Picture This CVI

When preparing another post recently, I noticed something a little peculiar about this rather glorious chest of drawers (fig. 1). Study figures 1, 2 & 3 for the foible before scrolling down to figure 4.

Fig. 1. “George II mahogany serpentine commode with fine original rococo handles, circa 1755”. (James Graham-Stewart)

Fig. 2. Rococo escutcheon. (James Graham-Stewart)

Fig. 3. Lovely rococo handle. (James Graham-Stewart).

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Fig. 4. That’s better! (James Graham-Stewart)

The top of the escutcheons are too tall for the offset of the chosen locks’ drill pins, necessitating them being rotated 180° in order to clear the cockbeading.

Jack Plane

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Patches II

Having read the earlier post Patches, Pablo Bronstein sent me a few pictures of a walnut escritoire in his possession with an unusual patch in its lower left side (figs. 1 & 2).

Fig. 1. Inlaid quadrant ebony stringing. (Pablo Bronstein)

Fig. 2. Measure twice, inlay once. (Pablo Bronstein)

I assume the inlay was added post 21st October 1805.

Jack Plane

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A George II Walnut Serpentine Chest – Part Six

Eighteenth-century bow and serpentine drawer fronts were constructed in one of two ways: The most basic method was to simply saw the sweeping shape out of the solid (fig. 1). The other technique (to minimise distortion and ultimately, poor fit) was to laminate the drawer fronts using either short blocks of wood (akin to brickwork), or with continuous lengths of wood.

Fig. 1. Solid oak serpentine drawer front, circa 1770.

Not having many details of this chest, I based the drawers on a similar, mahogany chest and sawed a series of shaped lengths of pine (fig. 2) which were then glued-up into the respective drawer fronts (fig. 3).

Fig. 2. Partially shaped drawer front laminations.

Fig. 3. Glued-up drawer fronts.

Once the drawer front interiors were faired, I used the flat outer face of each drawer front as a register from which the dovetails were laid out. That done, the dovetails were cut and the drawer fronts’ outer faces were then sawn to shape. The drawer linings were prepared, the dovetails all cut and the drawer shells assembled.

The main veneers were glued to the drawer fronts (fig. 4) and trimmed, after which the feather- and cross-banding were added to the peripheries (fig. 5).

Fig. 4. Book-matched veneers glued onto drawer front.

Fig. 5. Top edge of veneered and banded drawer front.

The drawer edges were cleaned up and the partially finished cockbeads were glued in place (fig. 6).

Fig. 6. Rough-sawn interior edge of cockbead.

When dry, the cockbeads were also cleaned up (fig. 7)

Fig. 7. Finished drawer front interior.

The drawer bottoms comprise a couple of boards, rubbed together and cleaned up, with their front edges sawn to fit the grooves in the drawer fronts. The bottoms were nailed into rebates planed in the drawer sides’ lower edges (fig. 8).

Fig. 8. A few nails secure the drawer bottoms to the sides.

The drawer runners were prepared and rubbed into the angles created by the drawer bottoms and side rebates. Once dry, the runners were carefully planed down to provide sufficient clearance for the drawers to glide freely and smoothly within the carcase (fig. 9).

Fig. 9. Runner rubbed in place and cleaned up.

The dressing slide consists of a free-floating pine panel retained within a simple walnut framework. The slide is also cock-beaded in a similar fashion to the drawer fronts.

A pair of drawer stops was rubbed onto each drawer divider (fig. 10).

Fig. 10. Simple pine drawer stop.

The slide however, requires two pairs of stops; one pair (screwed to the rear of the carcase sides) prevents the slide disappearing inside the carcase and a second pair (screwed to the rear of the slide) stops it being completely withdrawn.

Fig. 11. The serpentine chest in-the-white.

The hours involved in the work in this post come to 89-3/4.
The total hours involved to-date come to 250-1/2.

Jack Plane

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Picture This CV

… where decay and fashion collide.

Joyner-made late seventeenth-century chests of drawers employed pegged, frame-and-panel construction methods adapted from coetaneous building technology. The four stiles extend beneath the base moulding, raising the carcase clear of uneven, damp floors (fig. 1).

