A few years ago I was fortunate to acquire a seventeenth-century joined chest with drawer, made by William Savell, (1652-1699/1700) of Braintree, Massachusetts. It needed some restoration, but was well worth the trouble. One long rail had been removed from the bottom section of the chest and replaced by an incorrect restoration. The new rail was toenailed in, not tenoned into the stiles. When I removed it I found that the tenons for the original rail were still in place in the mortises. I had to remove these tenons to be able to insert my new replacement rail. Easier said than done. Each tenon was secured with one draw-bored peg; none came out easily, and only this one came out intact. The others I had to bore through them, and shred them to get them out. Each one took over 30 minutes to remove.
This is the chest as it was when it came to my shop. Essentially the carcass is correct, but several other parts were wrong. There are 2 drawers where there should be one, the rail below these drawers is the replacement I had to remove. The lid is also incorrect. The floor and rear boards were also replaced. I’ve done all the woodwork for the restoration; all that remains is the coloring. Having the chest in the shop is a great way to really see how it is made. Here are the floor rails where they meet at the stiles. The groove for the floor is visible; and the floor rails are pentagonal, the thicker edge at the bottom is to strengthen the rail where the joiner cut the groove in it.
This is the new pine floor boards being installed. They are beveled to fit into the grooves, and sit on a lower rear rail. Tongue & grooved at their edges. The middle one is tapered in width to spread the floor right & left.
The chest as it stands now is pretty close to what it should be (other than those silly castors) I am going to bring it back to the shop at some point to color it, but in the meantime we have pressed it into duty here at home. To me it’s fitting that the only piece of antique furniture we have is one I have been studying for 20 years now. The article on these chests is online at chipstone’s website. Follow their pages to American Furniture, 1996 and it’s in that issue. www.chipstone.org