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The Furniture Record

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Capturing Furniture in the Wild
Updated: 23 min 3 sec ago

It Followed My Wife Home.

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 9:15pm

I can hear the derisive snickers out there. You’re all thinking:

“It followed his wife home? Sure!”

As Roy as my witness, I promise you the story I am about to tell is true. I can’t make this stuff up.

I can embellish…

It is a closely guarded secret that I spend my spare time visiting auctions and antiques shops, recording and documenting the rare treasures I find there. It is our past. It is our legacy. It defines who we are as a species. It’s a bunch of old stuff people don’t want anymore yet has some perceived value.

On occasion, my wife will accompany me to an auction preview. It is usually my second visit. I know she has no interest in spending two hours admiring and photographing every item that was made before McKinley was president. It is one of the things that makes our marriage work. I don’t insist she spends hours staring at old wood objects and she doesn’t insist I accompany her to the beach. Exceptions have been made in certain extreme situations. We must all be flexible.

A recent auction caught my wife’s attention. It was the quarterly catalog auction and it included wine. One cannot actually preview the wine but one can read the list and do research. My wife is very organized and likes to read lists and do research. She found a lot of three bottles of Napa wines that she managed to get significantly below current North Carolina retail, if she could find it.

Buoyed by this success, she decided she wanted to hit the auction preview with me. The evening before the auction, I made my second visit and she made her first. She was better prepared. She has studied the online descriptions and had a list of items she wanted to see. I had a vague notion of what I needed more pictures of.

She quickly dismissed most of her list. The rugs were the wrong size or color. The decorative accessories were in worse shape than the casual collector could tolerate. There was one item on the list she really liked, an English settle.

English Style Settle

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This lot has sold.

Description:   Early 20th century, oak and pine, barrel form with shaped arms, curved seat.

About settles. We have had a front porch in need of a settle since we moved in. I know just the settle I want to build. The problem is that I have not delivered said settle. The wood is not even in the shop. Nothing on the calendar. I was slightly hurt that she wanted to buy one but I got over it.

The morning of the auction, I attempted to enter our carefully considered maximum bid, saw that we were already $80 below the current bid, talked and bumped it $100.  Then when my wife wasn’t looking, I added another $40.

That night she asked what it went for. I told her that it closed above our second bid. I waited ten minutes to tell her of the third bid that was successful. She forgave me my subterfuge.

And here it is:

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Front view.

We had to place it flat against the wall. Being relatively lightweight pine, it makes a great sail. I was going to build mine from whire oak.

Here you see the barrel form:

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I bet when new, the boards overlapped.

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A nice bent molding.

A relatively shallow settle:

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Shallow and not very deep.

Relatively simple construction:

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No dovetails. And yet I bought it.

Nothing fancy on the sides:

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A simple bridle on the armrest.

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Joinery so simple, I could make it.

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All I need to do is learn to turn spindles.

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An interesting square patch. I wonder what the wound was.

Looking at the bottom, I could see that it has been stripped. It had gone through most of its life covered with mustard colored paint:

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Or is it flax, Naples yellow, arylide yellow, or citrine?

I suggested to my wife that for the sake of authenticity, we restore the mustard paint. She was not impressed by this notion.

I expressed my concern that this pine bench might not survive long outside, even on a covered porch. Her response was, “Well, if it only lasts two or three years, it gives us time to find something else.”

I thought, “I have shared a bed with this woman for 26 years and right now, she is a stranger to me. I don’t know this person.”

Fortunately, as an adult, I have a filter and what came out was, “Well, OK.”

This brings up two questions. Firstly, is this a historic and significant piece of furniture or just old? On some level I believe that every piece of furniture ever built needs to be lovingly preserved until we run out of PODS and U-Haul storage units. This is not realistic. Some furniture must die so others can live.

Second question, what is the best non-opaque finish to use on this settle? It will require a fairly high level of UV resistance. My first thought was a good marine spar varnish.

I am willing to entertain other suggestions.

 

 


Antoni Gaudí – Day One of Many: The Furniture

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 10:37pm

It is impossible to spend any significant time in Barcelona without feeling the influence of Antoni Gaudí. Being easily influence, I couldn’t get enough of his work and am truly fascinated by him and his works.

For those not so influenced (or aware), I offer the following paragraph copied and pasted from a Wikipedia article:

Antoni Gaudí i Cornet; (25 June 1852 – 10 June 1926) was a Spanish Catalan architect from Reus and the best known practitioner of Catalan Modernism. Gaudí’s works reflect an individualized and distinctive style. Most are located in Barcelona, including his magnum opus, the Sagrada Família.