Fig. 1. Oak geometric chest, circa 1680. (David Neligan)

The bottoms of the stiles however, often succumbed to rising damp and wet mopping resulting in decay with reduction in height, or total loss of the feet.

I have restored dozens of early stile-feet over the years: It’s not difficult grafting on some timber and colouring it to make a seamless repair although the niceties of the task escaped the person responsible for the huge replacement feet in figure 2.

Fig. 2. Nice chest – shame about the feet. (Horn Antiques)

At such times, these early chests were frequently modernised by the addition of bun feet (fig. 3).

Fig. 3. Circa 1680 oak geometric chest with later bun feet. (Lucy Johnson)

As trends evolved, bracket feet were also added to early chests in the name of fashion (fig. 4)…

Fig. 4. Implausible bracket feet. (LVS Decorative Arts)

… though in the case of this oak chest, the feet’s dark stained wood and what appears to be PVA adhesive point to recent conversion (fig. 5).

Fig. 5. Modern handiwork. (LVS Decorative Arts)

Jack Plane

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A George II Walnut Serpentine Chest – Part Five

I prepared the triangular packers for the recesses in the canted corners and sawed the frets out of pre-sized 1/8″ (3.2mm) thick veneer (fig. 1).

giiwsc_37bFig. 1. Walnut packers and frets.

Once the corner packers were glued in place, I moistened their faces and the sized faces of the frets and then pressed them in place (fig. 2).

giiwsc_38bFig. 2. Blind fretted canted corner.

The hours involved in the work in this post come to 16-1/2.
The total hours involved to-date come to 160-3/4.

Jack Plane

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One Million

I began this blog on the 14th of September 2009 primarily to keep my far-flung family apprised of my activities. The power of Google slowly started directing strangers to my blog from all corners of the globe and then one day, an email notified me that someone in distant England had commented on one of my posts. Visitor hits grew steadily and readers started signing up to follow my blog!

At the outset, I had no idea whether I could sustain the intended weekly posts, nor did I have any expectations of reaching an astronomic number of visitor hits. When I logged in this morning, my visitor counter had clicked just over one million hits which gave me cause to reflect on the past seven and a half years of blogging.

I don’t always succeed, but I attempt to keep my writing succinct and to the point. For instance, to a recent reader’s comment, I replied, “I keep fingers in several pies and consider myself more of a resourceful problem-solver than cabinetmaker and much of the time, I’m more enthused by the destination than the journey.”

I could have added: ‘My memory is in such a state of deterioration that now, after a period of only a few weeks, I usually forget the entire cabinetmaking process and when I sight one of my items of furniture, I merely recall the original antique (that inspired it). Thus I have the opulence of walking round the place under the delusion that I have acquired all this heart-fluttering seventeenth- and eighteenth-century furniture.’

Even though I’m a little embarrassed by them, I do appreciate readers’ commendations; however I can take little credit for any apparent capabilities. Unlike a doctor or lawyer, I have not applied myself to lengthy academia on the subject – I simply inherited ‘good hands’. My father has hands like feet (sorry!), but my mother was exceptionally talented in many disciplines. Her father was also highly gifted and her grandfather was invited to exhibit at the RHA on three separate occasions.

I am grateful to those readers who raise their heads above the parapet to comment on my posts. Though I seldom publish them, I also get many a laugh from trolls’ contributions (particularly when irony eludes them).

The furniture itself continues to mellow through daily use and biannual waxing. Accommodating all the (predominantly case) furniture is an ongoing headache. The four chests I made for the ill-fated book though lovely, cause me great consternation (I will likely abnegate a few of them, so if you are at all interested in owning one of the chests, feel free to email me).

In conclusion, I enjoy writing the blog. It has renewed old friendships, acquainted me with new friends and the furniture making has helped keep me active.

Two million hits? I doubt it. And to be prepared, I’m making a start on my coffin once the serpentine chest is finished.

