I would like to repair and reinforce a 1930's Lincoln double pedestal
office desk to use as a base for a metalworking lathe. The desk appears
to have been made by the Commercial Furniture Company of Chicago. It's
well-used but no wood is broken, however one mortise and tenon joint in
a leg has come apart.
It's not obvious to me how to disassemble it for repair, nor what adhesives
to use. Since it was mass-produced, I'm hopeful that somebody will know how
to get it apart without further damage. Web searches came up empty, so the
subject is obscure or I didn't use the right keywords.
One curious thing (to me) is that many of the plywood panels in drawer
bottoms and pedestal sides appear to be free-floating in their rabbets.
Seems that the desk would be much stronger if they were glued in place.
Did they just come loose over time?
The desk is nice enough that I don't want to butcher it, but since it was
sitting by the curb with a "free" tag on it it's unlikely to be a treasure
warranting museum treatment.
Thanks for reading,
Probably a good idea, it'll provide an opportunity to show the damage
as well. In the meantime I hope somebody chimes in with some guidance
on how it went together. It's rather surprising there isn't more info
on the Web, the Commercial Furniture Company was apparently a big deal
at one time.
Mor is it mine, but it's an improvement over the existing bench.
Thanks for replying!
On Tuesday, August 8, 2017 at 7:30:07 PM UTC-5, bob prohaska wrote:
The top should separate from the pedestals'assembly fairly easily. If ther
e's not any fasteners readily visible on the exterior, then they are inside
the carcass, inside the drawers. Probably metal fasteners, like "L" brac
Once the top is off, the two pedestals are held together by a spanning elem
ent (panel), between the two. Again, there is likely metal fasteners hold
ing the spanning element to each pedestal.
If there is no visible fasteners, look closely for a screw site. The scre
w may be recessed, with a plug hiding the screw head. The spanning panel
would likely have to be fairly thick, to have recessed screws, that way.
I think you would need to remove the top and probably the spanning panel, b
efore you can properly access the damaged leg(s). I would think there is
more than one M&T joint along each leg and, if one is disjointed, then the
other has likely been compromised, as well.
The general design of almost every double pedestal desk is very similar.
Rather than google Lincoln pedestal desk, try oak roll top desk. I highly
suspect your desk is assembled, basically, the same way, in some similar fa
Once your basic assembly is disassembled, then you can address the assembly
(repair) of any individual part. If your desk is assembled differently,
in some unique way, then maybe you have some special piece of furniture.
Yep, pics would definitely help.
Ok, I've put a few pictures at
There are metal clips, each with a single screw, under the edge of
the top at the juncture with the legs, plus two in the middle of the
ends. Evidently I should start by removing the screws to see if the
top will then lift off.
The damaged M&T joint is at the occupant's far right. I'd imagine it
was whacked on something while being moved. No other damage is apparent.
The lathe is an old South Bend 10K, about 300 lbs, with 48" bed. It
will span the pedestals nicely. The reinforcement plan is to mount
a false top, possibly a laminate countertop section, with the lathe
bolted to that. I'm also contemplating bolting/screwing a sheet of
plywood to the bottom of the desk, covering the foot-hole, to make
a box structure. I believe that will offer considerable reinforcement.
Thanks to all for reading, looking and guiding!
I looked at your pix. If it were me I'd wipe some thickened epoxy on the
loosened tenon and whack it home. If you are a worrier, pin the tenon by
drilling through from the outside and inserting a dowel or two. You could
dowel the joints that aren't separated too.
You aren't planning on putting much of a load on it and the load will all be
downward. That should have no effect on the pedestal structures
separating. I am sure many will say, "No, no, you need to disassemble all,
clean and reassemble so the thing has the approximate strength of a
battleship". That is their opinion, not mine. Why do you think it needs
Mostly I don't want to mount the lathe and then discover the desk is
coming apart under it. It's relatively little work to add gussets and
whatnot now, it'll be a lot more work later. There's also some good
chance the lathe will get scooted around the garage on a jack to make
clearance for other work from time to time. That's apt to be hard on
the desk, no matter how careful I am.
Basically it's the ounce of prevention versus the pound of cure syndrome.
On Wednesday, August 9, 2017 at 12:09:07 PM UTC-5, dadiOH wrote:
I vote epoxy and dowel, also.
That fracture full length - scrape off the dried glue and epoxy that dislod
ged joint... maybe epoxy a block along the length, as well, is there's enou
gh space. I think this is a close-up pic, which looks like a panel. The
next pic (fracture top view) is, as you say, more clear of the situation.
Again, I vote epoxy & pin.... minus the previously suggested block along th
Medallion indicates 1930-1940, if you hadn't already known.
Desk top looks like it has been used as a work bench/table.
I'm gonna go out on a limb. The desk is in pretty good structural shape.
Clean it up and refinish it, make it look like a desk, again. Place a new
top over the original, without damaging the refinished top. The desk does
n't appear to need reinforcing, for your lathe, so maybe rethink that.
As for as modifying the structure, for moving the lathe work desk/table, co
nsider making a mobile base, with a foot lever to lift one end for lifting
off the rollers on one end, then lowering the lever places the feet back on
the floor. There is one or two guys... Jeff?, aka WoodChucker..., here,
that has built a mobile base feature for their work benches or one of their
tools.... I can't recall.
I'm partial to old furniture, that's why I would try to preserve the desk,
itself, if reasonable. Just a thought of mine.
Yeah, and collect some 1930s - 1940s pennies and stash them in your lathe c
abinet, as well. *Additional medallions.
