A George II Walnut Serpentine Chest – Part Two

I don’t have historic patterns for this precise chest of drawers, so the first few hours of the job were absorbed in making patterns for the serpentine carcase and drawer fronts, cock-beading, serpentine base moulding and bracket feet.

The individual pine boards for the chest’s carcase were planed slightly oversize and then rubbed together with glue to form the four carcase panels (fig. 1).

giiwsc_01a_Fig. 1. Carcase panels drying.

When dry, the panels were planed to their final dimensions and the serpentine shape was cut into the front edges of the top and base (fig. 2).

giiwsc_02a_Fig. 2. Shaped serpentine panel.

The mortises for the false carcase sides and the carcase dovetails were laid out (figs. 2 & 3).

giiwsc_03a_Fig. 3. Dovetails laid out on the base board ends.

Chamfering the upper edge of the top panel to accept the thin cross-grain European walnut moulding blocks, which the top moulding is cut into, could be achieved with the carcase all glued together (as could the moulding itself). However, gluing moulding blocks onto the base panel and scraping the base moulding in its entirety with the carcase assembled would be impossible due to the impediment of the two carcase sides. At any rate, these panels are more easily worked in the vice, so there I chamfered the front edges of both the top and base boards and glued the cross-grain moulding blocks in place (figs. 4 & 5).

giiwsc_04a_Fig. 4. Chamfer shaved along panel front.

giiwsc_05a_Fig. 5. Cross-grain moulding blocks glued onto chamfered edge.

On straight runs of moulding these cross-grain moulding blocks are commonly 1-1/4″- 2″ wide however, the sinuous curves at the front of the carcase necessitate the front moulding blocks being somewhat narrower than the norm so they better conform to the vacillating concave and convex surfaces. To that end, the blocks must be shaped and laid as keystones (both upward and downward facing as the curves alternate). The sides of the blocks must also be bevelled (again, inwards and outwards) to ensure (at this stage, at least) a gapless result (fig. 6). As the finished chest dries out and settles, some minor gaps in the cross-grain mouldings are expected – and welcomed.

giiwsc_06a_Fig. 6. Moulding blocks cleaned up ready for scratching the moulding.

Once the carcase has been assembled and the moulding blocks have been glued to chamfers planed in the top side edges, the top moulding will be planed/scratched directly into the carcase, but for the reason mentioned earlier, the front base moulding will be completed at the bench. The side base mouldings are straight runs which are currently being formed on pine stock in the traditional manner (fig. 7), and will then be sawn off and glued to the bottom edges of the carcase sides.

giiwsc_07a_Fig. 7. Preparing straight run moulding stock.

Dovetails were cut in all four carcase panels and the top and base panels were mortised to receive the false carcase sides (fig. 8).

giiwsc_08a_Fig. 8. False carcase side and mating mortises.

Whilst waiting for various things to dry, I usually jump here and there within a job, and as the notion took me, I prepared some walnut and made the 1/8″ thick cock-beads for the serpentine drawers (fig. 9).

giiwsc_09a_Fig. 9. Partially finished cock-beads.

When eventually affixed, the cock-beads will protrude a little more than 1/16″ from the front faces of the finished drawers and their rear edges will be sawn a little oversize and then pared flush with the rear faces of the drawers.

I also prepared the walnut feather-banding stock (figs. 10 & 11).

giiwsc_10a_Fig. 10. Diagonal slices of walnut.

giiwsc_11a_Fig. 11. Glued feather stock ready for slicing into banding.

The hours involved so far come to 37-3/4.

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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12 Responses to A George II Walnut Serpentine Chest – Part Two

  1. Joe M says:

    Thanks for posting the work hours….proves the rest of us to be slackers…..Was the chamfer on the base and the molding blocks cut with a spoke shave or a router against a template? Greatly looking forward to the next post.

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    • Jack Plane says:

      If you mean an electric router, go and wash your mouth out with carbolic soap!

      I’m not one of the latter-day hand-tool-only brigade, but really, it takes but a moment to scribe and shave a chamfer this small. At any rate, the angle (whatever it is) is shaved to provide the thinnest uniform section of moulding block to suit the moulding profile (as in the image below) and is (probably) not a standard router bit angle.

      JP

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  2. jamie says:

    I’m enjoying watching over your shoulder, thanks for taking us along!

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  3. Adam says:

    Latter-day hand-tool only brigade aside, is all of your work by hand or do you use machines for any of the donkey work?

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    • Jack Plane says:

      I extol the use of a bandsaw, planer and thicknesser as they unarguably speed things up (though that is not my objective), but importantly for me, they allow me to pursue my hobby. Without them I physically could not prepare the necessary stock to make any furniture.

      Having said that, in making copies of period furniture, I will not let any machine or power tool within two processes of a finished surface. Future furniture restorers will not encounter modern adhesive, biscuits or machined surfaces in any of my furniture, no matter how deep they delve.

      I also abhor the majority of jigs, guides, aids and largely self-defeating tools like the router. Aside from the cost of tooling, the router is time-consuming and produces less than satisfactory results in most operations to be considered of any practical use in my arsenal.

      Other than the racket it makes, I do favour using a Saburr Tooth disc mounted on an angry grinder for hollowing Windsor chair seats: Five minutes with a traditional scorp leaves me wrecked!

      JP

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  4. Brian Lowery says:

    The pictures that feature your walnut parts, sure doesn’t look like American Black Walnut. What is the source of your walnut? It appears much lighter in color than what I’m working with here in the U.S.A.

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  5. Joe M says:

    When the time comes, seeing some photos of the serpentine molding being shaped and scraped would be great. Would you remove the bulk of material with a gouge or chisel? Then use a filed scraper for the final surfaces? Guide by hand or mount the scraper on a block of wood to act as a follower?

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    • Jack Plane says:

      The base serpentine moulding is already done, but if I remember when I’m shaping the top moulding I’ll take a shot of the process.

      The base moulding, being a fairly deep profile, required a lot of waste removal which I did with a gouge and chisel. After that it was a straightforward job to perfect the profile with a scratch stock and sandpaper.

      JP

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  6. Alan Purves says:

    In fig 5 how thick are your cross grain moulding blocks. In that figure they look quite thin.

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