Jack Plane

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Picture This CIV

A simple, stylish eighteenth-century comb-back Windsor chair comprising a D-shaped seat, one-piece bent arm, blade arm posts, plain crest rail and Goldsmith-esque legs with H-pattern stretchers. The seat, arm and crest rail appear to be sycamore and the remainder is ash (fig. 1).

geo_iii_ash__elm_comb_back_windsor_c1760_03bFig. 1. An elegantly proportioned rustic Windsor chair. (Yew Tree House)

Though now of a lovely melichrous colour, this forest chair still bears traces of its original cool green paint (fig. 2).

geo_iii_ash__elm_comb_back_windsor_c1760_03hFig. 2. Remnants of green paint. (Yew Tree House)

Jack Plane

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A George II Walnut Serpentine Chest – Part Four

I don’t have any images of the rear of the original walnut chest; however, roughly thirty years ago I restored a mid-eighteenth-century chest of remarkably similar quality and construction (though of mahogany) which had an oddly asymmetrical three-panel pine back. I prepared the frame stuff and plainly fielded panels (fig. 1) and assembled the back.

giiwsc_24a_Fig. 1. Pine framework and fielded backboards.

I sawed a walnut flitch into 3/32″ thick veneer whereupon each leaf revealed a recurring dead knot which hadn’t previously been apparent. Not to worry, the veneer was, on the whole, fine for the job.

The carcase sides were toothed and the veneer was sized prior to laying it down (fig. 2).

giiwsc_25a_Fig. 2. Ready for laying the veneer.

The main veneers were trimmed and then the crossbanding was rubbed in place (fig. 3).

giiwsc_27_Fig. 3. Crossbanding awaiting trimming.

Prior to the Victorians and their cumulus-shaped veneer punches, patches in veneer were more often than not quadrilateral with little concern given to blending them into the surrounding figure or grain. I cut four small lozenges from scrap veneer and patched the dead knots (fig. 4).

giiwsc_28a_Fig. 4. Tactfully censored hole.

With the sides veneered and banded, I attached the side base mouldings (fig. 5).

giiwsc_29a_Fig. 5. Base moulding glued and nailed in place (carcase upside down).

For the ogee feet, blocks of walnut were glued (cross-grained) onto a pine board which were then planed and scraped to shape (fig. 6).

giiwsc_30a_Fig. 6. Shaping the stock for the ogee feet.

I took my cue for the rear brackets from the same mahogany chest that the backboards were copied from and sawed them out of pine. The individual laminated walnut brackets were sawn to shape and rubbed onto the base of the carcase (fig. 7). Split corner blocks and glue blocks were added for support.

giiwsc_31a_Fig. 7. Pine and walnut/pine rear foot.

With the chest shod, I righted it and began veneering the top. As per the carcase sides, the quartered main veneers were trimmed and then bounded by narrow featherbanding and broad crossbanding (fig. 8).

giiwsc_32a_Fig. 8. Rubbing the banding in place.

When dry, all edges were trimmed (figs. 9 & 10) and the whole given a quick wipe down with hot water.

giiwsc_33a_Fig. 9. The major carcase veneering complete.

giiwsc_35a_Fig. 10. Veneered and banded top.

giiwsc_36a_Fig. 11. Front bracket feet.

The hours involved in the work in this post come to 61.
The total hours involved to-date come to 144-1/4.

Jack Plane

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Picture This CIII

Like the George III mahogany serpentine chest of drawers in Cross-Grained Mouldings, this unusual little mahogany chest-on-chest from the third quarter of the eighteenth-century displays an out-of-period cross-grained moulding (figs. 1 & 2) – one of the latest examples of cross-grained moulding I have encountered.

geo_iii_mahogany_coc_c1760_05aFig. 1. Standing, with its cross-grained cornice, a mere 4′ 2″ tall. (Windsor House Antiques)

The separation and base mouldings are of long-grain construction.

geo_iii_mahogany_coc_c1760_05bFig. 2. Mixed mouldings. (Windsor House Antiques)

I am intrigued by what its original feet – or base – might have looked like.

Jack Plane

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Cursed!

Seventeenth-century Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog landed on the west coast of Australia on the 25th of October 1616 (only the second European to do so).

Having tarried merely three days on the continent, he set sail again, writing in his ship’s log, “This land is curſed, the animals hop not run the birds run not fly and the ſwans are black not white. This land is curſed and I’ll have naught more to do with it.”

Had he remained for three months, Hartog would, no doubt, have also made mention of Australia’s insufferable heat.

Jack Plane

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