Putting a plywood panel in a 150 year old mahogany frame


My wife has an old desk that an ancestor built. The writing surface lifts up for access to storage below.
The writing surface is a mahogany frame with a floating pine panel held in with dowels. It is pretty beat up. She is hiding it now with a blotter, but would like to have wood there.
I have cut the dowels and tossed the pine. I intend to replace it with a glued in piece of veneered plywood, but have two questions before I do it.
1) Is plywood sufficiently hard to write on? The desk is purely ornamental, and I can't remember anyone actually using it, but if they do I would not like furrows left. 2) Am I overlooking something obvious that would make this a bad idea? I can put in a solid wood panel doweled like the original if it is necessary, but I would like to make it more stable and solid. (okay, the old suface lasted 150 years, it was reinforced by really ugly angle irons that would not be necessary with glued in plywood.)
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toller wrote:

...snip...
A 'writing' surface aught to be directionally homogenious to writing instruments ... :-)
Drafting table 'covers' provide 'this' type surface.
==> http://www.dickblick.com/ ... ==> http://www.dickblick.com/zz228/30/ ... in =particular= ,
Offered in a 'few' colors, one of which may suite.
There is a 'fabric' spray-on( both sides ) adhesive that aught to glue it 'down ... yet allow removal . Visit your local fabric store.
Maybe 'bevel' the edge so that it resists "lifting" ...
'Boxwood' is about the only 'even' grained wood I can think of, that ?mite? provide such a surface ... almost.
I'd druther "write' upon the above "cover" , myself.
Ed

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Well, I'd try a glue up...maybe even try it a couple of times if necessary, for something so old. I'd avoid glue too, so the frame can move. Maybe some QS wood planed down to match the original. Wilson

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I would build the top from a piece of Baltic birch plywood, replacing the pine with the plywood as best as can do, but the writing surface should be resilient. Old desks frequently had leather inlays in the writing areas for this purpose. This desk most likely had a leather cover over that pine that you removed and someone has already removed it because it dried out and cracked. You could try to find someone who could put in a leather inlay or you could possibly do it yourself. There are also vinyl covers available for drafting tables that would work as far as being resilient enough for writing, but probably wouldn't look very good in a 150 year old desk. If you decide to do it yourself you can probably find information on doing it via Google or the local library.
--
Charley


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First off, that's sort of a shame- it being a family heirloom and all, but you've already started the project, so

Pine generally isn't hard enough to write on, so it's not like the ply is going to be much of a downgrade in quality.

Get some good ply, and it would probably be ok. OTHO, you've already got the frame, and it was obviously engineered to account for 150 years worth of expansion and contraction, so why not stick with solid wood?
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Sounds like an heirloom I "fixed" several years ago, but I decided to use Mahogany veneer over the original\l writing surface, a mistake in retrospect. Should have bought solid wood replacement and milled it properly as replacement. Still have some veneer residual.

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toller says...

It would probably be OK if you used good plywood like Baltic Birch or Appleply, but all bets are off if you use home center cardboard. Why not flex your WW muscles and make your own panel with your own veneer over a plywood core? You could choose whatever wood you wanted and you could be sure it was good enough. You could choose an exotic like cocobolo that doesn't need a finish. Just think how happy your wife would be if you actually upgraded the quality of the desk.
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