How to Build a Roll Top Desk
The Desk Complete
The materials for this roll top desk can be purchased from a mill dressed and sandpapered so the hardest part of the work will be finished. The wood must be selected to suit the builder and to match other articles of furniture. The following list of materials will be required:
68 lineal ft. of 1 by 3 in. hardwood.
65 lineal ft. of 1 by 2 in. hardwood.
3 lineal ft. of 1/4 by 24 in. hardwood.
45 lineal ft. of 1/4 by 10-1/2 in. hardwood.
36 lineal ft. of 1 by 12 in. hardwood.
35 lineal ft. of 3/8 by 9 in. soft wood.
100 sq. ft. of 1/2 by 12 in. soft wood.
1 piece 34 in. wide and 54 in. long hardwood.
30 pieces 1 by 1 in. 48 in. long.
The upper and lower back panels are constructed very similar, the only difference being in the height. The inside edge of the 3-in. pieces is plowed with a 1/4-in. plow 3/8 in. deep exactly in the center and also both edges of each 2-in. piece. The 16-in. pieces in the upper back panel and the 24-in. pieces in the lower back panel must be cut 1/2 in. longer and a 1/4-in. tongue made on each end to fit into the plowed groove and form a mortise joint.
The upper back panel is filled in with four boards 9-1/2 in. wide and 16-1/2 in. long, while the four boards in the lower back panel are 9-1/2 in. wide and 24-1/2 in. long cut from the 1/4-in. hard wood. When the grooves are cut properly, the joints made perfect and the boards fitted to the right size, these two panels can be assembled and pressed together in cabinet clamps. This will make the outside dimensions as given in the drawing.
The end panels are made very similar to the lower back panel, the only difference being in the width of the filling boards, which are 10-1/2 in. for the outside end panels and 10 in. for the inside panels. One end panel and one inside panel make the sides of one pedestal. As the end panels are 1 in. wider than the inside panels they overlap the back panel and cover up the rough ends of the boards. A 1-in. piece 2 in. wide is fastened at the top and bottom of each end and inside panels as shown by the dotted lines. The lower back panel is fastened on by turning screws through the back and into the ends of these pieces. The bottom pieces have 2-in. notches cut out, as shown, into which to fit two crosspieces across the bottom of the pedestal for holding the casters. The top end panels are made as shown in  the drawing, the inside edge of the pieces being plowed out, making a groove the same size as in the other pieces of the panels. The panel board is cut to the proper shape from the 1/4-by 24-in. material. The length given in the material list will be sufficient if the pointed ends are allowed to pass each other when laying out the design.
Instead of cutting a groove for the roll top curtain, one is made by fastening a 1/2-by 3/4-in. strip 7/8 in. down from the edge and on the inside of the panel. A thin 1/4-by 1-3/4-in. strip is bent to form the shape of the edge and fastened with round-headed brass screws. A 1-in. piece is fastened at the back and a groove cut into it as shown by the dotted line into which to slide a 1/4-in. back board. The top is a 12-in. board 54 in. long.
As both pedestals are made alike, the detail of  only one is shown. The partitions upon which the drawers slide are made up from 1-in. square material with a 2-in. end fitted as shown. Dimensions are given for the divisions of each drawer, but these can be changed to suit the builder. The detail of one drawer is shown, giving the length and width, the height being that of the top drawer. The roll top curtain is made up from 1-in. pieces 3/4 in. thick and 48 in. long, cut in an oval shape on the outside, tacked and glued to a piece of strong canvas on the inside. The end piece is 2 in. wide, into which two lift holes or grooves are cut and a lock attached in the middle of the edge. A drawer lock can be made as shown and attached to the back panel and operated by the back end of the roll top curtain when it is opened and closed.
The top board, which is 34 by 54 in., can be fitted with end pieces as shown or left in one piece with the edges made rounding.
At this point in the construction of the parts they can be put together. The sides of each pedestal are fastened together by screws passed through the 1-in. square pieces forming the partition and into the sides of the panels. When each pedestal is put together the lower back panel is fastened to them with screws turned into the pieces provided as stated in making the end panels. The top board is now adjusted with equal edges projecting and fastened in position with finishing nails. As the top panels cover directly over where the nails are driven, the heads will not show. The upper back panel is fastened to the curved ends and the whole top held to the top board with cast corner brackets that can be purchased at any hardware store. The top  should not be drawn together too close before the 1/4-in. back board is put in the grooves and the roll top curtain placed in position.
Detail of Pigeonholes
The detail showing the pigeon holes gives sizes for 30 openings 3 by 4 in., two book stalls at the ends, 3 in. wide, and two small drawers. This frame is built up as shown from the 3/8-in. soft wood, and fastened in the back part of the top with small brads.
Excerpt from the book:
Mission Furniture – HOW TO MAKE IT – PART I
POPULAR MECHANICS HANDBOOKS CHICAGO,