Our 1953 built house has a built-in cabinet and shelving unit in the living room. One of the drawers was made without sides and has an unusually shaped hole in the bottom (to the point where there is essentially no bottom). The cabinet beneath this drawer has a power outlet that has been there long enough to be a two-prong polarized outlet. The shape of the hole is such that it was pretty clearly intentional, and appears to be shaped to mount something. Any idea what the purpose of this drawer is?Side viewFront view

  • 2
    A reel to reel? Or older cassette deck? Is there a projector screen space around or marks on the ceiling where it may have dropped down?
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Oct 28, 2021 at 17:33
  • 3
    Some kind of machine. Sewing machine. Adding machine. Audio something. Polygraph. Ticker Tape printer. Shredder. Something professionally related ... medical, scientific, etc. If you know who owned the desk that might narrow it down a bit.
    – jay613
    Commented Oct 28, 2021 at 17:51
  • It's built in to the wall, and is more of a cabinet than a desk, there's no leg cutout and the compartments and drawers run across the full length. The previous owners fairly clearly used it as an entertainment system, as there is an outlet above the top surface as well as holes in the back for passing wires between the cabinet with an outlet and the top surface, and the internet comes in through the floor of the closet behind the cabinet. That said, it's hard to tell how much of that is modifications, as the area above the cabinet had at least a few more shelves than it currently does.
    – jgd
    Commented Oct 28, 2021 at 18:10
  • Whatever it is for, it's something that doesn't have to be pulled all the way out to be useful, as the pictures are taken with it all the way out.
    – jgd
    Commented Oct 28, 2021 at 18:20
  • 2
    Definitely inclined to agree with some record or reel-to-reel player, with the cut-out to lower the clearance height. OP says house is from 1953 and the cabinet is "built-in", but the roller rails seem to be of newer design. Is it consistent w/other hardware? Is the plywood, nails, finiah, etc. also consistent? Not that it really helpa identify a purpose...
    – Ian W
    Commented Oct 30, 2021 at 3:54

4 Answers 4


I am certain it originally held some 1950s record player (less likely, a reel-to-reel player), with the cut-out to lower the clearance height. Below are pictures of the more typical cabinet with the flip-top lid to access the equipment, but also an example of a drawer mounted unit with a similar oddball cut-out. Other styles also included a slide-out drawer behind a standard cabinet door.

OP says house is from 1953 and the cabinet is "built-in", but the roller rails seem to be of newer design. That suggest perhaps a repair or modified for some other purpose, though the cut-out remains consistent w/1950's style.

A picture of the complete cabinet and an interior examination for evidence of speaker mounts, wiring, cable holes, would confirm purpose and probably reveal a make / model tag.

Drawer unit - Images from: https://www.ebay.com/itm/184379687091 music cabinet - front music cabinet - record player

Disassembly or overhead unit - Image from: https://bunnyyeagerproductions.wordpress.com/vintage-record-players/ Cabinet disassemly

To those who suggested a modification to hold a dot matrix bottom feed printer,everyone would just route a single slot to accommodate the paper. The hard drive suggestion is just plain wrong.

  • It's definitely a custom built-in unit, or at least extremely heavily modified, as the cabinet doesn't have separate sides and back from the alcove in the wall. I'm also pretty sure that it has always had something similar inside, as the drawer faces on the drawers with boxes have been routed out to accommodate the butt joints for the drawer sides, but this drawer face hasn't. That said, you are probably right about the specific platform being a later addition. On closer examination, the drawer face has nail holes and finish marks that indicate there was previously something else attached.
    – jgd
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 12:15
  • I've switched this to the new accepted answer due to the additional details.
    – jgd
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 12:20

My hunch is that it was a custom-made cabinet for audio equipment. The drawer might be for a record player or other equipment only needed some of the time - pull it out, load a record, play it, and close the drawer when you're done.

