Thomas Jefferson's Laptop

My lovely wife has a Masters in History, specializing in the colonial era. When I saw the lap desk upon which Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in Fine Woodworking #144, I knew I wanted to make one for her. Now, only one month after her birthday, here it is. It was built from Honduran mahogany, mahogany crotch veneer from Flamingo Veneer, and an ebony bookrest. The hardware is from Horton Brasses and Woodcraft. Finish is 50/50 BLO and turp wiped on very thin, then at least 6 coats of garnet shellac brushed on. The top book surface, plus the sides and top of the carcase and the drawer front were french polished. Special thanks to Todd M. Stock, who sent me some very helpful pictures and shared advice from his construction of the project.

Below shows the open writing surface. The material is baize, used to cover pool tables. It can be gotten at billiard supply stores, and is relatively inexpensive (4'x4' sheet was around $25). I'm going to use it for drawer bottoms in the next jewelry box I make.

The tiny dovetails were one of the most challenging elements of this project. The drawer sides are only 3/8" thick -- the drawer front is 1/2" thick. Obviously, they have to be hand-cut.

The underside support is made of 1/8" thick mahagony stock, and is very delicate until assembled.

The inlay on the back is canarywood, and matches the drawer front.

The book-resting surface is a gorgeous piece of veneer. This, plus the sides of the carcase, were french polished.

The box closed for transport.