A George II Virginia Walnut Chest of Drawers – Part One

I have been contemplating a mid-eighteenth-century Virginia Walnut chest for some time, but until lately I didn’t have any specifics to hand. I could have drawn on several decades of experience and constructed a chest in the style of, but I much prefer making faithful copies – insofar as I’m capable of – either from extant examples (I have dimensions and dozens of patterns taken from original pieces of furniture) or from photos and descriptions from reliable sources.

Recently however, I located a picture of a quality example …

Fig. 1. George II Virginia Walnut chest of drawers, circa 1755. (Christie’s)

With the introduction of the Naval Stores Act in 1721, reduced tariffs saw Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) arrive into Britain from Virginia in great quantities, but Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole abolished all taxation of imported timber in 1733 which act heralded the beginning of the age of mahogany. The use of walnut for such a modish chest at this date is therefore comparatively rare; however, with its Chippendale bracket feet and mouldings, the chest is very much in the ‘mahogany’ style.

One issue I have with this particular chest is the handles which, although of a commensurate age, are of later implementation. I enlarged the image and discernible scars on the drawer fronts tell of earlier circular backplates.

Fig. 2. Replaced drawer handle.

Fig. 3. Compare the green circles with the ring marks in fig. 2.

I’ll make a punctilious decision when the time comes and select appropriate handles.

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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7 Responses to A George II Virginia Walnut Chest of Drawers – Part One

  1. Joe M. says:

    This chest looks like it would “fit-in” well with the other pieces you have posted. I do not know what other chests you were looking at but this is very nice. Do you make/draw plans from the original or project from the Photos? Do you ever make them availible to others? (hint: Me)
    Looking forward to your posts and the progress on this chest.


    • Joe M. says:

      I re-read your post and see you do both methods of planing out your project. Sorry…. But How are you developing the plans forthis piece? Do you have access to the chest or just the photo?


    • Jack Plane says:

      I don’t draw plans per se, but when I was working, I used to take photos of interesting pieces and hurriedly jot down the major dimensions and details of mouldings etc.

      The majority of the furniture I’ve made and featured on this blog has been built from the relevant accompanying images. I conjure up each piece in my mind and get stuck into it – a bit like a charging bull at a gate, some might say. Making full working drawings would probably be a more sensible approach, but I’m too impatient.

      When I eventually run out of steam, I intend to release some, if not all the pieces of furniture as working drawings.



      • Joe M. says:

        I try to draw plans but usually do so much “adjusting” that the plans turn into sketches and then the scetches turn into what resembles the “scratchings of a mad man” After the piece is done it takes hours to try to remember what I did. Especially when finishing. I alter things as I go depending on how the grain/color/sheen reacts. I just hope I can repeat it if I had to. I start to write things down but the become so focused on the work I don’t follow through. I even purchased some acid free bound sketch books to write everthing down, but as of yet they are blank…….Someday.
        I I look forward the posts of the progress….as usual.


        • Jack Plane says:

          I retain the basic dimensions of the furniture for future use, but I always throw out any left over stain and I purposely don’t keep records of the finish used. I don’t want any two pieces looking the same or it could all appear a little too contrived.


          Liked by 1 person

  2. John M. says:

    Excellent! I am looking forward to seeing this unfold, and will pay particular attention to your processes re: molding, profiling and beading.


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