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Backing fabric for rolltop desk?

JOtisjr's picture

This may not quite be joinery, but.... I've got a job to repair a rolltop desk; the fabric backing the rolltop has split in a few spots and needs to be replaced. Does anyone have any tips & sources for an appropriate material to use? I've found technique suggestions for how to jig the slats up to glue the backing on, but not what to use & where to find it. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, -Otis

alexlisa's picture

(post #105921, reply #1 of 9)

I redid a rolltop a few years ago. I used a medium weight canvas backing glued with cold premixed hide glue. I figured I'd probably have to do it again someday, so I used a reversible glue. The original glue was horse hide glue, and scraped off easily. I got the canvas at a local fabric store, I think it was 20 or 30 oz. weight. Take a scrap of the original canvas and try to match the thickness. I used a jig consisting of a plywood backer sheet with cleats, rabbetted to the thickness of the rolltop slats at the sides and bottom. The top cleat is wedged in place to draw the slats tight along their length. Tightening down the cleats holds the slats tight to the plywood, face down. The glue is applied to a few slats at a time with a small foam paint roller, then the canvas is laid on the glue covered back of the captive slats. Experiment a little with scrapwood and canvas to get the glue amount right. You have to be careful not to put on too much glue, as it will ooze through the slats or soak through the canvas. Too little will leave loose spots. I ended up with a few of those. Applying glue directly to the canvas just makes a mess. I stapled the bottom edge of the canvas to the first slat temporarily and rolled the canvas out carefully to avoid bubbles. I rolled the canvas with a veneer roller, overlapping top and bottom slats a little to make sure I had it fully covered. Cut the canvas to finish length after it dries. The jig is shown in a Fine Woodworking book "Desks and Tables" by Taunton press. The book is a group of FWW article reprints, so you could probably find it in an old back issue index, or buy the book. Good luck!

JOtisjr's picture

(post #105921, reply #4 of 9)

I'm wondering if you had any problems with the canvas shrinking as the glue dried (like wallpaper does if you roll it out too much...). This top moves in an S-curve, so this is a concern.... Thanks for your help. -Otis

alexlisa's picture

(post #105921, reply #6 of 9)

My tambour was s-curve also. I didn't notice any shrinkage. A little would prbably help draw the whole thing tight anyway.

FrankRobie's picture

(post #105921, reply #7 of 9)

If you are worried about shrinkage, prewash the canvas, but be warned it is all cotton so it will try to wrinkle. A medium grade canvas is what is usually used.

I redid a tambor on a hoosier cabinet onct that had two inch wide strips of canvas and it worked OK.

Uncle Fixit
gpop3's picture

(post #105921, reply #8 of 9)

I use artists canvas from the art supply stores. I always wash it in the machine before application.I then iron it like you do a shirt. After jigging up, as has been described,I use titebond II applied with a roller to the slats only.Let the glue dry until it is no longer "tacky".The canvas can now be smoothed down and the glue reactivated with a hot iron.I have never had a shrinkage problem.There is a tape on the market that can also be put down with a hot iron.I use it for the small tambors on receipe boxes.It is a pre glued cloth product and easy to use.No,I have never used the tape on a large piece such as the desk.¬¬¬¬¬¬¬PAT¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬

Yes,my name is Major No it is not a Mil. title It was given to me 82 years ago by my grandfather. I was too young to defend myself.

Thank you,Mr.Croney,where ever you may be. Work safely ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬PAT¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬
forestgirl's picture

(post #105921, reply #2 of 9)

I have a piece that was specifically marketed for RTdesk refurbishing.  I never did renovate that particular desk, and it's long gone, so if you're interested, reply here and I'll dig it out of storage and get measurements, and we can get together on it.

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

VBACollectables's picture

Rolltop (post #105921, reply #9 of 9)

We have seen your posting, currently we are renovating a roll top desk, if you still have the webing available please dont hesitate to get in contact.


Les Yates

CCaughlan's picture

(post #105921, reply #3 of 9) has tambour supplies

gweisenburge's picture

(post #105921, reply #5 of 9)

I've done a number of tambours with 11-ounce duck canvass, vacuum pressed with Titebond II glue. I make sure the canvass is stretched tight and have no shrinkage problems.