Between 1984 and 2005, seven of his works were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

As an introduction to Mr. Gaudí, we will explore some of his furniture then. In time, several of his buildingswill be explored.

Much of this furniture was designed for specific buildings. It is firmly in the Art Nouveau style with its organic fluid lines with direct references to nature.

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The Casa Calvet Flower Bench – 1901

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The Casa Calvet Corner Stool – 1901

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The Casa Calvet Flower Chair – 1901

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The Casa Calvet Arm Chair-1901

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The Casa Batlló Chair – 1907

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The Casa Batlló Double Bench – 1907

Reproductions of these and other Gaudi pieces are still available.

I am not sure if the following furniture is designed by Gaudi but it does exist within Casa Milà, popularly known as La Pedrera. This was the last civil work designed by Antoni Gaudí and was built from 1906 to 1912.

The furniture may not be Gaudi but it is era and style appropriate and in Barcelona.

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The dining room.

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The dining table.

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And the dining chair.

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The bar.

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The server.

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The office.

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More from the office. Boat not included.

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The bedroom.

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The headboard.

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The footboard.

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The headboard.

Shortly, we will examine some  of Gaudi’s s iconic buildings.


Mistakes Were Made…

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 10:44pm

There is a fairly common type furniture, many variations with the word setback almost always being in the name. Usually made in two pieces, stacked with the upper section being shallower than the lower. They often look as if they could exist as two pieces of furniture. The base of the upper section is the same as or reflects the base of the lower section as in the following examples:

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China on server?

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Just a setback cupboard.

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The same only primitive.

I ran across this piece in a Raleigh antique/consignment shop. I believe mistakes were made in stacking:

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Just don’t look right…

(Although this style is fairly common, I still had to go through 8,000 picture to come up with these the three exemplars. I really need to get an intern.)


Auction of Exploration, Auction of Discovery.

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 10:36pm

I go to all these auctions so you don’t have to. As our fearless leader says, “Believe me”. It’s not always enjoyable but it is necessary. I do what must be done.

Take an auction from the fourth quarter of 2016. The weather was miserable and I didn’t want to go. But I knew I must. And how was I rewarded? I walked in and this is the first thing I saw:

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I thought things like this were always converted into lamps.

An end view provides you with important construction details should you want to make one of your own:

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It looks just as good from this perspective.

I did see one of the nicest gout stools I’ve seen in a while:

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Enough to make you want to go out and eat high purine meats and drink excessive amounts of alcohol

I will be saving the examination of this book for a time in the future whenI will compare it to the original 1917 volume as to form and content:

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There just isn’t enough written on the romance of cookery and housekeeping.

 


Table Games

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 10:51pm

The genesis of this blog was a visit to Atlanta in February of 2012. I attended the Cathedral Antiques Show, which I think is the finest antiques show I have ever attended. Nothing but the best with prices and hors d’oeuvres to match.

A dealer there had a game table I had read about but never seen. It has a mechanism for table support that is unique. It was a gorgeous table with a high level of appropriate decoration. The dealer was anxious to show me the table and explain in great detail the history and construction of the table. It was amazing.

Only problem was that the show had a rather strict “no photography” policy. The dealer was sympathetic but was more concerned about his status as a dealer than my blog. That I wasn’t writing yet.

I finally found another table of this design at an auction a few weeks back. I can finally share this different table with you, my loyal reader.

But first, a prime on game table technology. The game table or card table for the purposes of this blog refers to a relatively small table with a folded top that opens to reveal a flat surface that is meant for playing cards or other games. There are many forms and variations of this table including:

The one-legged table:

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The tabletop is mounted with a pivot off-center. To open the table, one rotates the top 90° and unfolds the top. There is usually a storage compartment beneath the top.

I have not seen a two-legged table. It could be that there is a trestle table with a folding top, but I’ve not seen it.

A three-legged table might be possible but, again, I’ve not seen one.

What comes close is actually a four-legged table:

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There is a fourth leg but not where you expect.

In this implementation, the fourth leg pulls straight out of the rear apron to support the top.

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A straight pull back, no hinges required.

A variation of this table:

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has a drawer to support the fourth leg and the tabletop.

Then we advance to the four-legged table. This variation has a hinged or gate leg that swings out to support the top:

IMG_5468 - Version 2

One leg swings back to make magic.

This table needs two legs to make it happen:

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All legs in.

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Both legs are hinged and swing out to support the top.

(I was looking for through my library for a picture of this type table without luck. Then I went over to an auction Wednesday to preview on online auction and found this one being readied for the next auction.)

