A George II Walnut Serpentine Chest – Part Three

The walnut cross-grain moulding was formed along the serpentine front edge of the carcase’s baseboard prior to assembling the carcase (fig. 1).

giiwsc_12a_Fig. 1. The cross-grain moulding already opening up in the 41° (106°F) heat.

I cut the one-sided dovetail housings in the false carcase sides to receive the drawer dividers and then while assembling the carcase, the false carcase sides and packers were also glued in place (fig. 2).

giiwsc_13a_Fig. 2. Drawer divider housings in false carcase side.

The front corners of the base and top boards were cut off at 45° and the bottom moulding was mitred at 22.5°. Pine blocks were temporarily nailed onto the baseboard’s corners to protect the moulding’s crisp mitres (fig. 3).

giiwsc_14a_Fig. 3. Pine block protecting mitred base moulding.

I prepared the pine for the drawer dividers, cut out their serpentine front edges and veneered them with walnut (fig. 4).

giiwsc_15a_Fig. 4. Veneered drawer dividers.

Rebates were planed in the top rear edges of the dividers (into which the dustboards will be glued – fig. 5) and I then sawed and planed the one-sided dovetails in the ends of the dividers.

giiwsc_16a_Fig. 5. Drawer dividers awaiting attachment to dustboards.

The dustboard supports-cum-drawer guides were made up and a 5/16″ housing ploughed in each to receive the dustboards (fig. 6).

giiwsc_17a_Fig. 6. Dustboard supports make up the difference between the false carcase sides and the actual carcase.

The dustboard supports were then rubbed into the carcase interior.

The two-board dustboards were rubbed together and when dry, were planed down to 5/16″ thick (fig. 7).

giiwsc_18a_Fig. 7. Thin pine dustboards.

The dustboards were rubbed into the rebates in the drawer dividers and when dry, the assemblies were inserted into the carcase. The drawer kickers are simply pine scraps rubbed onto the undersides of the dustboards and planed flush (fig. 8).

giiwsc_19a_Fig. 8. Dustboards and scrap wood kickers (carcase upside-down).

The remaining chamfers were planed around the top edge of the carcase (fig. 9) and cross-grained blocks of walnut were glued in place (fig. 10).

giiwsc_20a_Fig. 9. Planed side chamfer.

giiwsc_21a_Fig. 10. Side moulding blocks.

giiwsc_22a_Fig. 11. The carcase ready for toothing and veneering.

The hours involved in the work in this post come to 45-1/2.
The total hours involved to-date come to 83-1/4.

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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11 Responses to A George II Walnut Serpentine Chest – Part Three

  1. Joe M says:

    Jack, Thanks for this update with so many photos…When gluing the dust-board supports to the carcass..it’s cross grain, do you add any pegs or nails? I do not see any housings in the carcass sides, just the false sides. Did you anticipate the moldings to start opening so soon? I would have thought with the higher humidity in summer, they would keep and then move in the colder drier winter…?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jack Plane says:

      The dustboard supports are attached solely with glue.

      There are no housings in the carcase sides. The housings for the dustboards are in the dustboard supports which make up the 1-1/2″ difference between the carcase sides and the false sides.

      Our summers are very dry here in this part of Victoria (currently 28% RH and falling rapidly), hence the mouldings are drying out and forming splits. Depending on the weather when it comes time to polish the chest, if necessary, I can make adjustments to close the mouldings up while I polish it all. I don’t want polish filling the gaps/splits.



  2. David Andrew says:

    Excellent work as usual Jack.
    could you expand on the constructional detail of the false and true sides – I see from part 2 the false side is stub tennoned into the base (& presumably the top as well), and the true side is dovetailed to top & base. Is there a gap between the true and false sides or do they touch?
    From part 1 the original chest had canted corners, so I presume the space between the true and false sides is infilled (nailed on ?) to form a ground for the fretwork ?


    • Jack Plane says:

      You are spot on with the joinery.

      There is a 3/4″ thick packer glued between the carcase and each false carcase side which effectively forms a rebate at the canted corners (you should be able to make it out in figs. 3 & 12).

      The grounds for the blind fretwork will be triangular sections of walnut which will fill the canted corner rebates.



  3. Alan Purves says:

    Am I right in thinking that you only glue walnut to pine and not walnut to walnut for the cross-grain moulding (fig 1)? This is so the moulding can open up?
    Alan Purves
    Fort Nelson, B.C.


    • Jack Plane says:

      Yes, the walnut is glued directly onto the pine. Cross-grained mouldings don’t always open up (much would depend on the wood’s moisture content when stuck down), but if they do, not necessarily uniformly. Ideally it happens (if at all) after the whole has been polished and finished) – hence I may have to take steps at the polishing stage to avoid filling any voids with polish.

      I’ve said in the past that late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century cabinetmakers were aware of the likelihood of cross-grained mouldings opening up. However I don’t believe it was their primary objective (otherwise they would have gone to greater lengths to ensure it did occur), but the random occurrence of separated and slightly cupped highly polished cross-grained blocks of wood was obviously a dazzling and welcome feature which, during the forty-odd years that cross-grained mouldings were in vogue, they made no attempt to alter or rectify.



  4. Brian Lowery says:

    Are you sure you won’t reconsider making a book that follows a project (or projects) from start to finish?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Treve Rosoman says:

    I am fascinated by your choice of softwood for the carcase. If it was 18th century the timber would have been Baltic softwood with very close growth rings. The timber that you have used is very wide grained. Was this because you simply cannot find softwood of Baltic or North European origin in Australia? I greatly value your posts with their clear photographs and explanation.
    Treve Rosoman
    Kew, London


    • Jack Plane says:

      Pine was imported from several countries during the eighteenth-century: That from the Baltics and Northern Europe grew in a cold climate which resulted in slow growth and tight growth rings. The much softer spruce from the same period and regions can be of broad or tight ring growth.

      Yellow and white pine was also imported from the American colonies, which often displays broad growth rings.

      I can purchase ‘Baltic pine’ here in Australia (often just spruce), but it seldom has the same appearance as eighteenth-century timber and is quite expensive. However, the Radiata pine (known as Monterey pine in North America) which I employ is similar – visually and in workability – to some eighteenth-century timber and is relatively cheap.



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