View Full Version : Pennsylvania Secretary

Robert LaPlaca
03-19-2008, 6:11 PM
Well folks I have been working on two Lonnie Bird Penn. Secretaries featured in FWW 154-156. One desk is a wedding present for a niece, the second is for my wife. The desks are built out of Walnut with Poplar used as the secondary wood. The drawer fronts, tombstone door panels and small tombstone door are veneered with shop sawn crotch Walnut veneer. There is no plywood anywhere in the desk, even the drawer bottoms are Poplar.The dovetails were cut by hand..

Here are the two desks unfinished;

Here are some picture of one of the one desk that I have finished. Stain is Transfast Antique Red Walnut dye very diluted, glazed with General Georgian Cherry and finish is Hock Garnet Shellac and wax, the brasses are from Ball and Ball;


Todd Solomon
03-19-2008, 6:33 PM
Wow Robert, those are spectacular! I hope to build something with such beauty, in my lifetime. The crotch walnut is just jaw-dropping.

I've been in Lonnie's home, while attending a casework class. I have seen the secretary that I'm sure the plans were based on, along with a number of other gorgeous period pieces.

Congratulations to your neice, and your wife! They are two lucky ladies, and I cannot imagine a more special gift.


Cliff Rohrabacher
03-19-2008, 6:34 PM
Most impressive ~!! Great work.

Brent Ring
03-19-2008, 6:36 PM
Wow! Those are awesome!

Dan Edminster
03-19-2008, 6:39 PM
Beautifully executed and a wonderful choice of both wood and finish. Heirloom pieces for generations to come. The "girls" will undoubtedly be thrilled! How much time do you figure per secretary?

Mike Henderson
03-19-2008, 6:40 PM
Those are terrific! A work of art.


Jeff Wright
03-19-2008, 6:50 PM
Beautiful work indeed! What source did you use for the hardware. With such beautiful craftmanship, I'm sure you used only the best. Ball & Ball maybe?

Richard M. Wolfe
03-19-2008, 6:53 PM
I like! ----- I more than like!! ----- I more than more than like!!!

My kinda stuff.

Great work, Robert.

Doug Shepard
03-19-2008, 7:01 PM
Wowza. Any idea how many hours went into those? Just curious in case I ever wanted to try something that ambitious.

Chris Padilla
03-19-2008, 7:10 PM
Spectacular...worthy of print in FWW!!

Robert LaPlaca
03-19-2008, 7:16 PM
Jeff, the hardware was indeed sourced from the folks at Ball and Ball. Evidentially, Lonnie Bird purchased all the hardware for his desk featured in FWW from Ball and Ball, so they gave me the complete bill of materials used by Bird for the desk.

Michael Handrinos
03-19-2008, 7:26 PM
Man. That's some kind of craftmanship. That's one of my favorite pieces. I hope to build one one day. How long did it take you and were the tombstone doors difficult to make?

Any pics taken while building these beautiful pieces?


Kim Dressler
03-19-2008, 7:27 PM
Wow they are both very beautiful. You have a lot of talent.

Michael Pfau
03-19-2008, 8:06 PM
Robert, looks great! A secretary is on my too do list. Outstanding!!

Jim Becker
03-19-2008, 8:13 PM
OUTSTANDING, Robert!!! Those are just wonderful.

gary Zimmel
03-19-2008, 8:16 PM
Beautiful workmanship!

You are going to make a couple people very happy.

Howie French
03-19-2008, 8:58 PM
Robert, very very very nice !!

I hope to get there someday !


Ken Fitzgerald
03-19-2008, 9:46 PM
Robert.....You have given a lot of us something to strive for........Very well done Sir!

Norman Pyles
03-20-2008, 12:19 AM
Wow, 2 at once. I'm inpressed.:cool: Oh yeah, those are beautiful.

Rob Will
03-20-2008, 12:24 AM
Now THAT is my kind of woodworking!!!! WOW Robert.
I love traditional furniture.

Just had my first experience with the TransFast water-based dyes on my daughter's school project. I'm a novice but I kind of like the stuff.

I see you used shellac, what is your opinion of lacquer?

Thanks for posting.


John Thompson
03-20-2008, 1:20 AM
Excellent Robert... just excellent!

Rick de Roque
03-20-2008, 1:28 AM
Job well done!


Robert LaPlaca
03-20-2008, 6:18 AM
I would like to thank everyone for their kind words.

Many posters have asked how many hours do I have in each piece? My guess is 400 to 500 hours for each desk, it really hard for me to say because I am such a slow builder. I also have the luxury of only working in the shop when the mood strikes me, which sometimes is not as often as it should be.

Matt Meiser
03-20-2008, 8:37 AM
Wow, incredible work Robert. Most people would be thrilled to pull of one of those--but two? Congratulations!

Quesne Ouaques
03-20-2008, 8:42 AM
Absolutely stunning, Robert! I love your choice of wood grain in the panels. Congrats on finishing such a beautiful piece.

Dave Anderson NH
03-20-2008, 9:41 AM
Truly beautiful pieces Robert. There's just something about Period Furniture that the modern stuff just doesn't have.

Congratulations of some really fine work.

Brodie Brickey
03-20-2008, 9:57 AM

Absolutely gorgeous!

Lori Kleinberg
03-20-2008, 2:38 PM
Those are great looking pieces of furniture, from the wood selection, to the craftmanship to the finish. Beautiful work.

Brian Lindenlaub
03-20-2008, 4:19 PM

J. Z. Guest
03-20-2008, 4:24 PM
I'll join the army of folks singing your praise Robert.

One question, and please don't take it the wrong way: Other than personal pride, is there any reason you chose not to use plywood in places where it wouldn't be seen.

Robert LaPlaca
03-20-2008, 5:18 PM
I'll join the army of folks singing your praise Robert.

One question, and please don't take it the wrong way: Other than personal pride, is there any reason you chose not to use plywood in places where it wouldn't be seen.

I love period furniture, my goal was to build a piece that was as faithful to the period as possible. I have no problem using plywood, I just didn't think that it was appropriate for a heirloom like this

John Fry
03-20-2008, 7:04 PM
That is some stunningly beautiful work on a pair of classic pieces.

Raymond Fries
03-20-2008, 7:29 PM
The ladys are going to be pretty happy....:)

Rob Russell
03-21-2008, 10:06 AM
Stunning work, Robert.

I hope you signed and dated the pieces. Both will be handed down for generations and - 100 years from now - having your signature/date on them will be special to your future family members.

lou sansone
12-24-2008, 7:41 AM
hi Robert
nice piece... I am also building that piece right now and stumbled across your pieces.

Question about finishing the gallery .... did you prefinish the all the little pieces and then assemble them? The same with the upper case parts. prefinish and then assemble ?


Charles Saunders
12-24-2008, 9:23 AM
Absolutely elegant work. It would be a completely remarkable post if there were just one secretary. Thank you for sharing. Happy holidays.