Let’s not forget the five-legged table:

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Really a four-legged table with a plus one. I assume the fifth is hinged and swings back and catches the top. The museum wouldn’t let me play.

This is an example of the table for which I have been searching for these five long years:

English Queen Anne Card Table

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This lot has sold for $400.

Description:   Mid 18th century, mahogany, mahogany veneer, shaped top with molded edge, opening to reveal felt lined interior, skirt with herringbone line inlay, cabriole legs featuring acanthus carved knee, raised on pad feet.

The side view led me to believe that I had found it:

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An odd little gap at the back was a clue.

Using my spiffy camera with live view and rotating/swinging back I was able to shoot up and see what lay beneath:

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There be folded parts.

There was a mechanism that unfolds and allows the back apron to fall back well over 18″ to support the top:

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The apron unfolds to support the unfolded top.

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(Almost) Fully deployed.

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The view from below shows some structural details.

This view shows the board that slides in the groove to lock the back legs into place.

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The horizontal board is pulled through the groove to lock the legs in place.

This blog has been five years in the making. Was it worth it? We’ll know when awards season arrives.


Holier Than Thou (or Me)

Fri, 03/10/2017 - 11:24pm

The two better local auction houses each had an 18th century Bible box in the same week’s auctions. As best I can recollect, neither has had a Bible box before. Both of them having one in the same week is really unusual.

The first one up is this:

Eighteenth Century English Bible Box Desk

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This lot has sold for $230.

Description: Mid 18th Century; 10.75 inches height, 23.5 inches width, 16 inches depth; made of old English oak, has fully carved front panel of interlocking scrolls, interior has two upper fitted drawers, has original hand forged butterfly hinges, and locking clasp, constructed with hand forged rose head nails, overall condition is outstanding and original.

This one could be used as a writing desk. The lid is plain and it has a pencil ledge.

And the other auction house had:

English Relief Carved Bible Box

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This lot has sold for $550.

Description:   Mid-18th century, oak, top and hinged lid with chip carved edge, wrought iron hinges, the lid is relief carved and dated 1740, open interior with three upper horizontal divisions, front with relief carved stylized dragons.

This one has a carved lid:

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Must have been made in 1740 unless it’s a stock number.

Not useful as a writing desk unless you just plan on writing Post-Its.

The first one has two drawers in the gallery:

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Two drawers but no tills.

Oddly, the drawers are not dovetailed:

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You don’t need dovetails when you have nails.

 

The second box has a divided gallery:

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Shallower but is it too shallow for drawers?

 

The first one has a single board back with some interesting bead details:

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No fancy joinery, just nailed.

The second has a single board back without decoration:

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Nothing to see here but a crack. Also nailed.

 

Front edge has decoration on the first:

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Tastefully scalloped.

Plain edges on the second:

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Here, the lid is scalloped. Base molding is a nice touch…

One of them followed me home.

Actually, I had to go back and get it.


Morris? Morris Who? (Take 2)

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 10:07pm

From Wikipedia:

A Morris chair is an early type of reclining chair. The design was adapted by William Morris’s firm, Morris & Company, from a prototype owned by Ephraim Colman in rural Sussex, England. It was first marketed around 1866.

Morris chairs feature a seat with a reclining back and moderately high armrests, which give the chair an old-style appearance. The characteristic feature of a Morris chair is a hinged back, set between two un-upholstered arms.

Morris chair is a fairly flexible term. If you add the word Style, it becomes positively elastic.

Below are two from a recent auction. The first is considered a traditional Morris chair:

Morris Style Reclining Arm Chair

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This lot has sold for $160.

Description:  Circa 1900, mahogany and pine, transitional mission style frame, later paisley upholstered cushions.

For some reason the auctioneer listed this under Furniture – English and Continental.

It has a robust back adjust mechanism:

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Cut by hand of machine?

 

The other is more of the “Mission” or the “Craftsman” Morris chair. This one is listed under Furniture – American:

Morris Style Reclining Arm Chair

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This lot has sold for $80.

Description:  Circa 1900, later blue upholstery, oak frame, adjustable back with iron support bar, raised on shaped feet.

This back adjustment seems a bit less robust:

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Reminds me of a café curtain rod.

 

The content of this blog feels a bit light. I am obligated to add a few more chairs from the same auction. Third up is this chair just ready for you and your designer to make your own:

Queen Anne Wing Back Chair Frame

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This lot has sold for $310.

Description:   18th century frame, oak and other hardwoods, with later front cabriole legs.

One way to get rid of all the vermin in your horsehair stuffing.

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This is not a new frame…

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They haven’t quite found the right look yet,

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but as long as there is wood left, they’ll keep trying.

