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How to Make the Roll Part of a Desk

Amanda Fetherlin

The rolling part of a roll top desk is called a tambour, a section of an antique desk made of thin slats that are flat on one side and often rounded on the other side for a textured look. The slats are held together with a piece of thick, strong cloth that is never seen by the person using the desk. The tambour of a roll top desk covers the writing section of the desk for privacy because these desks were kept in the main room of the house.

Rounded slats look attractive on a tambour.

Step 1

Measure the width of the roll top area and the distance from the top of the roll to the writing surface. Use these numbers to determine the width and number of 3/4-inch slats used to make the roll top cover.

Step 2

Divide the measured length of the roll top area by 3/4-inch to establish the number of slats needed. Make five additional slats. Use a table saw to cut the 3/4-inch boards to the measured roll top desk width.

Step 3

Sand the 3/4-inch boards on both sides with a stationary sander.

Step 4

Push the boards through a jointer on both sides. The two sides must be perfectly parallel to each other.

Step 5

Round the sides of the boards with a router and a 3/8-inch rounding router bit.

Step 6

Sand, with the stationary sander, the slats to remove any imperfections or irregular size issues and clear any dust from the slats, with a dry cloth.

Step 7

Cut a strip of denim two inches shorter in width than the slats and one inch longer in height, with denim scissors Duct tape the cloth to the table, making the denim flat and wrinkle free.

Step 8

Apply tambour glue to the flat back of one slat. Lay the slat across the bottom of the cloth 1 inch above the bottom. Leave 1 inch of each slat end free of glue and center the boards on the cloth. Apply glue to each slat, one at a time, and carefully place it on the cloth.

Step 9

Run a rubber roller over the tops of the slats moving left to right. This removes any air bubbles in the glue and secures a better bond.

Step 10

Glue the wooden handle to the center, bottom 1-inch strip of the denim. Trim the denim, with the denim scissors, around the handle.

Step 11

Allow the tambour to cure for 24 hours before attaching the rolling part of the desk to the base.