Picture This CXLI

Every so often, I go all weak at the knees and grasp a convenient chair back or table top for support. It’s not so much to do with my advancing years; rather, the sight of some superlative piece of furniture can cause rapid palpitations.

Such was the case when I espied this image of a little English walnut chest: At first glance, it was perfect in every respect… yet ever so wrong.

Fig. 1. The ugly duckling of mid-century walnut chests?

The simple bracket feet, drawer fronts and (original-looking) brasses declared its circa 1735 origins (though the vendor labelled it circa 1710), however, the funny goings-on at the front edge of the top and what appear to be thicker-than-normal carcase sides prompted an eager double take.

Upon examining the quarter view, it’s apparent the top’s leading edge is somewhat warped, but there’s clearly a book stop there too. It’s also quite evident the chest’s front corners are separate from the carcase (figure 2).

Fig. 2. There’s some trickery going on here.

The third image divulges a few of the secrets within: The top drawer and front carcase corners (legs) withdraw to reveal a brushing/writing surface and the chest’s top hinges to provide a reading slope (figure 3).

Fig. 3. Multifunctional little chest.

The baize-covered surface can be used for writing on and to that end, there is provision for ink wells and pounce jars etc. in the right-hand side of the drawer (figure 4).

Fig. 4. As a writing table.

But it’s perfectly feasible the baize surface – as part and parcel of a dressing drawer – was doubly intended as a brushing surface viz. the baize surface is actually a slide that withdraws above various brush, sponge and powder compartments (figure 5).

Fig. 5. As a dressing table.

Another convenience of this lovely little chest is the pair of candle holders that swing out from the sides beneath the reading slope (figures 5 & 6).

Fig. 6. Candle holder in the open position.

The candle holders are only able to swing out when the reading slope is raised. Note the roughly triangular blocks (one of their edges is curved) attached to the underside of the reading slope (figure 7): When the top is lowered, these blocks capture the candle holders, securing them in the closed position.

Fig. 7. Lots of unexpected detail.

I ruminated for weeks when making my red walnut reading table before deciding on a sympathetic book stop for the bottom edge of the reading slope. In the end, I settled on a removable book stop that I could conveniently stow on the front of the table.
An alternative I considered at the time is one that’s employed in this reading slope: The book stop is set, flush, into the surface of the slope and is held, normally in the lowered position – by a pair of brass retainers – with the aid of a pair of springs screwed to the underside of the slope. When required, the stop is raised, against the pressure of the springs, and locked in the raised position (figures 7 & 8).

Fig. 8. A mahogany reading table with flush-mounted book stop, circa 1765.

The adjustable horse itself is a pretty-made thing; the crosspiece exhibiting Dutch influence (figure 7).

Altogether, a transcendent, paradoxically refined yet unsophisticated metamorphic chest of drawers.

Has anyone else noticed something a little peculiar about the chest?

Jack Plane

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Picture This CXL

Described by its vendor as ‘an early nineteenth-century solid oak Scottish desk with original finish’, this is one of the most horrendous carve-ups I have encountered to date.

Fig. 1. George II later-carved oak bureau, circa 1740.

Fig. 2. Noice!

Jack Plane

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Auction Result – Woolley and Wallis, 8th of January 2020

The Gibson chair (lot 65) mentioned in Woolley and Wallis’ recent auction in Salisbury, Wiltshire, realised GBP800 (AUD1,515; USD1,054).

Jack Plane

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A Gibson Chair

Woolley and Wallis are conducting their Furniture, Works of Art & Clocks auction in Salisbury, Wiltshire, tomorrow, Wednesday the 8th of January 2020.

Amongst the many interesting items for sale is lot 65, an Irish ash and sycamore Gibson chair with an estimate of GBP800 – GBP1,200 (AUD1,515 – AUD2,279; USD1,054 – USD1,580).

Mid-nineteenth-century Irish ash and sycamore Gibson chair. (Woolley and Wallis)

Jack Plane

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Happy New Year

It is estimated that more than 906,000 hectares (2,238,775 acres) of forest in the Amazon biome were burned in 2019.

By Christmas, the Australian bush fires razed over 3,000,000 hectares (7,413,161 acres) and in the past week, countless thousands more have gone up.

The fires have destroyed over 700 houses and killed ten people to date.


Thanks to all who emailed their concerns and well wishes. For the moment, I am safe and unlikely to need to evacuate.

Cheers to everyone who took the time to read my posts over the past year, and a special thank you to those who commented on them.

Wishing everyone happiness and prosperity in 2020.

Jack Plane

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Season’s Greetings

Whatever your persuasion and situation, I wish you all well during the festive season.

Thomas Rowlandson, The Glutton, circa 1812.

Jack Plane

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The Good Oil

A friend dropped in to see me this week with a horrific story of near disaster. She had been carrying out some maintenance around the home and had given her wooden veranda its annual oiling.

One morning, before the breeze got up, Helen went out and brushed a generous coat of decking oil onto the exposed boards of her stoep and followed up by wiping the surplus off with rags per the instructions on the tin. However, what she omitted to read were the safety instructions pertaining to the safe disposal of oily rags. She discarded the rags near the kitchen door.

Helen then made a sandwich for her lunch and took it to a room at the other end of the house. The breeze was blowing steadily by this stage and she began hearing odd noises from outside. Thinking the long-handled oil applicator had simply blown over, Helen continued with her lunch. Further unusual noises ensued so Helen decided to investigate and as she walked down the corridor towards the kitchen, there were several loud bangs.

Helen walked into the kitchen to see broken glass all over the floor, the fly wires melted and the curtains on fire! Then another glass door shattered.

The rags Helen had discarded in a pile on the stoep were saturated with linseed (or some other polymerising oil) and no doubt, fanned by the rising breeze, dried rapidly; causing an exothermic reaction to the point they ignited.

The burning rags further ignited the stoep, a coir doormat and several pairs of shoes and wellington boots, all of which produced sufficient heat to shatter the safety glass doors.

I’m quite sure everyone reading this is long-aware of the dangers of casting aside rags containing drying oils, however, let this serve as a reminder.

Oily rags should be disposed of safely, preferably by submersion in water, or by careful incineration.

Jack Plane

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Picture This CXXXIX

I previously mentioned Hepplewhite’s (circa 1787) design for full extension wooden drawer slides. Tomorrow, November the 13th, Christies are auctioning a circa 1765 dressing commode with full extension wooden drawer slides in their London rooms. The commode, lot 217, is attributed to the London cabinetmaker William Gomm and carries a pre-sale estimate of GBP 50,000 – GBP 80,000 (AUD 93,844 – AUD 150,150; USD 64,000 – USD 102,400).

George III mahogany serpentine dressing commode, circa 1765. (Christie’s)


Jack Plane

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Picture This CXXXVIII Redux

The Bristol blue-dash charger, lot 153 featured in Picture This CXXXVIII realised £2,200 (AUD $4.043, USD $2,745)) against a pre-auction estimate of £800 – £1200 (AUD $1,475 -$2,205, USD $998 – $1,497).

Lot 153. (Woolley and Wallis)

Jack Plane

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Now we are Ten

Ten years ago today – and feeling somewhat despondent – I began writing this blog. It has since elevated my spirits and the combination of making furniture and writing about it continues as one of my favourite pastimes.

Today I will be celebrating with a flagon of home brewed cider and a glass or two of Plane’s Milk of Amnesia.

Tomorrow is another day.


Jack Plane

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