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This patch/support is actually a wood insert. It would be hard to nail into metal.

 

And one last chair to round things out. Or, in this case, a pair of chairs:

Pair of Transitional Carved Arm Chairs

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This lot has sold for $400.

Description:  Early 20th century, mahogany, floral needlepoint over upholstery, bowed arms terminating in eagle head, legs with acanthus carved knee and ball and claw foot.

One of a pair, the other looks just like it.

What really amused me about these chairs are the carved arms:

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The auctioneer claims they are eagles.

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Who am I to argue?


Speechless

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 9:28pm

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When he sees this, Roy’s heart breaks just a little…


George, Anne and an Impostor.

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 10:33pm

Yet more interesting(?) things from a recent auction.

There were three very different low boys at the auction a few weeks back. It is unusual to have that many low boys at one auction. They are as follows:

George II Inlaid Low Boy

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This lot has sold for $260.

Description:  18th century, oak, pine secondary, top with banded veneer bordered edge, single long drawer above three side by side short drawers, shaped skirt, on cabriole legs with ball and claw feet.

Size:  29 x 31.5 x 18.5 in.

English Queen Anne Low Boy

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This lot has sold for $280.

Description:   18th century, oak and elm, pine secondary, upper long drawer above three side by side short drawers, boldly scrolled skirt, cabriole legs with pad feet.

Size:  28.75 x 30 x 19.5 in.

Henry Ford Museum Reproduction Low Boy
The Impostor

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This lot has sold for $260.

Description:   Colonial Manufacturing Co., with label and tag to interior of drawer, “Number 326 Mahogany Savery Low Boy”, upper long drawer above three side by side drawers, central with shell carving, fluted canted quarter columns, on cabriole legs with shell carved knee on ball and claw feet.

Size:  30 x 36 x 20.5 in.

I will mostly ignore the impostor for this blog. It has machine cut dovetails, believe it or not. The only interesting thing about it is the carved shell on the center drawer:

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Not necessarily entirely hand-carved.

We will now compare parts of the two remaining low boys starting with the aprons and some drawer area details:

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George II

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Queen Anne

Some carcass detail:

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More George with his banding.

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More Queen Anne with beaded drawers.

All low boys have legs:

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Queen Anne has a cabriole leg with a pad foot.

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The leg terminates with a tenon into the carcass.

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George favors the ball and claw foot.

The cabriole leg continues up:

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and becomes an integral part of the frame and panel construction.

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George II has proper dovetailed drawers. Nails optional.

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The Queen has only nails and no tails.

And edge treatments:

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George has a profiled top with banding.

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The Queen has a two tiered top with applied molding.

There was actually a fourth low boy at the auction:

Edwardian Inlaid Low Boy

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This lot has sold for $500

Description:  In the Queen Anne taste, circa 1900, mahogany, mahogany veneer, rectangular top with herringbone and sawtooth inlays, upper long drawer above a central hinged cabinet door flanked by two small drawers, shaped skirt, tall tapered legs with pad feet.

Size:  33 x 36 x 23 in.

And a fifth one at this weeks auction:

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This item to be sold on 3/4/2017.

Description:  Circa 1760, white pine secondary, top with molded edge, upper long lipped drawer above three side by side lipped drawers, shaped skirt with drop finials, raised on tall cabriole legs with pad feet.

Size:  32 x 35 x 21.5 in.

I will cover these later.


Split Personality

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 9:02am

It just doesn’t really matter.

At the recent auction I saw and was mildly amused by this:

Primitive New England Hanging Cupboard

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This lot has sold for $260.

Description: Late 19th century, white pine, distressed green painted surface, hinged paneled doors with shelved interior, over two drawers.

Not really that interesting a piece. Out of force of habit, I looked at the drawer construction and it became more interesting. But only slightly:

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A drawer with a split personality.

The front dovetails are the then trendy thin pins. Looks to be around 1:6 or 9°. Or so. Fairly consistent leading me to think they were highly skilled or used some form of gauge.

The rear dovetails are fewer and coarser with the fairly extreme 1:2.4 or 30°. Darn near vulture tails in miniature.

Makes one wonder. Front dovetails as a means to show the skill of the maker and the rear pins more utilitarian? Putting the effort where it can be seen by prospective customers. Front pins made by the more skilled and rear pins by the lesser skilled, a division of labor?

It is fairly common for the drawer bottom to extend out the back of the drawer to become the back drawer stop.

I liked the turned knob and molding:

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Nice touches on a simple cabinet.

