A George III Mahogany Cabinet-on-Chest – Part Two

I started with the chest – a classic 5-6-7-8 chest (the drawer heights are 5″, 6″, 7″ and 8″) – but I prepared all the mahogany and pine for both the chest and the cabinet while I was at it. The top and sides of the chest are solid mahogany while the base is pine with a 5/16″ mahogany lipping glued to its front edge (fig. 1).

Fig. 1. The four chest panels consist of two boards each, rubbed together.

I cut the half-lapped dovetails and also the housings for the drawer dividers and dustboards. Drawer dividers by this date were normally 3/4″ thick and 2″ to 3″ deep. The dustboards varied between 1/4″ and 1/2″ thick – a significant saving on timber without sacrificing strength or the integrity of the carcase.

With some chests, the housings were cut a uniform 3/4″ wide for the full depth of the sides and thin dustboards were then secured in the housings with rows of packers hammered into the housings below the boards (sometimes glued, sometimes not). This practice was swift and cheap as the dustboards didn’t necessarily have to be planed to a consistent thickness – their undersides were often exceedingly roughly planed with a scrub plane – and the packers were a convenient way of using up off-cuts.

A more refined method of installing the dustboards was to plane them to a uniform thickness, matching them to the width of the trenches and then cut the front few inches of the housings somewhat wider to accommodate the thicker drawer dividers . The dividers were either housed in plain housings or they had dovetails cut in their bottom edges which engaged in commensurate dovetailed housings in the carcase sides. The quality of the original cabinet-on-chest would decree only quality cabinetwork throughout, so I matched the dustboards to 7/16″ housings and dovetailed the drawer rails into the carcase sides too (figs. 2, 3 & 4).

Fig. 2. The bare carcase assembled.

Fig. 3. Narrow dustboard housings with wider, dovetailed drawer divider housings.

Fig. 4. Mahogany-lipped drawer divider dovetailed into carcase.

I glued lengths of mahogany onto some pine backing and cut the moulding for the base of the chest. The moulding was glued in place and the bracket feet were cut out, mitred and glued to the base moulding. Small glue blocks were rubbed in behind the feet and pine corner blocks (diagonally-split with a hatchet) were glued into the internal corners of the feet. The bracket feet are essentially decorative; the corner blocks extend 1/8″ beyond the brackets and will bear the entire weight of the chest and cabinet (fig. 5).

Fig. 5. The base moulding and bracket feet glued in place.

The rear feet are half-lapped over triangular pine brackets which are glued and nailed together with wrought nails (fig. 6).

Fig. 6. Rear foot arrangement.

Fig. 7. Base moulding and bracket foot.

I formed the top moulding and glued it around the top of the chest (fig. 8).

Fig. 8. Top moulding.

Fig. 9. The bare chest carcase ready for drawers and back boards.

Jack Plane

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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3 Responses to A George III Mahogany Cabinet-on-Chest – Part Two

  1. George Walker says:

    Very nice. Thanks for including the detail on the dustboards and suggesting some of the different options that were employed. I take it since you already secured the bracket feet that they will not have contours (cymas) worked into the outside surfaces?

    George Walker


    • Jack Plane says:

      George, since the original chest didn’t have ogee feet, this copy won’t either.

      I have in my files, a very smart mahogany chest with ogee feet which I would like to copy some day, but it will mean jettisoning some existing furniture to make room for it and I’m not entirely easy with that at present.



  2. Pingback: A George II Virginia Walnut Chest of Drawers – Part Two | Pegs and 'Tails

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