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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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    12

    Question Modifying Old Desk - Question

    I recently inherited an old desk from my grandparents (at least 50 years old, maybe more). I am in the process of tightening screws, reinforcing the backboard, and just giving it a good cleaning. However, I am hoping to make some modifications to allow the desk to accommodate modern electrical equipment (i.e. a computer or similar object). Ideally, I would like to turn one of the drawers into a shelf, while still keeping the look of the original desk.

    This would require cutting one of the drawers and installing hinges. The drawer is 4-1/2 inches high and roughly 34 inches wide. Due to the width, I would prefer to install hinges on the bottom and have the drawer face swing down to access the items on the shelf. My main concern with this idea is the shape of the drawer face. As you can see in the picture below, the desk has a wave/curved design. My question is, would the drawer be able to swing down if I installed a hinge on each arc of the drawer face?

    I am thinking it should be okay, but I would prefer other input as I am definitely not an expert in this area. Not sure if the curved surface would prevent it from fitting into the opening when closing the door. Also, the drawer has a dovetail joint that I don't think I am able to delicately separate, so I want to be safe before making such a huge alteration.

    Thank you for any input!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    6,480

    Default Re: Modifying Old Desk - Question

    Before you do anything, are you sure that the drawer/shelf thingy is going to be at a comfortable working height for a desk?

    At cursory glance, what you want to accomplish is doable, but you'd have to use drawer slides that could withstand the weight of you leaning on it/equipment/etc. From there you'd simply add hinges to the shelf face. To operate it, you'd pull the shelf out, then hinge the face downward. My concern is that the drawer face is going to get in the way no matter what you do with it and the desk will look like poop without it when the shelf is in the closed position.

    What is the part protruding at the top of the drawer? Is it part of the door or part of the face frame of the cabinet? If it's part of the drawer, then I would recommend "flipping" the drawer face over, so that is on the bottom. I would remove the protuberance and affix it to the shelf and affix the drawer face to the cabinet, then you simply pull the trim protuberance out with the shelf attached to it, maintaining the look of the cabinet while giving you unencumbered work space.

    You would simply sandwich the edges of the pull out shelf between two pieces of wood to create a slide that will support both the top and bottom edge of the shelf. You'll also want to put a stop on the bottom of the shelf so that it can't be inadvertently pulled out of the cabinet. You'll need to leave 4" to 6" of the shelf inside the cabinet to combat the cantilever of the shelf OR install some pull out supports for the shelf, but you'll still need a stop on the shelf to keep it in the cabinet.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Tennessee
    Posts
    1,381

    Default Re: Modifying Old Desk - Question

    My suggestion is before you do anything, get it appraised. It doesn't appear to be particularly valuable in your photograph, but just in case that ugly coat of green paint is hiding a valuable antique, it would be nice to know before ruining it (as an antique).

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Northern Virginia
    Posts
    975

    Default Re: Modifying Old Desk - Question

    You do realize that your secretary desk is missing the drop-down lid that would be the work surface, don't you? To make it functional you need to replace the lid, if it's gone missing.
    Casey
    Remove not the ancient landmark, which your fathers have set.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    6,480

    Default Re: Modifying Old Desk - Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Sombreuil_mongrel View Post
    You do realize that your secretary desk is missing the drop-down lid that would be the work surface, don't you? To make it functional you need to replace the lid, if it's gone missing.
    Casey
    You're right, I knew I was missing something! LOL

    The pulls on either side of that top drawer pull out to support the lid when it is in the desk position. It would be much easier to replace this lid than to modify the cabinet itself.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Posts
    12

    Default Re: Modifying Old Desk - Question

    The drop down lid is still there, just repairing it when I took the picture. Had to reinforce the holes for the hinge screws as the existing holes had become larger and larger over the years. The lid has since been reattached.

    The reason I want to convert one of the drawers into a shelf is so that I can use a tray ejecting computer, but keep it hidden when not in use. Also, I would prefer to keep the look of the desk (even the ugly green!) while slightly changing the function. The shelf will not need to slide out, just open, as it will not be a work surface. I have the hinges and some stay supports, but wasn't sure if the curve would affect the opening or closing.

    If I get a chance, I'll get some more pictures up later. Thank you for the replies.

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