A George II Walnut Serpentine Chest – Part Six

Eighteenth-century bow and serpentine drawer fronts were constructed in one of two ways: The most basic method was to simply saw the sweeping shape out of the solid (fig. 1). The other technique (to minimise distortion and ultimately, poor fit) was to laminate the drawer fronts using either short blocks of wood (akin to brickwork), or with continuous lengths of wood.

Fig. 1. Solid oak serpentine drawer front, circa 1770.

Not having many details of this chest, I based the drawers on a similar, mahogany chest and sawed a series of shaped lengths of pine (fig. 2) which were then glued-up into the respective drawer fronts (fig. 3).

Fig. 2. Partially shaped drawer front laminations.

Fig. 3. Glued-up drawer fronts.

Once the drawer front interiors were faired, I used the flat outer face of each drawer front as a register from which the dovetails were laid out. That done, the dovetails were cut and the drawer fronts’ outer faces were then sawn to shape. The drawer linings were prepared, the dovetails all cut and the drawer shells assembled.

The main veneers were glued to the drawer fronts (fig. 4) and trimmed, after which the feather- and cross-banding were added to the peripheries (fig. 5).

Fig. 4. Book-matched veneers glued onto drawer front.

Fig. 5. Top edge of veneered and banded drawer front.

The drawer edges were cleaned up and the partially finished cockbeads were glued in place (fig. 6).

Fig. 6. Rough-sawn interior edge of cockbead.

When dry, the cockbeads were also cleaned up (fig. 7)

Fig. 7. Finished drawer front interior.

The drawer bottoms comprise a couple of boards, rubbed together and cleaned up, with their front edges sawn to fit the grooves in the drawer fronts. The bottoms were nailed into rebates planed in the drawer sides’ lower edges (fig. 8).

Fig. 8. A few nails secure the drawer bottoms to the sides.

The drawer runners were prepared and rubbed into the angles created by the drawer bottoms and side rebates. Once dry, the runners were carefully planed down to provide sufficient clearance for the drawers to glide freely and smoothly within the carcase (fig. 9).

Fig. 9. Runner rubbed in place and cleaned up.

The dressing slide consists of a free-floating pine panel retained within a simple walnut framework. The slide is also cock-beaded in a similar fashion to the drawer fronts.

A pair of drawer stops was rubbed onto each drawer divider (fig. 10).

Fig. 10. Simple pine drawer stop.

The slide however, requires two pairs of stops; one pair (screwed to the rear of the carcase sides) prevents the slide disappearing inside the carcase and a second pair (screwed to the rear of the slide) stops it being completely withdrawn.

Fig. 11. The serpentine chest in-the-white.

The hours involved in the work in this post come to 89-3/4.
The total hours involved to-date come to 250-1/2.

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, Drawers and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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

  1. glen says:

    Excellent work Jack! I’m looking forward to the polishing! It certainly wouldn’t be cheap as a commissioned piece, even at my meagre rate of $70 per hr we’re up to $ 17.500 excluding materials and looking like in excess of $ 30 grand without adding a markup! Love the blog Jack..keep um coming!!


    • Jack Plane says:

      Though I’m a little too slow now to consider myself commercial any longer, the going rate for furniture of this caliber would be 25%-30% of the value of the original chest (the original sold in May 2016 for £62,500 / AU$126,644 / US$91,125).

      It’s not for sale however.



  2. Looks fantastic from here.


  3. voncarlos says:

    That veneer will be stunning when the color is brought up. A post that is educational and inspirational, thank you. I’ve become enchanted and have already started my planning for an Oyster chest.


  4. Joe M says:

    Fantastic Jack! But you’ve heard that many times before.
    Could you post a photo of the rear of the chest, showing the stops on the slide and the eventual installation of the back boards? Will the slide have a covering on the pine, such as cloth/felt or leather? or just a polished surface? We are all indebted to you for these posts….Thanks.


  5. What wood is the cross banding and the herringbone? Looks like walnut.
    Beautiful job. Wow!



  6. Eric R says:

    Bravo my friend.
    Spectacular work.


  7. jerryolson19 says:

    Your workmanship is truly exceptional Jack and would warrant every penny of that 30% if it were for sale.



  8. hiscarpentry says:

    Thank you for letting us know the time it takes for these processes.


    • Jack Plane says:

      As I mentioned above, it takes me much longer to do most things nowadays and the hours I have logged on this chest of drawers are not truly indicative of how long it would take a commercial shop to produce. In my heyday I would have expected to knock out something like this in roughly half the time.



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