Photographs

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                • #9

                  Re: Anyone ever build a fold-down secretary desk?

                  That's a nice looking desk Don.
                  beachburl likes this.

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                  • #10

                    Re: Anyone ever build a fold-down secretary desk?

                    ...and clever.

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