A Fiddleback Maple Display Cabinet

A very odd looking lighthouse-shaped fiddleback maple display cabinet came up for auction at Christies in Melbourne some years ago (although curiously, they catalogued it as walnut).

One of Melbourne’s more flamboyant and well known antique jewellers was a frequent customer of mine and on my recommendation, he bought the cabinet. It wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but, “When in Rome…”

I haven’t a clue what the intended purpose of this cabinet was originally because underneath it had three promethean castors which would indicate it sat on the floor, but it was really too low to have been of any use for displaying very much at that height.

My brief was to sympathetically raise the cabinet to a practical height, making it convenient for displaying antique jewellery in the jeweller’s shop.

The customer and I had agreed that borrowing gun barrel legs, a wavy stretcher and bun feet from earlier periods would improve the cabinet’s appearance while pre-dating its actual vintage – all bonuses to our combined thinking.

A quantity of fiddleback maple veneer was procured, but exhaustive phone calls couldn’t unearth any large enough pieces of solid fiddleback maple for the legs. I did however manage to locate some plain maple which was something, but meant I would have to resort to some trickery to match the legs and bun feet to the remainder of the cabinet.

I upturned the cabinet, removed the old castors and glued some pine blocks in place to accept the spigots on the gun barrel legs I had turned. While it was upside down, I also added a cockbead to the bottom perimeter of the cabinet to finish the raw edge.

The new legs and moulding attached.

The wavy stretcher was made from sections of pine, half-lapped at each node. Holes were bored through the half-lap joints to accept the leg spigots. The upper surface and edges were veneered in fiddleback maple.

The edge veneer being glued in place.

The stretcher and legs were given some preliminary colour before being assembled.

A light application of Antique Maple Lighthouse stain…

… followed by polishing…

… and a good waxing.

Just visible in the centre of the cabinet floor is a socket which received a spigot on a turned central column. The column supported two hexagonal glass shelves, coincidental with the horizontal glazing bars. The shelves were virtually invisible and suspended the jewellery quite magically.

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About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
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