How to Fix a Roll-Top Desk

A roll-top desk door or “tambour” is exactly what sets it apart from any other wood table, offering a means to continue to keep things from sight, outside of mind following the day’s work is completed. Since the tambour wears over the years, some of the slats may come partially unglued from the backing fabric, jamming the roll shirt, or the backing cloth may tear or deteriorate. The key to repairing such a desk correctly is utilizing just enough adhesive to maintain the forks secured into the backing fabric; too much may hinder the motion of the rolling doorway along its tracks.

Open the roll-top section of the table to expose screws that hold the top to the foundation of this table. Whether there are drawers atop the desk, beneath the roll-top region, you may have to remove some of these to find the screws. Remove the screws with the proper screwdriver kind, either slotted or Phillips, and set them in a safe location.

Boost the roll-top lid off the desk. Remove the sliding slatted door, referred to as a tambour. Inspect the tambour cloth, the elevator bar and also the slats to determine whether the forks need to be reglued or if the fabric has to be replaced entirely. If the fabric is decayed or ripped, it should be replaced.

Expand a brand new bit of canvas or tambour cloth within the surface, if needed, and set the aged tambour atop it. Press the sides in order that the forks align evenly. Trace around the aged tambour onto the fabric using a pencil, which makes dots on the new tambour fabric where each slat is positioned, as a guide for gluing. Cut the new cloth across the traced lines with scissors. Skip to Step 8 if the fabric is fine but slats require more adhesive.

Dampen the old cloth with a sponge to loosen the mask glue if the desk is old. If the desk is somewhat fresh and the adhesive doesn’t answer water, then use vinegar instead. Pull the elevator bar and also the slats off the old fabric and wipe them dry with paper towels. If needed, sand remnants of this aged glue away and wipe the dust off using a soft fabric.

Produce the flames of a jig by nailing a thin strip of wood atop a smooth, clean work surface such as a scrap of plywood. Place a piece of wax paper alongside the wood; that provides a location for the tambour slats to rest as you work.

Set the outdated lift bar and also the forks so the previously pasted sides face upon the wax newspaper, pressing them contrary to the side of this jig to ensure they are aligned right. Nail a matching thin strip of wood parallel into the first, completing the jig, to maintain the tambour strips locked in place.

Brush glue above the elevator bar and wrap the end of the tambour cloth around it. Nail and clamp the fabric in place. Then apply a thin layer of adhesive over the lift bar and also the forks with a foam brush, or by squirting lines of adhesive randomly over the bar and seams, rolling it smooth using a paint roller. Smooth the tambour cloth down over the adhesive, with the elevator bar to the right of the forks, using a rubber sanding block with no sandpaper. The weight of the rubber helps press down the cloth. Place a cut-to-size article of plywood above the tambour cloth, then several heavy weights such as full paint cans to keep the cloth in put until the adhesive dries completely. Remove the cans and plywood when the adhesive is dry.

Inspect the fabric, wiggling it to see whether any forks are loose. If so, lift them gently and implement a line of adhesive along the slat, smoothing the adhesive using a foam brush. Permit the glue to try, then wiggle the new tambour to add flexibility in case any adhesive got between the forks.

Place the tambour back into the roll top track. Reassemble the top onto the desk by replacing the screws and tightening them.