My current workshop is a 3m x 3m (10′ x 10′) garden shed, in which reside a bench, lathe, bandsaw, pillar drill and much of the usual woodworking paraphernalia. This results in very little actual space for constructing unfeasibly large pieces of furniture like two-tier corner cabinets. Most of the construction goes on out in the yard, on a couple of trestles, which in turn, means I am totally reliant upon the benevolence of the weather to make any progress. Actually, it’s not all down to the weather; I’m still awaiting a few items of hardware to arrive from the UK which presumably have been delayed by the temperamental eruptions of that ash-hole in Iceland.
What I’m saying is I haven’t progressed much at all with the corner cabinet in recent days, but in order to keep the boat afloat, I thought I’d address a couple of topics that were raised by a few enquiring minds.
Single, wide, pull-out slides
One reader emailed me, raising the question of the authenticity of a single, wide pull-out slide and asked what the basis for its inclusion in my cabinet was drawn from. As I outlined in Making a ‘Mulberry’ Corner Cabinet – Part One, this cabinet was educed partially from sketches and photos of a particularly nice walnut hanging corner cabinet I restored, but primarily from a two-tier floor-standing example I closely examined at an auction in England some years ago. That cabinet had a single, wide slide, but unfortunately, I don’t have any supportive pictures of it.
Many unusual or regional features become lost or forgotten as antiques dealers stock the more widely accepted pieces and also partially because pictures of popular or more fashionable features are portrayed in glossy magazines and the pages of some reference and coffee table books. I’ve always had a soft spot for British vernacular furniture and in particular, that which exhibits somewhat peculiar features. I’m not talking about isolated idiosyncrasies, but atypical elements that do however crop up from time to time. Single, wide slides fall into this category, but pictures of them are rare.
I did find a picture of a single, wide candle slide in a walnut secretaire cabinet, circa 1725, purportedly made by William Old & John Ody who occupied premises at ‘The Castle in St. Paul’s Church Yard, over against the South Gate of ye Church’. Other items of furniture bearing their trade labels have been identified, including a similar cabinet with the same single, wide slide in Christopher Gilbert’s Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840. Perhaps the corner cabinet I bid unsuccessfully on was also by William Old & John Ody. I’ll probably never know.
Pre-veneered door frame stuff
Another reader wasn’t happy with Making a ‘Mulberry’ Corner Cabinet – Part Six and asked what I was doing pre-veneering the door frame stuff, asserting this method wouldn’t have been practiced in the eighteenth-century!
It makes sense to prepare the stuff for mouldings and door frames etc. in manageable lengths and then cut it to finished lengths; uniformity and continuity are obvious benefits. One example is the cornice moulding of this cabinet which was made up in a single length, sufficient for the entire cornice. The front section of cornice was cut from the centre of the stick of moulding and then the side sections were cut from the two remaining ends of the moulding. This practice ensures continuity across the mitres at the intersections of the front with the sides of the upper cabinet.
Similarly, each door consists of two short and two long sections of cross-veneered ash stock. It is easier to veneer the entire door frame stock and clean it all up in manageable lengths than to make the frames up first and then wrestle them around the bench while trying to veneer them.
I know I’m reasonably smart (I’m allowed to cross the road by myself now), but cabinetmakers of the eighteenth-century were downright ingenious, to a man, and they wouldn’t miss an opportunity to make their lives easier or a task simpler. I’m convinced they pre-veneered, on occasions, some door stuff, but finding supportive pictures was, again, difficult.
The picture below is of the radiused corner of a walnut bookcase door, circa 1710. The radiused section of moulding is glued to a small block of wood which effectively packs out the otherwise square corner of the door frame. These corner blocks are common to both pre- and post-veneered door frames. With this example though, it’s quite apparent the door frame stuff was pre-veneered as can be witnessed by the constant width of the (albeit, now split) cross-veneer on the top rail running through to the mitred corner.
Only the cross-veneer at the top of the left stile extends over the corner block and must therefore have been applied after the door frame was assembled.
I’ll also take this opportunity to pre-empt further reader disdain at my next ‘faux pas’. Naturally, the bolts for the upper and lower left-hand doors will be of the surface-mounted variety (as opposed to the later Georgian type that are installed in the leading edges of the door frames). I’m predicting some readers will be disappointed to see similar length bolts throughout and not extra long bolts at the top of the upper door and at the bottom of the lower door. All long bolts or a combination of short and long bolts are perfectly acceptable.
Long bolts at the doors’ extremities would have made an appreciable difference to women wearing tightly laced and boned corsetry or anyone with rotator cuff issues who are often seen adopting that uniquely Egyptian-looking one-hand-lifting-the-other-hand pose when attempting to reach above their head.
Having unbolted the doors, one still had to reach up (or down) to retrieve what one was after, so all said and done, long bolts weren’t such a convenience.