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What is a Trestle Desk?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 17, 2024
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A trestle desk is a piece of office furniture that has two open base frames supporting the work surface. This architectural technique is used in bridge building; trestles are the support towers for bridges. A sawhorse that woodworkers use for sawing wood is another good example of the basic trestle technique. Two sawhorses with a board balanced on top can be used to form a rudimentary trestle desk.

A sawhorse is made up of narrow wood posts or slats. To make a sawhorse, wood is first formed into two upside-down "V"s that are attached to each end of a long post or slat. A short piece of wood is then attached inside each of the "V" sections to create capital letter "A" shapes. These smaller wood pieces act as braces to add more support to the trestle. Woodworkers use one or two sawhorses to hold pieces of wood while they saw them into desired sizes and shapes.

When two table-topped trestles are placed with the "A" sections facing frontward, a chair in front of the space in the middle creates a trestle desk. For people on a budget, two actual sawhorses and a plain rectangular piece of wood could be stained or painted to create an economical trestle desk. There are also many different types of trestle desks available for sale online and in stores.

Some attractive, industrial trestle desk styles feature metal trestles and a glass top. These types of trestle desks work especially well in lofts and modern offices. Space-saving trestles have one or two shelves added inside each trestle. The shelves can be used to store office supplies or storage boxes with useful items inside. Some workers and students like to use the trestle shelves as a mini bookcase.

Antique trestle desks are sometimes called French work tables. They were used widely in the 18th century as sewing tables. An antique trestle desk usually has a row of small drawers directly underneath the table top. The drawers were originally used to hold women's sewing supplies.

Trestle desks make excellent portable or temporary desks, as they're easy to set up just about anywhere. They could be used while waiting for office furniture on order or during renovations. A trestle table desk is also ideal for an artist's studio; not only is the space useful for holding art supplies, the trestles coordinate with the look of easels. An artist's easel used for holding sketching paper or painting canvas has "A" or upside down "V" shaped sides similar to those of a trestle desk.

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