Dovetail angles. It doesn’t really matter, does it? Still, one can cogitate…

 

 

 


They Should Have Know Better…

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 5:45am

Today’s parable of the movement of wood concerns this George III Linen Press:

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This lot has sold for $380. Furniture is soft right now.

Description:  Circa 1800, two-part form, high-grade burlwood mahogany veneers, mahogany, pine secondary, applied arched cornice with ebonized line inlay above a vertically veneered frieze, upper cabinet with two hinged doors, center with an applied reeded brass mount, each door featuring a rectangular panel with an inset square to each corner, interior with four pull-out linen drawers, base with two over two graduated cockbeaded drawers, raised on French bracket feet with a shaped skirt. (Thus sayeth the auction house.)

The maker of this press made an interesting choice when they made the doors. A large, wide board would have been a bad idea. The wide board would move and be highly unlikely to stay flat. A four-panel board would have been a common construction for a press in that era. Or any era. What is unusual is that they veneered over a four-panel door. A bad idea:

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Just asking for trouble. And they got it.

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They veneered the inside as well. Also a bad idea.

If you have ever read about, seen a video about or (God forbid) actually made a panelled door, you know that if you are using real wood for the panel, you don’t glue the panel to the frame. With our 20th/21st century sensibilities we know that the panels will move, expand across the width of the board. If glued, the frame may crack or glue joints may fail.

I have to believe that a 19th century cabinetmaker would have known about wood movement and the perils therein. Yet they choose to glue veneer to a panel that is guaranteed to (and did) move. With the expected results. To their credit, they did a really good job gluing the veneer down. No glue failures here. And the doors still exist in one plane, no warps. Impossible to say how long the veneer held it together.

Now, on to the drawers. I do like the pulls. They seem to be original:

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An original pull? How unique.

The dovetails again are unique:

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The nails don’t look original.

They seem to have left a pin off. Then again, symmetry is so overrated.

 


Curves I Have Known.

Sat, 02/18/2017 - 8:38pm

I know I said I would be finishing with the Barcelona Design Museum but there is just so much to process that I need to take a break from it until I figure out how to properly report on it. That and I am in week three of a cold I brought back from the Philippines. Oh, yeah, I was in the Philippines for about a week. I got per diem so it must have been for work. That’s the difference between a business trip and a vacation. If you get per diem, it’s a business trip. If you choose where you’re going, it’s a vacation. Something to be said for both.

Fortunately, the local better auction house has provided me with topics so plentiful that I should be able to enlighten and amuse you for quite a while. Eh?

First up is this American Hepplewhite Sideboard:

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This lot has sold for $420

Description:  Early 19th century, probably Mid Atlantic, mahogany, mahogany veneers, white pine and poplar secondary, concave central section with single drawer above two small cabinet doors, flanked by rounded corners, with cabinet doors, raised on square tapered legs. Size   38.5 x 64 x 23.5 in. (From the auction house.)

The curves were what caught my attention. There are many ways to bend or curve wood. We learned from a recent plantation visit that you can bend certain species by soaking them in a river for one year per inch of thickness to make the wood pliable. If you don’t have a convenient river, you can use steam for a more practical one hour per inch.

Then there is bent lamination in which thin layers of wood are glued and placed in a form of the desired shape. (Think freeform plywood.)

If you want to know about kerf bending, you can look it up.

If you can’t bend, you can always make it look bent or curved. There is the brute force method requiring a block of wood that is large enough to contain the curved part and cutting away the parts that fall outside the curves. This method leaves a lot of wood on the shop floor assuming, you can locate a block of wood that is large enough to contain the part. Then you need a saw (hand or powered) that is large enough to accommodate the blank.

A common variation is stacked lamination in which you do as above but one inch in height at a time. Start with a one-inch block of wood: work it to the desired contour. Glue another block atop it and contour to match. If you are into power tools, typically it’s a pattern router bit with bearing or a flush trim bit with bearing. And a router.

Repeat until you reach the desired height.

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That’s what they did here, a stacked lamination.

The downside of this technique is that, unless you like the striped look, you need to veneer it. Not a problem if veneering is where you are going. I can see some modern studio furniture using this technique unadorned.

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A wider view giving you more construction details.

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How to curve the carcass.

Breadboard ends on the curved door provide stability and hide the end grain:

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Breadboard ends and a thick veneer.

 The center doors are also stacked laminations, just in the opposite direction. The interesting feature is how the gap between the doors is handled. Typically when doors meet, there is some device to minimize the gap between the doors, a rabbet, a molding or one door overlapping the other. On this server they used beveled edge. The doors do not meet with a 90° butt joint, they are angled:

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Beveled edged minimize the appearance of the door gap caused by seasonal movement or other causes.

