Traditional Secretary

Moulding

Here you can see how I build my bases. I add a block at the front and attach the moulding to that. It’s much like a kick on a traditional cabinet, except it’s flush to the front of the case. Cut out the scroll pattern using a jigsaw.

Here you can see how I build my bases. I add a block at the front and attach the moulding to that. It’s much like a kick on a traditional cabinet, except it’s flush to the front of the case. Cut out the scroll pattern using a jigsaw.

There are custom mouldings on this project that require skill to cut, especially the ogee feet. Begin working on the feet by gluing a long block to the front of the lower case (below the lowest divider). You’re going to nail your feet to this.

To make the ogee feet moulding, first make a cove cut down the middle of your stock using your table saw in the same way you would cut cove moulding. It helps to draw the profile on the end of one of the boards to help guide your cuts.

After the cove cut is complete, round over the top of the moulding by running the moulding on edge against your rip fence, changing the blade’s bevel as you nibble away at the edge until you can smooth the cuts with a sander.

Sand the feet and then miter the pieces. Trace the profile of the scrollwork from the diagram onto the glued-in block. Cut the scrollwork profile on the block using a jigsaw (it doesn’t have to be pretty). Cut the scrollwork on the ogee feet on your band saw or scrollsaw and sand your cut (these have to be pretty). Nail the feet to your case sides and front. Then miter and nail 3/4″ cove moulding on top of the ogee feet moulding.

You’re done with the feet. Now put the top case on top of the lower case. Center it and attach 3/4″ cove moulding to the lower case around the base of the top case.

Attach cove moulding to the top case (I bought mine off the rack) and then add a 1/2″-thick cap as shown in the diagrams.

Doors

After you’ve cut out the scroll pattern on the ogee feet, nail them in place to the sides and the block at front.

After you’ve cut out the scroll pattern on the ogee feet, nail them in place to the sides and the block at front.

The doors are real tricky. In fact, you shouldn’t feel bad about modifying the doors to suit your taste or skill level. The joints for the door are formed using a custom cope-and-stick shaper profile. The rails and stiles are attached using loose tenons. The mullions are coped on the ends and glued between the rails and stiles. Coping these tiny pieces is the tricky part.

Begin by cutting the cope-and-stick profile on the rails and stiles. Now cut the cope on the mullions. Here’s how: Take a block of wood that’s about 4″ wide and cope the ends, then rip your mullions from this wider board. Use a really wide pushstick to protect your fingers during this dangerous cut. Cut the beaded profile on the edges of the mullions and cut the 1/4″-deep x 5/16″ wide rabbet on both back edges to hold the glass. Because this cut is so tricky, I recommend you use a special pushstick that you can see in action in the photo at right.

Fit the rails and mullions between the stiles and get ready to cut the loose tenons that hold the doors together. I cut the mortises in the rails and stiles using a straight bit in a router. Each mortise measures 3/8″ wide x 1″ deep x 1-1/2″ long. Cut your tenon material from shop scraps. Glue and clamp your doors.

Drawers

The mullions are tricky. Here you can see the special jig I rigged up to cut the rabbet on the mullions. One edge is shaped to hold the beaded side.

The mullions are tricky. Here you can see the special jig I rigged up to cut the rabbet on the mullions. One edge is shaped to hold the beaded side.

The drawers are built entirely using solid lumber. The drawer fronts lip over the case and are rounded over on the front. The sides attach to the front with rabbeted half-blind dovetails and through-dovetails at the back. The bottom, which is a panel with beveled edges, slides into a groove in the sides and front.

Begin by cutting your parts to size and cutting a 5/16″-wide x 7/16″-deep rabbet all the way around the back of the drawer fronts. Then cut a roundover on the drawer fronts.

Cut your half-blind dovetails using the same type of jig you used for building the case. Now cut the 3/8″-wide x 1/4″-deep groove in the drawer front and sides for the bottom panel. Cut your bottom panel to size and bevel the edges so the panel will fit between the side pieces. Glue up your drawers and slide the bottom panel into place.

Drop Lid

When it’s all said and done, this is what your mullion should look like. The cope for my set of knives is 5/16" deep.

When it’s all said and done, this is what your mullion should look like. The cope for my set of knives is 5/16" deep.

The drop lid is built using traditional mortise-and-tenon breadboard ends. Begin by cutting three 2″-wide x 1″-long tenons on each end of the panel. Use these to lay out the mortises on the breadboards. Cut the mortises a little wide, glue the center tenon in the mortise and peg your tenons through elongated holes in the tenons.

Now cut a rabbet on the sides and top of the lid and roundover the front edge like you did the drawers. Attach the lid to the lower case using the hinges listed in the supplies box.

Build the slide-out supports for the lid. They are simply a piece of maple with a second piece of maple tenoned on the end to hide the end grain. Slide these into their holes and move onto the back pieces.

Back Pieces

I made a traditional shiplapped back for this piece using 1/2″-thick material. Cut 1/2″ x 1/4″ rabbets on the edges and then cut a bead on the edges using a 1/4″ beading bit in a router table. You’ll nail these boards in place after finishing.

Insert

Before you cut your loose tenon joints, make sure all your mullions fit between the door rails and stiles.

Before you cut your loose tenon joints, make sure all your mullions fit between the door rails and stiles.

The pigeonholes add a lot to this piece. You might want to customize yours with more secret spaces than I did. First build the dovetailed box that slides into the desk. I used through-dovetails because the material is thin. Now use the diagram to lay out and cut the dadoes for all the dividers. I used a dado stack in my table saw for this.

Glue the dividers in place. Cut the pigeonhole scrollwork on a scrollsaw and glue it in place using spring clamps.

Build the eight horizontal and two vertical drawers using half-blind dovetails. The vertical “drawers” open to the inside for hanging jewelry. Cut the column profiles and attach them and the plinths to the backer, then glue the whole assembly to the drawers.

To build the little door in the center I used a cope-and-stick set in my router table. Then I band sawed out the curve in the top rail and cut the profile using the same router setup. The 1/4″ panel is flat (not raised) and slides neatly into the groove created by the router cutters.

Details

Here’s a close-up look at the loose-tenon construction. Cut the mortises in the rails and stiles using a spiral bit in a router.

Here’s a close-up look at the loose-tenon construction. Cut the mortises in the rails and stiles using a spiral bit in a router.

Attach all the hardware and hang your doors. I used an aniline dye to color the piece followed by three coats of spray lacquer. After finishing, attach the back boards and add the glass using either silicone or traditional water putty.

The good news was that my daughter loved the new secretary. I’m sure she’ll treasure it for years to come. The bad news is that now my wife wants one. PW

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Troy Sexton is a contributing editor for Popular Woodworking.

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