A George II Walnut Serpentine Chest – Part Four

I don’t have any images of the rear of the original walnut chest; however, roughly thirty years ago I restored a mid-eighteenth-century chest of remarkably similar quality and construction (though of mahogany) which had an oddly asymmetrical three-panel pine back. I prepared the frame stuff and plainly fielded panels (fig. 1) and assembled the back.

giiwsc_24a_Fig. 1. Pine framework and fielded backboards.

I sawed a walnut flitch into 3/32″ thick veneer whereupon each leaf revealed a recurring dead knot which hadn’t previously been apparent. Not to worry, the veneer was, on the whole, fine for the job.

The carcase sides were toothed and the veneer was sized prior to laying it down (fig. 2).

giiwsc_25a_Fig. 2. Ready for laying the veneer.

The main veneers were trimmed and then the crossbanding was rubbed in place (fig. 3).

giiwsc_27_Fig. 3. Crossbanding awaiting trimming.

Prior to the Victorians and their cumulus-shaped veneer punches, patches in veneer were more often than not quadrilateral with little concern given to blending them into the surrounding figure or grain. I cut four small lozenges from scrap veneer and patched the dead knots (fig. 4).

giiwsc_28a_Fig. 4. Tactfully censored hole.

With the sides veneered and banded, I attached the side base mouldings (fig. 5).

giiwsc_29a_Fig. 5. Base moulding glued and nailed in place (carcase upside down).

For the ogee feet, blocks of walnut were glued (cross-grained) onto a pine board which were then planed and scraped to shape (fig. 6).

giiwsc_30a_Fig. 6. Shaping the stock for the ogee feet.

I took my cue for the rear brackets from the same mahogany chest that the backboards were copied from and sawed them out of pine. The individual laminated walnut brackets were sawn to shape and rubbed onto the base of the carcase (fig. 7). Split corner blocks and glue blocks were added for support.

giiwsc_31a_Fig. 7. Pine and walnut/pine rear foot.

With the chest shod, I righted it and began veneering the top. As per the carcase sides, the quartered main veneers were trimmed and then bounded by narrow featherbanding and broad crossbanding (fig. 8).

giiwsc_32a_Fig. 8. Rubbing the banding in place.

When dry, all edges were trimmed (figs. 9 & 10) and the whole given a quick wipe down with hot water.

giiwsc_33a_Fig. 9. The major carcase veneering complete.

giiwsc_35a_Fig. 10. Veneered and banded top.

giiwsc_36a_Fig. 11. Front bracket feet.

The hours involved in the work in this post come to 61.
The total hours involved to-date come to 144-1/4.

Jack Plane


About Jack Plane

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

10 Responses to A George II Walnut Serpentine Chest – Part Four

  1. Joe M says:

    The molded edge of the top is formed by rounding over the walnut cross grained blocks and the fillets/flats are formed by the thickness of the veneer? Was the round over formed before the top cross banding/veneer was applied or after? Was there any effort to make the patches on the case sides symmetrical to each other or deliberately different? We will see later of course but ….we are impatient! Can’t wait for the next post. Thanks


  2. D.B. Laney says:

    Hello Jack. When cutting the crossbanding on the curved front, did you scibe a pattern to the stringing then raise perpendiculars from the arc to create patterns for the individual veneers? BTW, for an old guy, you sure do good work;)
    Keep well.


    • Jack Plane says:

      That would probably have been the smart cabinetmaker’s method.

      However, in my usual headlong manner, I first arrayed the 2-1/2″ wide sections of crossbanding loosely around the serpentine shape. I then eyeballed each section perpendicular to the feather banding, overlapping the sections to entirely obscure the substrate. Then, one at a time, I marked half the width of the overlaps with a pencil and also the inner curvature.

      The central section of crossbanding was first trimmed with a chisel and gouge and glued down which allowed me to trim, push and shove each subsequent section to ensure a goodly fit.

      That’s the quickest method I’m aware of.



  3. tom ryan says:

    Jack – off topic but could you do a post on the tools used to produce such fine work? All hand tools? Full machine shop? Hybrid?

    A discussion on your methods of work would be appreciated.




    • Jack Plane says:

      I’m not a hand tool maniac and I really don’t relish discussions on common tools and basic cabinetmaking.

      There are many cabinetmakers out there with far superior skills to mine: I’m self-taught and I’m sure more than a few of my techniques would raise eyebrows – even amongst some moderately accomplished amateurs.

      When I began making early furniture, the one tool I heard of, desperately sought, but could find little information on, was the scratch stock. It’s one of the few tools I embrace and worked hard to perfect; hence this post.

      I keep fingers in several pies and consider myself more of an imagineer or resourceful problem-solver than cabinetmaker and am mostly enthused by the destination rather than the journey. “Next!”



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  5. Pingback: A George II Walnut Serpentine Chest – Part Five | Pegs and 'Tails

  6. Jack, I’m surprised more care would not be taken to match the patch material, both grain and colorwise. Also, you mention a wipe down with Hot water. Is that only to cleanup errant glue, or are there other reasons?


    • Jack Plane says:

      As a restorer, I would go to great lengths to patch old, damaged veneer. However, at the late seventeenth-/early eighteenth-century time of manufacture, patching holes was the sole objective with little to no effort made to match knot patches to their surrounds.

      Prior to staining and finishing, I wash down all in-the-white furniture with hot soapy water to remove errant glue and oily finger prints etc.



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