QUEEN ANNE SECRETARYПодпись: The weight of the fall-front in the secretary shown above is borne by a pair of supports called lopers. In the down position, the front becomes a leather-lined writing surface. The removable pigeonhole unit is set atop the desk unit.

The secretary, a bookcase and slant-top desk combination, evolved in Britain and America in the 18th Century and has been pop­ular ever since. By setting a book­case atop a slant-top desk, the secretary embodies the close rela­tionship between books and writ­ing. Until the 19th Century, books were an expensive and sometimes rare commodity to be treasured.

A secretary offered an ideal way to keep a precious collection safely behind glass, only an arm’s reach away. The Queen Anne version fea­tured in this chapter is more elegant than the stolid furniture that hall­marked the 17th Century, but it is less ornate than some of the incar­nations that followed it, such as Chippendale-style secretaries.

The desk half of the piece has several useful features. The veneered fall-front can be lowered to become a large writing surface and reveal the “pigeonhole” unit. This network of dividers, compartments, and drawers served as a primitive precursor to today’s laptop computers. Completely portable, the unit enabled clerks in bygone days to take their offices and information with them when traveling. You can adapt the pigeonhole design shown on page 108, adding or removing compartments, adjusting their spacing, or incorporating more drawers to fit your needs.

Another useful component of the desk is the lockable lid. This safe­guards the contents of the pigeon­holes, while providing a quick way to hide clutter behind the fall-front.

Both the desk and bookcase derive much of their strength from half-blind dovetails. Cutting these joints by hand (page 109) is time­consuming, but well worth the effort, considering the hand-crafted appearance you will obtain. The drawers can be made with through dovetails cut with a commercial jig and a router (page 116), and the end grain of the tails hidden with false fronts. You can also use half-blind dovetails to attach the drawer fronts, thereby dispensing with false fronts.

The veneer applied to the fall-front (page 121) adds a dec­orative flair to the desk, becoming the focus of the entire piece. The secretary shown opposite uses bookmatched veneer, but other attractive options are shown on page 124. If you plan to do a lot of veneering, consider buying a vacuum press (page 124); otherwise, use a shop-made veneer press (page 125).

The design and construction of the base (page 128) and crown molding (page 134) may appear complicated, but the time-tested methods presented are not difficult to master and are important to accommodate the inevitable wood move­ment at these vulnerable locations.

Made from mahogany with a clear lacquer finish, the Queen Anne secretary shown at left marries elegance with usefulness, crowning a slant-top desk with a book­case to create a single, striking piece of furniture.

Updated: March 14, 2016 — 2:05 pm