Picture This C

“All craftsmen make blunders, but what separates the truly great ones is the ability to redress their mistakes.”

Regular reader, Burbidge, emailed me about an aspect of the mahogany linen press in figure 1. It conforms closely to the drawing in Thomas Chippendale’s Cabinet Maker’s Director and was almost certainly made by him: The bracket feet are horizontally blocked; a largely uncommon method favoured though, by Chippendale. The drawers and press doors have S-shaped escutcheons and commensurate steel locks – another feature almost exclusive to Chippendale’s workshop. The deal surfaces have all been treated to a red wash, once again, typical of Chippendale’s work.

ANTIQUESFig. 1. Mahogany linen press, circa 1770. (Summers Davis Antiques)

As one would expect with casework of this pedigree, the backs are panelled rather than simply boarded over. Each back comprises floating panels within a mortised and tenoned frame (figs. 2 & 3).

ANTIQUESFig. 2. Washed-over deal panelled backs. (Summers Davis Antiques)

If one examines the panelled backs, it will be seen that the central muntins of the two backs are out of alignment. So what’s going on?

geo_iii_chippendale_mahogany_linen_press_ca1770_01e1Fig. 3. Misaligned muntins. (Summers Davis Antiques)

Someone made a significant cock-up; that’s what’s going on! Both panelled backs were inadvertently made the same width (the correct width for the rebates in the lower carcase).

In ameliorating the overwidth upper panel, rather than remaking the whole back (or at a minimum, planing both stiles equally), the left stile, alone, was planed away until the frame fitted into the rebates in the upper carcase – not a craftsman’s solution where I come from!

Jack Plane


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 Antiques, Picture This and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Picture This C

  1. potomacker says:

    A master craftsman knows how to repair his own mistakes.


  2. Ged says:

    Jack, if what you suggest is true then surely all panels would be the same width, The left-hand lower panel is clearly wider than the one above it, my belief is that the lower muntin is off centre. On the other hand the right-hand panel would appear to be the same with as the one above it and this I believe is the setting out error that was made.


  3. ged gardiner says:

    Jack, I have to disagree with you here. The left hand lower panel is wider than the one above whereas the right hand lower panel is the same width as the one above it. Either a setting-out error was made or one of the upper panels was made too short and incorporated into the lower back. I find a “Venetian Red” wash fairly commonplace on the deal backs of furniture of this age, easily made with a dash of the relevant pigment into “size” (weak glue)


    • Jack Plane says:

      It’s not the panel widths that are the issue, rather the width of the upper stiles are different. I measure the left upper stile at 63px wide and the right upper stile at 71px wide.



  4. Kees says:

    Are you sure? Left and right styles look exactly the same.


  5. Simon Clarke says:

    I would have felt compelled to plane both sides . No really OCD but knowing it wasn’t right would have bugged me. I would then have excused their smaller widths with it being more in proportion to the top.


  6. Eric Rusch says:

    Very good observance.
    The case is beautiful however.
    I wonder if that was the last day for the blunderer at that job?


    • Jack Plane says:

      Indeed. I find the faux pas of the back panel totally at odds with the unusual attention lavished on the rear brackets. Normally – even on the finest cabinets – the rarely seen rear brackets are simple, roughly triangular, supports whereas, the rear brackets on this cabinet are attractively shaped.



  7. Joe says:

    Many years ago I had an opportunity to work for about 6 weeks in Rome (tough life for a single man at the time). I spend a fair bit of time in the Vatican looking at things. I found a spot on the floors where the stones were out of alignment. Of course, I took a photo. About 10 years afterwards, I was going through old photos and for the life of me couldn’t figure out what in the world that photo was or why I took it. Then, I remembered and it brought a smile on my face.


  8. Pingback: sentimental about wood Picture This C — Pegs and 'Tails - sentimental about wood

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