  • 3
    Moving a spinning hard drive isn't recommended, but they have sensors in them that will automatically park the heads if there's enough movement to possibly cause a head crash. Moving a record player with a spinning disk didn't come with such clever protections. I had record players with a translucent plastic cover you could close over the disk, but that's about as much movement as you'd want while it was spinning.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 28, 2021 at 18:25
  • 4
    The oddly-shaped hole (for the record changer mechanism), combined with around-the-periphery small holed (for the springy suspension posts that hold the mechanism) support this answer. Upvoted. Commented Oct 28, 2021 at 19:09
  • 2
    @jay613 - Most likely the person who designed the anti-resonant features was not the same person who designed and built the cabinet. In fact, the drawer bottom might have been taken out of something else, and custom fit into a sliding drawer in this cabinet.
    – Mark
    Commented Oct 28, 2021 at 22:21
  • 2
    The systems I remember looking like this came from the mid-50s. I imagine the engineering applied was more basic than current knowledge. The odd shape of the cutout was to provide room for the motor and other bits which hung down several inches below the turntable and visible top. Commented Oct 28, 2021 at 22:33
  • 2
    I'd say it was likely for a record player like this one. It was designed as a wall-mounted unit and the turntable flipped down like a Murphy bed. The mechanics were already installed in a drawer-like box, so transplanting it into an actual drawer would simply mean creating the right cutout. The flip-down design meant it had a low enough profile to fit in the drawer.
    – bta
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 2:15

I'm going to move my comment to an answer...

I'd say it was for an old dot-matrix printer that used fan-fold paper. The box of paper would sit in behind the door below and was fed up through the hole in the drawer, through the printer, then it would restack... somewhere.

Usually the out-feed was to a wire tray or bin behind the printer. Is there, perchance, a slot in one of the vertical sides of the drawer where the output could have gone? Perhaps, in all their cleverness, they designed something to reroute the paper to stack above the printer so it all stayed within the single cabinet stack.

NB: since dot matrix printers were rather loud, keeping it within a cabinet would help reduce the noise. I have used line-printers (like a dot-matrix, but the print head is the full width of the paper, printing the whole line at a time instead of a character at a time) that were loud when their foam-lined cases were closed and nearly deafening when they were opened.

  • 2
    Interesting idea. Except for one part: has a power outlet that has been there long enough to be a two-prong polarized outlet If I had done such a thing in the 70s or 80s, I would have put in a grounded receptacle - why go to all that trouble and then use a 3-2 adapter on an (at the time) expensive printer? Commented Oct 28, 2021 at 18:46
  • 2
    racks brain trying to remember if all printers had 3-prong grounded plugs... fails miserably
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 28, 2021 at 18:51
  • 1
    Plenty of printers had bottom feed. Especially the big fast line printers, but plenty of smaller dot-matrix printers too - straight paper path = fewer jams. Commented Oct 28, 2021 at 18:59
  • 2
    the odd shaped cutout and the four holes suggest something more specific than a dot matrix printer. If there were a simple slot for paper to pass through I'd say this was the most likely answer.
    – jay613
    Commented Oct 28, 2021 at 19:22
  • 2
    ... a dot-matirx printer? With respect, seriously ? What would align the holes; certainly not the feet? Why the bizarre cut-out shape? Anyone cutting a shelf for a dot matrix printer would router a single straight cut for the paper to feed through and that's it. Perhaps a notch at the back for the power cord. Way too intricate for that.
    – Ian W
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 4:45

In my house, there is a secret drawer fitted which has another 2 dummy drawer-face thingy-s, side-by-side -- one is stationery, and can be unlocked -- other one does nothing, it makes the unlock-able one unmovable.

If you move the drawer face which does nothing to the side, you can unlock the other, then you remove the unlocked one.

Now here's the part where the hole comes to play, the secret drawer (not a drawer face) is on a holder which has one hole -- you obtain the drawer by pulling from the hole -- here the previous owner might have used 4 holes, for more accessibility.

Regarding the power outlet -- it would've be a coincidence.

  • 2
    without a picture or 6 it's almost impossible to follow this description
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 30, 2021 at 12:21
  • @FreeMan For you, I will provide some drawings. Commented Oct 30, 2021 at 12:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.