A few days ago, I had problems with my Shaw Walker desk. The drawers would not open, and I needed to get things out from them. So I searched Reddit, and there was a post from two years ago that dealt with this problem. There are some misconceptions there that I can clarify from my experience fixing the desk. Also, since there’s little information on the topic in the internet, I’m posting this to share.
First, there is no anti-tipping mechanism. It’s simply a mechanical interlock that locks all drawers when the center drawer is pushed in and locked with key.
The way the desk is meant to work is similar to a filing cabinet. The side drawers have a spring loaded rotating bar that has extending arms. When the center drawer is pushed in, a lever rotates the bar and extends the locking arms. When the center drawer is pulled out, the lever disengages, and retracts the locking arms.
The problem arises when, after several years, the components begin to grind and rust together. So even if you pull the center drawer, the mechanism is locked closed. If you can’t pull the side drawers at all, there’s a small access hole directly underneath the rotating bar. The bar has a notch on it, so it can be manually rotated with a long flathead screwdriver. Once it disengages, the drawers can open.
Pull out the top side drawer completely, then tilt it up to remove it and have access to the rotating bar. The points of contact need to be lubricated with light machine oil or WD-40. Once they are lubricated, the rotating bar can freely engage and disengage without getting stuck with rust.
Inside of drawer with rotating bar shown and lever disengaged. Top part is the lever and spring cam. Bottom part is the locking lever.
Inside of drawer with rotating bar and lever engaged. The locking lever tilts toward the drawers and locks them in place.
To be sure, I lubricated all points of contact and now it works like a charm. These desks were made to last lifetimes, and I’d hate to see these being destroyed or wrenched open for not knowing how to maintain them. If you have a desk like this, you can do this simple fix.