SketchUp Model of my Campaign Secretary

Photo by Al Parrish

The August 2012 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine is in the mail to subscribers – I received mine yesterday – and it features my campaign secretary on the cover.

This fact failed to impress my children – even when the news was accompanied by a flirty little dance.

In any case, if you aren’t a subscriber, the issue will be on newsstands in a few weeks and the digital edition will be available for purchase and download on Saturday, June 30, at The article that accompanies the project isn’t your typical Tab A into Slot B story. Yes, there is construction information in the article. But my goal was more to show you how to design one for yourself using the joinery, materials and typical dimensions of campaign chests.

Yeah, I know that’s kind of weird. But it’s the kick I’ve been on for a few years now. Plus, after 12 months, 14 days and 31 minutes after leaving my job, I can now let my freak flag fly.

However, I know that there are some woodworkers who would appreciate a very detailed drawing of the campaign secretary, and so I am offering it for a free download from the 3D Warehouse. It’s a SketchUp file, so you’ll need that free program to view and manipulate the file. Click here to download SketchUp (it’s free). Click here to download the file for the campaign secretary.

I’d also like to take a moment to answer the No. 1 question from readers who have studied the article and my photos: What the heck is that screw for on the side of the top drawer/gallery? Here’s a photo.

The screw shown in the photo is a temporary one – I replaced it with a nice No 10 brass screw after the finish was on. But what is it for? Simple, it holds the sides of the gallery to the desktop. Without the screw, the sides will flop about because they aren’t glued to anything except the back of the gallery.

Still confused?

OK, let’s back up a minute. The cubbyholes are a separate assembly that just slides into the gallery. Ignore them. Forget them. Here, in this illustration I’ve removed them.

What’s left? It’s a drawer without a drawer front. The sides are connected to the back with through-dovetails. The drawer bottom (i.e. the desktop) is in a groove in the sides. Here’s a shot of the drawer bottom in the groove in the sides.

The drawer bottom/desktop is connected to the sides with a single beefy screw through the side and into the bottom/desktop. We need this screw because the drawer front (which is the fall-front of the desk) is attached using hinges – not half-blind dovetails like a traditional drawer. And you can’t glue the bottom/desktop into the groove because it’s a wicked-bad cross-grain construction. So you need a screw.

If you build this project you will find out the solution for yourself, even if you don’t quite grasp it yet.

Just keep muttering to yourself: “I need two screws. I need two screws.” That will fix your problem – and make you some nice new friends at the grocery store.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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14 Responses to SketchUp Model of my Campaign Secretary

  1. John Callaway says:

    Thanks for the sketch up model. This clarifies it completely . Being able to see it makes it make perfect sense now. Interesting construction, and for us visual learners the lesson is fully explained!

  2. Ben St. John says:

    Well now I feel a little better knowing I wasn’t the only one who wondered about that.

  3. Trevor Angell says:


    You could have put a 1/2 blind rail across the front and let the bottom in to that. This would have perhaps been a non-traditional touch, or more invasive since you would have another seam in the writing surface.

    Damn fine looking piece of furniture, whot. Absolutely ripping. *burp*

  4. Ron Dennis says:

    Chris – Thanks for sharing your knowledge & gift.

  5. Joe McMahon says:

    Sketchup is great- so I’ve been told. But what about us Neanderthals who aren’t quite that computer literate? Any chance of just a plain old “tab A into slot B” instructions?

  6. Graham Burbank says:

    Steel, brass, or horse’s ass (par-boiled, of course) it’s all functional joinery in the end. Very nice article, well written. Still prefer the “unleashed” chris schwarz humor, somewhat restrained in the confines of pop-wood. Pop a malted beverage and shake thine booty, oh assless one….

  7. Dean in Des Moines says:

    Meh, the screw was easy enough to ID. And a good candidate for those nice countersunk washer from Lee Valley if ever I saw one.

    The question I’m pondering is how to cut the swept groove for the front support? I suppose a gouge with an appropriate radius would cut the sides, then plowing it out with a narrow chisel or route plane would do the trick, but I suspect something different.

    Am I wrong?

    • lostartpress says:

      I would do it with a shallow sweep firmer gouge. Then remove the waste with a chisel and router plane.

      However, I didn’t have the right sweep gouge so I used an electric router. It did not save time — I had to make some nutty patterns to make it work.

  8. Mikey says:

    Thanks so much for posting the sketch up plans for this! I spent hours the other night looking at photos in old posts trying to figure this thing out. Then voila here it is!

  9. Eric Brown says:

    It would be nice to show the writing surface pulled out during the animation. Other than that I like it a lot. Chris, do you use the free version of Skethup or the pro version? Just curious.
    One more question. Did you consider flush handles on the ends so that units could be sat next to each other a little closer?

  10. Dan Miller says:

    I’m curious if the flat head will cause any problem due to wood movement? Probably not if it is indoors, but if it were really on Campaign?

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