Continuing my conservative approach...
It's a production piece, probably not expensive, no significant provenance
either of maker or owners (*other than present owner?), but seems to be wel
l made. It has a simple, not complicated, exterior design.... quaint in o
verall appearance. It's approaching 100 yrs old. There are likely very
few of these particular style desk still in existence.
There's the maxim "Primum nil nocere", do no harm. I vote to, at least, g
ive this some consideration with your modifications, if possible.
What are your thoughts on using hide glue?
Epoxy seems counter to the principle....
I agree the piece is nice enough to be spared wanton hackery. It's also
small enough to be used in a home.
There little doubt that drilling holes in the top is a bad idea, a false
top a much better one. Whether I should brace the bottom is less clear, but
if I do and use hide glue to fasten the brace it can be removed.
If I don't brace the bottom, overload the desk and other joints start
to pop then I have a somewhat larger mess on my hands.
With my thanks!
On Thursday, August 10, 2017 at 11:07:34 AM UTC-5, bob prohaska wrote:
Hide glue is fine. If you can open the joint enough to clean it well, then
reapplication of hide glue will do just fine. If you can't clean the join
t well enough, epoxy might be your best adhesive option for a "dirty" joint
, less than perfect(?) joint.
The idea of a mobile base: If you can make a sufficient mobile base, such
that to fit within the desk's legs, appropriately, and *all (conservation
of the original (legs, structure) and maintain a solid support for your lat
he)... and *all remain well, then you could possibly have the best of both
worlds. I'm not sure what mobile base design might be best for your desk,
that's why I mentioned other guys' having made mobile bases, that if a mob
ile base is an option, they could possibly give you some ideas of construct
Sometimes when I'm making stuff, I end up adding to the original "work orde
r".... create more work for myself, as a project progresses. A bad habit t
hat I'm displaying, here. And now, I'm putting the burden of the proposed
modification/design/construction, of the suggested mobile base option, on
the other guys, here.
I'm out on that limb, now, and not quite sure how to real myself back in...
. without some help.
I, simply, like old/older pieces and I get excited about preserving them, i
n some fashion.
And I'm about to abandon you, as to any follow-up with *assistance. I'm l
eaving for vacation, Saturday, so I won't be here to comment or encourage y
ou, until September. But I suppose you'll do a good repair and modificati
on job and keep the integrity of the desk as best intact, as you can.
This has me confused: I thought one point of hide glue is that it sticks
to itself, so can be reapplied and reassembled. I thought it was synthetic
glue that had to be cleaned off.
Do I have the story backwards?
Thanks for the vote of confidence, I hope it's justified!
On Thursday, August 10, 2017 at 6:42:55 PM UTC-5, bob prohaska wrote:
Correct. But if the joint has any other debris (dirt, sawdust, powder post
beetle dust, etc.), clean it out if you can, then use hide glue. I can't
see inside the joint as well as you, to see if there is any abnormal junk
in the joint. If there is something abnormal in there, that can't be remo
ved, then epoxy might be the better option for an adhesive.
As for as cleaning those drips, shown in pic "fracture full length", at fir
st I thought that was a panel (you had mentioned loose panels). I thought
to add a long block, along the *panel length, to help with that attachment
. For the addition of a block, there, I meant to suggest removing the dri
ps for the block to sit flat on the *panel.
Keep in mind also that if the joint is cleaned out beyond snug, you make
the tenon a touch smaller or the mortise a touch larger, you will want
to shim to fill the cavity. Few glues have a gap filling feature that
The fit seems quite good; No material seems to have been lost, it was
a clean fracture through the glue, apparently. I'd be hard pressed to
A local art supply shop offered to order a half pound of rabbit glue,
which is hard to resist, both for price and the fact that I'm fixing
a rabbet joint 8-) It turns out there's no separate tenon in the cross
members, they are milled to match the edge of the center panel.
The stuff is sold as sizing for painter's canvas, but from what I've
read most people seem to consider it a reasonably good glue, somewhat
less brittle than cabinetmaking hide glue. I'll make a few test joints
before using it for keeps.
If anybody thinks this is a gross folly please warn me.
Thanks for reading!
On Saturday, August 12, 2017 at 3:20:17 PM UTC-7, bob prohaska wrote:
Yeah, that or hide glue is the best solution, because on this vintage of furniture,
it's gonna stick even if the original (also hide glue) adhesive isn't all cleaned out.
Beware, though, it's usually a kind of hot-melt glue, you'll need a
glue pot and hotplate and have to assemble before it hardens.
If one joint has gone brittle and failed, perhaps others are brittle but
have not yet failed.
Since it's only one joint I'll try a hot plate and water bath with
a thermometer. A few test joints on scrap wood ought to provide
a sense of how it handles. I'm near Sacramento, CA, so keeping things
warm is easy, just put them in the sun. The trick then is sticking the
joint before _I_ melt 8-)
That's a reasonable concern. Far as I can tell all the other joints in
the piece are sound. The one that failed most likely broke when somebody
skidded the desk and snagged the leg; there's considerable scuff damage
to the feet.
Thanks for reading,
I have a Southbend 9A I would recommend you pick up a oil plan , the
type you slide under the car to catch drips. Mine is always full of oil
from the cutting oil.
That desk has no value other than what value you put in it.
If you have MT that are loose, see if you can pry it open slightly and
use heat to re-activate the hide glue in there, then clamp it
If not see if yellow glue will bond it. Epoxy will also work. You can
dowel peg the MT to keep them tight, don't use big honking dowels, use
small ones that hold the Tenon in the Mortise.
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