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Different From Anything Ever Constructed Before

Wooten Rotary Desk, American Walnut with burl by the self proclaimed King of Desk Makers, Mr. W. S. Wooten. This desk was made between 1876 and 1879 in Indianapolis, Indiana.





The rotary nature of what are normally drawers, allowed the side sections to smoothly pivot outwards, making their contents readily available. They were described as “novel, complete, convenient, durable, and possess superior merit and advantages over all desks.”


This novel design was the result of a new approach to a modern desk “different from anything ever constructed before.” In an age when correspondence was handwritten, folded and mailed, these desks with cubbies for folded and flat sections for paper were tailor made to the tasks.


This desk was conceived and fabricated at a time when the typewriter was becoming more common in the workplace, as well as the reservoir fountain pen. The two of these new tools provided signifiant productivity gains, on a global level. A rare yet forthcoming typewriter on your desk in 1876 was replaced by a personal computer and printer a mere hundred years later.


The goal of this restoration was to provide a fully functioning desk while retaining the warmth and character of its continued existence as a hub of commerce.



Our process included evaluation and familiarization of existing finishes, extent of damages, and discovery of character to retain. There was a lot of deep damage to the kick areas, along with broken burl panels, and well worn drawer slides. Overall the piece was worth saving, especially as our client was quite eager to put it in service.



Lots of hand scraping removed the old shellac finishes, and we were careful not to expose raw wood. The remaining bit of finish was wiped with alcohol, which re-solved to act like the first coat of sealer shellac, providing a nice base build a new finish.



Several coats of hand applied shellac, provided a warm and durable finish, that would be maintainable in the future. As it turns out, one of the new dogs recently chose a corner to scratch and gain his masters attention. Fortunately as easy repair with a bit of shellac.


For me, this was a fun project. Working with a well used piece of historical furniture, using traditional methods, knowing it may serve for another 100 years provides a certain satisfaction in this fast paced society.



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