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Residential Furniture Winner: A Desk of Distinction

    by Lisa Whitcomb
    Custom Woodworking Business Magazine
    December 2003

    Sponsored by the Custom Woodworking Business (CWB) Magazine, top winners in five categories were selected to receive Design Portfolio Awards for 2004.

    Judges selected five winners from hundreds of nationally submitted slides and photos. Awards were presented in the categories of Residential Furniture, Commercial/Institutional Furniture, Kitchen/Bath Cabinets, Architectural Millwork, and Specialty Products.

    The “Fly Tying Desk” that Norseman Designs West of Cody, WY, created for a Bozeman, MT, homeowner is truly unique in its design and function. The stylish desk encapsulates spaces for fly fishing lure components and a place to build the lures, in addition to the spaces dedicated to traditional office supplies and functions.

    The desk was top winner in this year’s Residential Furniture category. “We are known for our rustic desks,” says John Gallis, owner of Norseman Designs West. The desk’s owner was looking for very specific features, and Gallis designed it to fulfill the avid fisherman’s wish list.

    The homeowner wanted at least 30 drawers in the desk’s upper unit, and Gallis gave him 37 to store a myriad of fly fishing items. These drawer fronts were cut from one large spalted maple plank, thus making the grain across the drawer faces continuous, only broken by the walnut stiles in between.

    All of the drawers in the desk are a dovetailed construction. The lower desk drawers utilize Accuride full-extension slides. The homeowner also wanted to be able to close off the desk’s work area, should company come over, to hide any mess, but he still wanted to be able to display his collection of books on fly fishing. So Gallis designed a roll-top cover with an arched bookcase on top.

    Other features of the desk include a place to set up a vise to tie fly hooks; bookmatched, aromatic cedar-lined lower drawers for storing feathers (to detract insects from burrowing in and infesting); a deep drawer to store the vise, and a center drawer with a free form made of spalted maple for storing pens, pencils and Exacto knives.

    The desk is an impressive 68 inches long by 72 inches high by 33 inches deep. It boasts hand-made, tongue-and-groove floating panels that were selected for color on the sides and back of the unit. The desktop is a 125-year-old slab of walnut that is 1-1/4-inches thick. “We document where we get our walnut from, which is either California or Pennsylvania Amish country,” Gallis notes. The arched top is a dry bent lamination to 1-1/8 inch thickness.

    The rustic-looking legs and trim about the desk are made from a local juniper. The rustic nature of the desk’s theme is carried through to the deer antler pulls used on the lower drawers and the roll-top. The pinnacle design element of the desk is its simply-stated brown suede roll-top cover.

    The top touts a hand-made, hammered metal fish and mayfly sculpture that has been heat treated to produce the rainbow coloring. The metalsmith who produced the art had to build a form with a 15-inch radius and hammer the fish and mayfly to the curve of the form, so they would fit the bend of the top properly.

    The leather was placed over a 1/4-inch foam pad and set inside the excavated roll-top form to produce a soft pillow-like effect for the bolted metal fishing sculptures.