I’ve seen this in other case pieces but this is the first time I’ve seen it used on curved doors.

No blog of mine can be considered complete without an examination of drawer construction. The veneer hides the truth but I believe the drawer front was cut from a thick block of wood:

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The top veneer hides the construction of the drawer front.

The thickness of the drawer front does provide for some really interesting through dovetails:

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My favorite dovetails of 2017. So far…

As we saw in recent blog, the thick veneer allows the maker to use through dovetails instead of the fussy, annoying half-blind dovetails.


Llits d’Olot (Beds of Olot)

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 10:11pm

Olot is the capital city of the comarca of Garrotxa, in the Province of Girona, Catalonia, Spain on the European continent of the third planet of a star located at Sector 001. Approximately.

This blog is about the beds of Olot or more accurately, the headboards of the beds of Olot created in the late 18th century. Reading badly translated articles, by 1787, there were six workshops specializing in making headboards, making 300 to 500 per year. There was no master bedmaker but rather a collaboration between carpenters, carvers and painter/gilders.  The articles also claim that some of these headboards were even shipped to the Americas in spite of their bulk and delicate nature.

From the wall in the exhibit:

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I couldn’t have said it better myself. And it saved me a bunch of copying and typing.

The beds/headboards speak for themselves so I offer them without comment.

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This headboard seems to be a variation of the one below.

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Or this one is a variation of the one above.

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Might Be Woodworking But It Ain’t Furniture.

Sat, 01/28/2017 - 3:37am

Woodworking is where you find it.

Over the next few blogs I will present the balance of my pictures from the Barcelona Museum of Design (Museu del Disseny de Barcelona). We were there in early November of last year. Perfect timing to avoid the election. (Who won? My wife still won’t tell me.)

I have already shared some pictures in a previous blog, Mules of Another Autonomous Region, a collection of eight slightly (extremely) over the top mule chests from the Catalan region of Spain. There is a history lesson back there too if you have yet to read it.

This blog is a quick one to highlight some pictures that don’t fit into other categories or topics of discussion.

I’m sure that most people realize the shape and volume 19th century dresses did not come entirely from petticoats and starch. But did you ever stop to consider what did the work. This did:

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The cage crinoline. A multidisciplinary endeavor.

And this one:

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Pardon the background images. I am embarrassed but it couldn’t be helped.

The hoops were typically steel but whalebone and various forms of vulcanized rubber were also used. These hoops looked to me to be wood but short of climbing the cases, I couldn’t be certain. I just need them to be wood for the purposes of this blog.

Regardless of the material, I wouldn’t want to wear one. There were many health ramifications to such garments including being burned alive when the well-aerated fabric caught fire.

There was also an exhibit of 18th and 19th decorative fans:

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Again, maybe be wood but being made from whale bone is not out of the question

An interesting Wikipedia article about crinolines HERE.

Next, beds of Catalonia. And it’s not what you think.

 


Explain This One.

Fri, 01/27/2017 - 2:12am

This blog has dovetail content but is not about dovetails. Dovetails are only used to illustrate the construction of the furniture in question. No dovetails were harmed in the production of this blog.

If you look at enough furniture you see things that defy expectations. Not wrong. I try not to be too judgmental. But things that not consistent with most other things I’ve seen. I always try to understand what they did and why they did it.

I really need to get a life.

Take this antique Empire chest of drawers:

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American Classical Figured Maple Chest of Drawers This lot has sold for $1050.

The auction listing states:

Description: Attributed to Ohio or western PA, cherry top, mahogany and bird’s eye maple veneers with poplar secondary, upper projecting drawer supported by fully turned columns above three graduated cock-beaded drawers, tiger maple paneled sides, ebonized turned feet.

Simple enough. The form and wood selections are typical, nothing out of the ordinary. Do an image search for antique Empire chest of drawers and find many similar chests.

The variation is observed when you open a drawer and examine its construction:

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A veneered and cock-beaded drawer.

(Cock-beading is a decorative bead added to a drawer, typically a thin strip of wood with a bead on one edge, set in a rabbet around a drawer front. These strips may be purely a decorative or may also be used to protect and conceal the edge of a veneer.)

A closer look may be required to see what caught my interest:

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If you still are at a loss, I will explain.

What is unusual to my eye is the use of a dark wood as a secondary wood in a veneered and cock-beaded drawer. The wood looks like walnut although it could be something else. Usually when the wood is being covered and concealed, a cheaper secondary wood is used as in this example:

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The drawer front (substrate) is a secondary wood covered with the expensive stuff.

