Featured Questions on Circa 1915 Horrocks Roll Top Desk

Discussion in 'Furniture' started by Gold Dial, Jul 29, 2020.

  1. Gold Dial

    Gold Dial New Member

    Hello Everyone,

    I just bought a massive, antique roll top desk that I plan to completely rebuild and refinish this next year.

    The desk is labeled Horrocks in several places, but no other markings indicate where or when it was made. I suspect it was made in Herkimer, NY by the Standard Desk Company, which was perhaps the largest manufacturer of desks during that era. Judging by the austere, slab-style, I suspect it was made during the 1910's. I bought the desk in Western Minnesota and the seller thought it may have come from an old railway station.

    The desk is in rather rough shape and will need to be refinished. The left side is missing an entire sheet of oak veneer and large patches of veneer are missing elsewhere. I think even the purists would have to concede on this one.

    What is the best way to refinish this desk? How do I most accurately replicate the original finish and methods? I assume this desk was finished just like most of the QSWO furniture and woodwork of that era. Should the grain be filled first? Should it be waxed? Is there any way to really bring out the tiger stripes and flakes in the veneer? The desk seems to have originally been a light golden color that darkened over time. Since I like the darker color, would a darker stain be appropriate on a desk from this era?

    If anyone has information on this kind of desk or has had success refinishing one, I would love to hear about it. Thanks.

  2. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

    nice desk.....i'm sure it was a workhorse !!!
  3. Michael77

    Michael77 Well-Known Member

    Nice roll top! Check out Thomas Johnson Antique Furniture Restoration youtube channel. He is a great resource for how to's and some of the challenges you might encounter.
  4. Adrian Lewis

    Adrian Lewis Journeyman

  5. Gold Dial

    Gold Dial New Member

    I think this desk dates to just prior to WWI when the stark oak aesthetic was at its peak and before traditional ornament became popular again in the 1920's. I can't find any similar desks in old ads, but there is this Art Metal catalog from 1916 which shows a desk that looks very similar but that is made of steel (page 55). Also, the clock and shellac finish seem to predate the 1930's. My understanding is that roll top desks sharply plummeted in popularity around WWI, but I'm struggling to find a good source on the different styles, makers, etc.. Have any catalogs survived? Are there any good resources on the topic?
  6. Gold Dial

    Gold Dial New Member

    I don't believe the desk contains any plywood. If it does, it is just the bottoms of the drawers. The sides, back, and horizontal surfaces are all made of solid boards of oak that were then veneered with quarter sawn oak. When I bought the desk, quarter inch plywood panels had been added to the sides of the pedestals to conceal the damaged or missing veneer. That is why there are shreds of plywood still glued to the one side.
  7. verybrad

    verybrad Well-Known Member

    I have no problem with a circa 1920 date on this, though those sides are a bit bothersome. Really would expect some kind of inset panel. Almost looks as if some plywood panels have been tacked on.

    I would probably remove those panels and replace with new 1/4" oak plywood. Veneer chips in other places can be patched in.
  8. Gold Dial

    Gold Dial New Member

    The flat and austere sides are definitely an original feature. I suspect it was more costly to make the desk this way originally (since it uses more wood) and was probably considered a higher end feature that better displayed the veneers. I believe the brass handles were also originally considered higher end, compared to the usual wooded pulls. Sadly, both features have lost their original effect as the large panels with a continuous veneer look like plywood and the design of the pulls were later widely used on filing cabinets.
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