Drop Down Desk Drawer Delight

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With my ever-loving wife, “Anne” (not her real name), on sabbatical, I get to see her working on her laptop at home. Not many people actually put their laptop on their lap and Anne is no exception. She had been complaining about royal pains in her back and neck and arm. One look at her sitting at the desk explained everything.

Her laptop was resting on top of her Queen Anne (no relation) cherry desk, which meant that her arms were angled upward against the edge of the desk so her hands could reach the keyboard. That’s a fine recipe for pain in all sorts of places right there. I tell you what.

Center drawer of Queen Anne desk
Center drawer of Queen Anne desk

The large center drawer was at just the right height for the laptop so I set about figuring out how to cut off the drawer front so the laptop could sit in the drawer.

We had built that desk from a kit that we bought in a (literal) fire sale many years ago. The insurance company was selling everything from a warehouse that had caught on fire and the prices were pretty good. Putting the desk together ages ago somehow gave me the impression it was OK for me to take a saw to it now.

Drawer front cut off
Drawer front cut off

I used the table saw and the miter saw to cut off the drawer front. I pulled out the little cutoff piece of the bottom from the slot in the drawer front and glued in a new piece of hardwood to fill the slot.

My plan was to use a brass piano hinge to join the front to the bottom so that you could tip the front down and back up. The bottom of the drawer, however, was a thin piece of plywood so I glued on a piece of pine so I would have something to screw the hinge to.

Brass piano hinge needed something to screw to on the drawer bottom
Brass piano hinge needed something to screw to on the drawer bottom
Gluing a screwing strip on the bottom of the drawer
Gluing a screwing strip on the bottom of the drawer

A pair of brass latches on the inside of the drawer sides would catch a pair of hooks on the inside of the drawer front to hold it closed. The hooks, however, were designed to connect two end-to-end pieces rather than two perpendicular pieces (like the drawer front and side). Somehow I needed to fasten the hooks to the (very narrow) side edges of the drawer front but the geometry was wrong because the edges lined up with the outside of the drawer, not the inside where the latch was going to be. Problem #1.

The dovetail notches needed to go
The dovetail notches needed to go. The brass hook shown just above the hinge had to be fastened into the side of the drawer front.

The remnants of the dovetail joints where the front had been fastened to the sides were pretty ugly. What to do with them? Problem #2.

Making sure to align (and clamp!) the bottom of the piano hinge with the bottom of the drawer so that it didn’t hit the desk frame when Anne closed the drawer, I drilled pilot holes for the umpteen screws and fastened the hinge on temporarily to see how it fit. The thickness of the hinge held the drawer front out from the drawer sides by about ”, which didn’t look good and would result in the drawer front being angled in at the top if it were drawn in tight by the brass latches. Problem #3.

I hit upon a solution to all three problems.

Table saw jig for holding tall pieces steady. Clamps hold the piece to the jig as it is pushed through the blade
Table saw jig for holding tall pieces steady. Clamps hold the piece to the jig as it is pushed through the blade

I notched out about ” x ½” from the back corner of each side of the drawer front using the table saw. This got rid of the dovetail stubs. I made a jig to hold a tall piece (like the drawer front) up straight when running it through the table saw.

Inside end of drawer front notched out with the hook screwed in the new end grain
Inside end of drawer front notched out with the hook screwed in the new end grain

The width of the piece I cut out was the thickness of the drawer side plus the thickness of the brass hook plus another ” or so. This way I could screw the brass hook to the outside of the back edge of the drawer front and still have room to close it up. (See the photos.)

So far I have dealt with problems #1 (a place to attach the brass hooks) and #2 (ugly dovetail remnants).

New end piece (light-colored wood) glued and clamped over the brass hook
New end piece (light-colored wood) glued and clamped over the brass hook. Notice it is thicker than the drawer front back panel.

I was going to cut a new piece of wood to fill in the ” x ½” space I had cut out of each corner. Fortunately I realized that I could solve problem #3 (gap between drawer front and sides) by making the new pieces ½” x ½” rather than ” x ½”. I notched out a little slot in the ½” x ½” piece for the brass hook so it would look like it “grew” out of the wood and then glued and clamped the pieces together. After some stain and a spray coat of varnish, the drawer was ready to go back in the desk.

Laptop in drawer with front down
Laptop in drawer with front down
Laptop folded down and drawer front up and latched
Laptop folded down and drawer front up and latched

Queen Anne’s laptop now rests comfortably in Anne’s desk drawer. Oops. I said that backwards. I meant to say, Anne’s laptop now rests comfortably in the Queen Anne desk drawer. And she no longer complains about her royal pains. At least not the ones in her back and neck.

Drawer front  up and closed
Drawer front up and closed

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2 thoughts on “Drop Down Desk Drawer Delight”

  1. You are a genius, Gary! I would have fixed the height problem by carefully selecting a booster seat and presenting it to Anne with a flourish and my compliments. Perhaps that’s why you’re the fix-it master with a blog. Well done!!

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