Bracket feet are those feet which are separately applied to case furniture and include flat, ogee and serpentine feet, but not (normally) splayed feet.
Bracket feet were normally glued beneath the base moulding/packers of chests, cupboards, desks and presses etc. and comprise the shaped brackets, corner blocks and supportive glue blocks.
The principal purpose of the corner block was to bear the weight of the furniture. Its secondary role was to support and protect the largely ornamental brackets. In truth though, the two elements are integral and essential to one another’s existence.
The typical arrangement employed a single, large, diagonally split (fig. 4) or chamfered (fig. 5) corner block, though square blocks were often used – the fourth, protruding corner appearing somewhat conflicting and incongruous when viewed normally (fig. 6).
A wide, diagonally split block is less obtrusive while still providing the greatest support for the brackets with the least likelihood of glue joint failure due to cross-grain movement.
Corner blocks typically protruded 1/8″ to 1/4″ below the brackets to elevate the brackets above the floor, protecting them from rising damp, wet-mopping and damage resulting from being dragged.
A rarer method of blocking bracket feet (though strangely favoured by Chippendale ) involved triangular pieces of pine boards, stacked horizontally – and with the grain direction alternating – which were then glued into the corners of the brackets (fig. 8).
The extra work this blocking incurred cost significantly more than simply rubbing in vertical corner blocks and was charged for accordingly: Blocking the brackets with inch ſtuff, croſs’d . . . £0. 0s. 6d. For something, the intent of which the customer would probably be ignorant of and would likely never set eyes on, the additional cost may partly answer for the relative scarcity of extant horizontally blocked bracket feet.
Another possible explanation for the infrequent occurrence of horizontally blocked brackets may be due to their comparative inefficacy: Horizontally blocked brackets appear (at least on the face of it) to create a more substantial and cohesive foot. However, horizontally oriented wood does not resist wear nearly as well as end grain and it is not uncommon to encounter such chests on which one or more feet are missing the bottom, protruding stratum of pine (either having worn away or split off) with the result the chest rocks or lists. The horizontal blocking in figure 8 has been eroded to the point the brackets themselves are worn. Indeed, a small section of the bottom stratum of the block has split off taking part of the adjacent bracket with it.
Rear bracket foot arrangement
The rear foot differs by the rear side bracket having a rebate in its back edge, into which is glued and nailed a plainly shaped pine bracket or brace (figs. 9 & 10).