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What is a Campaign Desk?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2016
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A campaign desk is a portable, compact piece of office furniture first used in the military. Cabinet makers would custom build campaign desks to officers’ requirements. Many antique campaign desks date back to the mid 1940s. Since military camps often moved, a campaign desk was designed in sections to be easily assembled and disassembled.

Campaign desks may be constructed from metal or wood. While most antique campaign style desks are crafted from wood, some are made of metal. A metal campaign desk from the 1940s may be aluminum and feature a top and legs that fold. Aluminum is known for being fairly lightweight and the need of campaign desks to be easily transportable was understood by cabinet makers hired by military officers. Maple, birch and cherry are common woods used for making campaign desks.

A campaign desk may be an original antique or a modern take on the campaign style. A campaign style desk may be closer to a square rather than rectangular in shape, but it’s always sleek and compact. Some campaign desks have a wood portion on the back of the desktop that features many compartments for storing office supplies. This organizer section is not only easily detachable, but also narrow so that enough space is left for writing.

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It’s common for a campaign desk to have a leather writing surface. Brass fittings such as drawer pulls and desk corner covers appear on many antique campaign desks. Lightweight stools were often used with antique campaign style desks rather than heavy office chairs because of the constant awareness that a military camp may soon be relocated.

A campaign navigator’s desk was made for navy ship captains. The top and base sections were created to be easily taken apart so that, if needed, the pieces could be stored away under bunks or elsewhere on the ship. A navigator’s campaign desk usually features large drawers that were designed as storage for charts, weapons and log books.

Antique or modern campaign desks work well in apartments or small offices because of their compact size. The storage capabilities of the streamlined campaign desk tend up to make up for a smaller desktop. Some campaign desks have open lower storage shelves rather than drawers or closed shelving, but adding interesting wicker or metal containers to hold office supplies can make the space look interesting as well as tidy.

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