The Ever-Popular Rolltop Desk
I have had a fascination with roll top desks since I was a child. I remember seeing them in all the old TV Westerns. The sheriff always had a roll top desk piled with wanted posters and the banker and train station master had a roll top desk, too. I remember one in my grandpa’s country store. We had a bread box on the kitchen counter with a tambour style closure.
The roll top desk is a 19th century variation of the popular pedestal desk. It contains a series of compartments and shelves in front of the user that can be covered with a tambour that is made up of a series of joined slats that slide through slots on the raised sides of the top of the desk. The slats are held together by a cloth that that is glued to the back.
This style desk was popular in the late 19th century and early 20th century before being replaced by steel desks. Increased paper flow in the office also made the small compartments obsolete being replaced by the modern filing cabinet.
Original roll top desk have become collector’s items and are often found in antique stores. They vary in price from $1,500 to several thousand dollars. Their new-found popularity has seen the production of new roll top desks. New solid wood, Amish-made roll top desks can cost up to $7,500 with the average around $3,500.
Van Dyke’s Restorers sells a number of items for those restoring a roll top desk or other furniture that uses a tambour style rolling mechanism.