A William III Ash Chest-on-Stand – Part One

I am taking a sabbatical to recharge my batteries and to make a copy of an adorably quirky, yet hallowed William III ash chest-on-stand (fig. 1) before attending to the final two chests for the book.

William_III_ash_COS_c1700_01bFig. 1. William III ash chest-on-stand, circa 1700. (Robert Young)

Case furniture made from ash is relatively scarce, and when it does crop up, it is more commonly seen in the great flatsawn feathery cathedrals and topographic maps that ash is so widely regarded for (fig. 2).

Geo_II_ash_COD_c1750_01cFig. 2. Wildly figured ash-veneered carcase. (James Graham-Stewart)

The maker of the chest-on-stand did use some flatsawn veneer on the drawer fronts, but it is the dominant use of boldly stripped quartersawn veneer for the crossbanding that is so uncharacteristic and striking.

The width of the abnormally wide crossbanding curiously varies from drawer to drawer and the featherbanding too, is somewhat wider than the norm. The drawers themselves do not adhere to the prevailing convention of graduating in height; they do differ in height, but as with some earlier chests, are not in sequence (fig. 3).

Charles_II_oak_moulded_COD_c1680_01a_William_JamesFig. 3. Charles II oak chest with drawers of randomly varying heights, circa 1680. (William James)

The brasses on the chest-on-stand are replacements, but stylistically, are not incongruous. A decision will be made on brasses nearer completion.

I will post regular updates as work on the ash chest-on-stand progresses.

Jack Plane

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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 Case Furniture, Furniture Making, Furniture Timbers and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to A William III Ash Chest-on-Stand – Part One

  1. diceloader says:

    Interesting piece.
    How high does it stand?
    Will you bookmatch the veneers on the front or leave the more random pattern?

    Like

  2. Warwick says:

    I love the chest in figure number 2. Do you have any photos of the front? I find ash attractive, in spite of its smell when working it, and I am currently making a chest of drawers out of ash.
    Cheers

    Like

  3. Tim Caveny says:

    I like the smell of ash. Sometimes the grain can be a little frustrating, especially when making mouldings, but I’ve always enjoyed the smell.
    T C

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  4. hughjengine says:

    Very nice – well worthy of a sabbatical!

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  5. Tim Raleigh says:

    Why was ash so rarely used, lack of availability or fashion?
    I like working with Ash, it takes stain easily and it seems a worthy hardwood for furniture making.
    The emerald ash borer (EAB) beetle has decimated the trees in this part (southern Ontario) of the world.

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    • Jack Plane says:

      I have no idea why ash was so infrequently used; it certainly wasn’t for lack of beauty. There may have been some stigma or superstition attached to ash and its use, but I haven’t researched it.

      JP

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      • Paul Murphy says:

        Sorry to be posting this a wee bit late; such is life. One does see ash used on Louis XIV type furniture often. I know you recently blogged about the Huguenot migration to England. I’ll be interested to learn what you discover, and if the aforementioned migration may have had a role to play.

        Like

    • Warwick says:

      I have had serious problems with shrinking and warping with ash, but have since identified that the timber I puchased from our local merchant was too high in moisture under the surface of the boards; whereas I have not had moisture problems or greater than expected movement with oak or any other of our furniture timber woods. Also ash is very borer beetle prone, so perhaps more furniture was made, but hasn’t survived so well.

      Interestingly, I have read that the Ash tree was very highly regarded in old Norse cultures, and Yggdrasil (the mighty tree that held up the heavens) was an ash tree. I do not know if their fondness for the tree translated to a fondness for the wood.
      WB

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      • Jack Plane says:

        Beech, elm, sycamore and other popular timbers are highly susceptible to woodworm, yet much survives as furniture. I doubt if that alone would be reason enough for ash’s scarcity in furniture.

        JP

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  6. P Hardesty says:

    Perhaps the scarcity of ash furniture can be explained by this old poem:

    Beech wood fires are bright and clear,
    If the logs are kept a year.
    Chestnut’s only good, they say,
    If for long it’s laid away.
    Birch and fir logs burn too fast,
    Blaze up bright and do not last.
    Elm wood burns like a churchyard mold,
    Even the very flames are cold.
    Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
    Fills your eyes and makes you choke.
    Apple wood will scent your room
    With an incense like perfume.
    Oak and maple, if dry and old,
    Keep away the winter cold.
    But ash wood wet and ash wood dry,
    A king shall warm his slippers by.

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  7. Pingback: A William III Ash Chest-on-Stand – Part Two | Pegs and 'Tails

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