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What is a Typewriter Desk?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated: May 16, 2024

Typewriter desks are desks that are designed to accommodate a manual or electric typewriter. During the heyday of the typewriter, two specific types of desks suitable for typewriters were used in many offices and homes around the world. It is still possible to locate and purchase a vintage typewriter desk in used furniture stores and other venues that carry furnishings dating from the middle of the 20th century.

One of the more common examples of the typewriter desk is a simple metal workstation that is mounted on wheels. The desktop of this movable desk is large enough to accommodate a full sized typewriter. Some designs include a drop leaf that can be used to expand the desktop, making it possible to position documents within easy reach while working. Just about every example of the metal typewriter desk includes a brake system that makes it possible to lock the wheels once the desk is moved into the desired position.

Many offices in the past made use of the oak typewriter desk. Desks of this type were multifunctional, in that they were constructed with a recessed compartment that could hold a typewriter. Most designs called for the inclusion of tracks that were used to secure the typewriter in place. A simple spring mechanism made it possible to open the cover of the compartment and raise the typewriter to desktop level when the device was needed. The cover itself normally slid out of view, leaving a clear view of the rest of the desk.

Once the typing job was completed, the cover was returned to its original position. This automatically lowered the typewriter into the recessed area. Once the cover on the typewriter desk was completely closed, the desktop once again looked like any standard office desk.

An original antique typewriter desk was designed for use with a manual typewriter. In the days before electric typewriters, typists had to press firmly on the keys of the manual device in order to create legible type on a piece of paper. This was particularly important if carbon paper was being used to create multiple copies of a single document. The force necessary to operate a manual typewriter required that antique typewriter desks be extremely sturdy in order to last for any appreciable amount of time.

While very few people use typewriters today, the older oak and other hardwood desks are very popular among people who collect vintage furniture. In some cases, dealers will offer a desk with a typewriter included in the recessed compartment, making the desk a true conversation piece.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including HomeQuestionsAnswered, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
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Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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