A Life on the Ocean Wave

Further to A Maritime Bureau?, Additional Examples of Maritime Case Furniture and A Third Sea Voyage, I recently came across this rather shallow, but otherwise full-size mahogany split chest of drawers.


Fig. 1.  Mahogany split chest, circa 1765. (Debenham Antiques)

The chest being split, in combination with its shallow depth (fig. 2), would suggest it was made for use on board ship.


Fig. 2. Side of chest showing shallow depth and split. (Debenham Antiques)

Further to the comments and discussion on how furniture (or any item) was restrained aboard ship, An Universal Dictionary of the Marine cites:

CHOCK, a ſort of wedge uſed to confine a caſk or other weighty body, in a certain place, and to prevent it from fetching way when the ſhip is in motion, &c.

LASHING, a piece of rope employed to faſten or ſecure any moveable body in a ſhip, or about her maſts, fails, and rigging: alſo the act of faſtening or ſecuring any thing by means of the rope uſed for this purpoſe. [i]

Jack Plane

[i] An Universal Dictionary of the Marine: Or, A Copious Explanation of the Technical Terms and Phrases Employed in the Construction, Equipment, Furniture, Machinery, Movements, and Military Operations of a Ship. William Falconer, Printed for T. Cadell, London, 1769.

About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
This entry was posted in Maritime Furniture and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to A Life on the Ocean Wave

  1. Brian Smith says:

    Because I’m still a novice student of such things, I must ask – why does the split in the side appear just below the middle of a drawer, rather than at the bottom or top of a drawer? How does this actually work? Are the bottom two drawers not a unit? If not, how does it go together?
    Thanks and regards,
    Brian Smith


    • Jack Plane says:

      Split carcases are normally divided mid-drawer to retain strength. If the carcase were divided at the top or bottom of a drawer, then the dustboards’ joints would likely be compromised and the carcase would be weakened.

      The two halves of split carcases are kept in alignment by loose tenons in the carcase sides which, if not located mid-drawer, would interfere with the dustboards and their housings.

      I will write a post about split carcases in the next week which should shed further light on the subject.



      • Brian Smith says:

        Many thanks – I never fail to learn something when I read your posts. Please keep up, and best of luck in your new digs…


  2. Sylvain says:

    If one can easily lift the upper part, the slot of the middle drawer looses its effectiviveness.


  3. Robert says:

    Do you think the drawer pulls are replacements? The picture seems to show patches where a previous knob or pull existed.


    • Jack Plane says:

      The back plates aren’t all identical though I suspect the handles are intrinsically original. I can see a couple of shadows on the drawer fronts which may simply indicate the pommels and handles were more accurately located when the replacement backplates/pommels were installed.

      The handles are at least commensurable.



  4. Jim Pallas says:

    The bracket feet seem to be tall I proportion to the piece along with the bottom molding somewhat sparse. Is there anything significant about that and being a shipboard piece?
    Did they leave your hands behind to operate the keyboard when you were dragged out kicking or is the move made?


    • Jack Plane says:

      The feet aren’t overly tall for an English chest. From the front, the proportions of maritime pieces usually mirror those of terrestrial furniture; it’s only when viewed from the side that shallow maritime cases can look disproportionate.

      The base moulding too is typical for the period.

      My hands (along with the rest of me) will be here until the beginning of November, so you can expect drivel of some sort from me for a few weeks yet – just no furniture making.



  5. Pingback: Picture This XIX | Pegs and 'Tails

  6. hughjengine says:

    I wonder if they look more in proportion when sighted in the narrow confines of a regulation ship of the line cabin?


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