I just wonder why. My first thought was that it was initially a walnut chest that had been remodeled to appease a client or respond to changing tastes. Furniture does get rebuilt with some regularity.

I am not entirely comfortable with this answer having had some time to consider it. Look at the columns in the above pictures. They look too good to be rework. Or do they? It certainly is an odd collection of woods. Maybe walnut is just what the maker had. There was less of the ability and opportunity to go out and get wood as needed. They often just had to make do with what they had.

Impossible to know but interesting to speculate…


Pie Safes of the One Percent (1%).

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 10:02pm

More like pie safes of the 15% but 1% has more punch.

Pie safes are one of those ubiquitous items that seem to be found in almost every antiques mall in the US. Just like those cobalt viobots (violin bottles) with ears (tuning pegs):

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Referred to as a viobot to those in the know.

There is such a wide distribution of these two items that I have a theory that they are required, it not by law, then by the secret cabals that run all the antiques malls in 46 of the lower 48 states. (They’ve been driven out of New Hampshire and Oklahoma.)

Pie safes have been around since the 1700’s protecting high value foods from whatever pests and vermin that have chosen to dwell in the encompassing dwelling. I have a previous blog with too much information and too many pictures HERE.

Most pie safes look ordinary and plain, not unlike this one:

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The pie safe ordinaire. Southern Punched Tin Painted Pie Safe. This lot has sold for $500.

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The not-so-ordinaire punched tin.

But the elite 17% can’t be expected to use ordinary pie safes, they need something a bit more interesting. Because they can afford it.

Like this one:

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Southern Punched Tin Food Safe from Virginia This lot has sold for $2200.

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With more elaborate punched tins.

And since it is a superior pie safe, it has dovetailed drawers:

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One steep pin with all its helpers, the nail family.

(It wouldn’t be my blog without dovetails.)

Another example:

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Virginia Punched Tin Pie Safe. This lot has sold for $2000.

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Punched tins on three sides.

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Wedged dovetails, often a German thing. Looks like it might have been painted in the past.

And a fancy punched tin to match:

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A more sophisticated fylfot design.

I worked very hard to find the word fylfot. I was trying to avoid swirling swastika or pinwheel. I knew the phonetics of the word but not the spelling. I looked at hundreds of images before I found a picture of the cover of Furniture in the Southern Style by Robert W. Lang and Glen D. Huey. Seeing the cover, I walked over to the bookshelf and found my copy, looked on page 144 and found the word fylfot. A quick google search showed me fylfot translates as swastika. Ya can’t win…

Fylfot was also used in the auction listing had I bothered to read it.

As we enter a new era, I wanted to show a pie safe from the other 17% as represented by this safe:

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White Punched Tin Pie Safe. This lot has sold for $430. The pie safe for the rest of us.

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This one has a punched tin on all four sides.

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View from the inside shows the built up nature of this design.


Plantations – Day One.

Sat, 01/14/2017 - 6:52pm

I recently spent a few days in New Orleans for no other reason than to avoid my family over the holidays. I was accompanied by my wife. The Marriott points were hers. It’s useful to have a place to sleep, even in New Orleans.

I have nothing against my family but I think we are all happy we live where we do. Elsewhere. You can now bicker by text and Skype remotely where in the past a physical presence was required. My wife and I did spend four days with the family in Missouri. The family moved there via Denver after I left for college. Visiting a place for almost 40 years does not make it home…

New Orleans in a great food town and we ate our way through it as only we can. The free breakfast at the hotel is almost worth what you pay for it. I’ve been told they’re not powdered eggs but instead arrive in a plastic bag. A lukewarm comfort at best.

This leave us time to fill between meals. We have already hit most of the museums, historic houses and antique shops on Royal during past visits. The antique inventory may change but the character remains consistent. To find new thing you need to go to new places.

This time we rented a car and headed out to the plantations west of town. We have avoided renting cars in the past in that overnight hotel parking runs $40 per night. A local lot allows you to park overnight for the discounted rate of $26.50! This is as much or more than the car rental. This trip we found a hotel three blocks from an in town car rental agency and rented one for the day as needed. About as fast as waiting for the valet.

The first plantation we visited was the Nottoway Plantation,  now the Nottoway Plantation and Resort. Apparently have around 200 enslaved workers kept you from attaining resort status in the day.

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Nottoway Plantation, a Greek Revival and Italianate-styled mansion built by John Hampden Randolph in 1859.

It is the largest extant antebellum plantation house in the South with 53,000 square feet of floor space spread over three floors in 64 rooms.

Architecturally, the most interesting feature is the white ballroom. Everything is white. The floor is white. Walls are white. Trim is white. Window treatments, white. And one of the interesting feature in the ballroom is this alcove with the curved wall:

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Apparently we were there around Christmas

Eavesdropping on the guided tour, I heard the claim that the wall were made from bent cypress. To bend the cypress, the wood was soaked in the Mississippi for one year per inch of thickness. No claims were made as to the thickness of the cypress of the length of time soaked. The mansion was built in three years from lumber harvesting to move in so the wood must only be about 2″. Our Audioguide made similar claims so I will have to accept this as the truth, at least as they see it.

The furniture is not surprisingly mostly Empire and Regency with some Biedermeier/Belter style furniture thrown in as accents:

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A blocky yet handsome secretary.

We can’t forget the French influences throughout Louisiana:

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Try as we might.

Another bed seen in many of the grand southern houses is the half tester bed:

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Draperies not included.

If you are curious about the meaning of half tester, there is an informative blog HERE.

The last piece I am including in this preview is this carved chair:

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I’m sure at this point in furniture making history some automation/mechanical assistance was available.

Still, it amuses me:

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Though I am easily amused.

The rest of the pictures can be found HERE.


Not Carved Wood But The Same Idea…

Thu, 12/29/2016 - 3:55pm

Referring back to this morning’s blog, I found this:

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Not carved wood but functionally the same. And just as odd.

If you don’t get the reference check out this morning’s blog.

If you still don’t get it, well, bless your heart.


Something Odd This Way Comes.

Wed, 12/28/2016 - 10:07pm

(With apologies to Ray Bradbury)

At the now (in)famous auction was one of the oddest pieces of furniture I have ever seen. It was (and still is) an Italian Shell Carved Swivel Stool:

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This lot has sold for $1400.

From the catalog:

Description :  19th century, mahogany, the seat is carved in the form of a large scallop shell which is supported by three cabriole legs with paw feet, the whole raised on a shaped plinth.

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Another view.

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Worth a third look.

It is just, to me, one of the most bizarre pieces of furniture I have seen in a while. And I see some odd stuff.

Then while visiting the Houmas House Plantation near New Orleans I saw this piano stool:

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Not identical but another set of cousins.

The age of the stool was unknown but was in service of a 1901 Steinway Baby Grand.

You just never know what you’re going to find…

 

 


The Did It Their Way

Sun, 12/25/2016 - 10:29pm

Today’s lesson in freethinker’s woodworking come from the same auction as the last blog. It is contained in this Louis XVI Style Parquetry Inlaid C-Scroll Writing Desk:

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This lot has sold for $600.

From the catalog:

Description:   Early 20th century, mixed wood inlays including kingwood, satinwood, and mahogany, a three quarter gallery surmounts the desk’s “C” scroll lid, interior with pull out writing slide with old tooled leather insert, with two small drawers with parquet, featuring an inlaid floral basket medallion above three side by side drawers with parquet inlays, on straight tapered legs, embellished with banded veneers, on brass cast feet.

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Let’s look at this head on. It’s French, OK.

Nicely veneered on all surfaces.

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The dovetailed carcass reads through the veneer.

What caught my eye and amused me though was the dovetails on the drawers. (You’re surprised by this?) But first an explainer about how dovetailed drawers as supposed to work.

Through dovetails were the first ones that most of us were taught to cut. They are most commonly used for carcass or box construction.

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The tails of the dovetails extend through the pin board exposing end grain on both the pin and tail boards.

In half blind dovetails, typically used in drawer construction, the tails do not extend through the pin board usually stopping 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through. The technique presents a smooth, uninterrupted pin board face.

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Half blind dovetails leave a clean drawer front or other furniture face.

Half blind dovetails are more challenging to cut in that the tail sockets can only be partially sawn and then chiseled out. It is not  unusual for some people to overcut the pin board on the inner face to make it easier to clean out the socket.

What these people did was to cut the pin board as if were a through dovetail and then just chop out a partial tail socket.

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They can do this because there is a veneer covering the unexpected saw kerfs.

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Another drawer showing the overcuts and veneer.

A thin veneer will not adequately cover a through dovetailed joint. In time, the wood movement will crack the veneer, or if well glued, cause ripples in the veneer telegraphing the dovetails.

I have seen a few examples of through dovetailed drawer boxes with veneers in excess of 1/8″, thick enough to conceal the tails. But not many.

This overcutting is an interesting compromise. The veneer is thick enough to conceal the saw kerf.

Being French, it also has the odd dovetails at the back of the drawer boxes:

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Some claim they are cut this way to act as a rear drawer stop. I’m not so sure but don’t have a better explanation.

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