wainscot chest

One of the projects I am working towards finishing is this wainscot chest. The other day I did the final pinning, which can only be done after the till parts are cut and test-fitted. One of the biggest headaches in making such a chest. There’s lots of ways to fit the till. I thought I’d show you some alternatives from my files.  

First, to catch anyone up who is new – the till is the small compartment fitted on the interior of a chest or box. It is sort of squeezed between the front and back of the chest, and captured there when the whole thing is assembled.

Here is one from Braintree, Massachusetts – these guys cut the till lid to conform around the rectangular stiles. The lid pivots on an extended round-whittled tenon, or pintle. This fits into a bored hole in the interior faces of the front and rear stiles. For this till lid to work, you must nick away the top inside corner of the stile as well.

till lid, Braintree chest

Here is the same shop, with a till in a small carved box. This till had two small drawers under it at one point…note that when the till lid is open, it can support the box lid. All oak, refinished, even inside!

Braintree box interior

Next is one from Thomas Dennis’ shop in Ipswich, Massachusetts, 1660-1700 (same dates as the Braintree stuff we just looked at) . Here the till itself is gone, a common thing. but its evidence is clear – the notches for the side & bottom, and the hole for the lid’s pintle.

till trenches and hole

Note that on that one the top corner is again nicked away. To make a till with a square-ended lid, you must hack away chunks of the stile. Shops in Plymouth Colony did that regularly. This till lid is riven Atlantic white cedar, complete with runs of crease moldings.

plymouth colony chest till lid

Same till, showing the molded till front, and the overall large size. Most tills are smaller than this. This till bottom fits into notches in the stiles AND in the side muntin.

till side and bottom
 Here is the evidence for a simple till in a chest from Dedham, Massachusetts, same general time frame. No till lid, just notches for the side & bottom. Simplifies things a lot
Dedham chest till notches
Here I am scribing the till bottom to nest against the chest’s side. I made the till bottom extra-wide, slid it into the notches, and scribed with a compass. Then removed it, cut to shape, and fit the till side.
scribing till bottom

The till lid being test-fitted; the chest’s rear frame is not pinned on yet, so I can open up the frame a bit, slip the till parts in, and then test the whole thing. If the till parts are too long, they can keep the chest from coming together. On this chest I have carved the upper side rail, so the chest’s front is on our right in this photo. The till lid has been cut to conform to the front stile’s irregular rectangular shape.

till lid


finished till

There, done. After the weekend, the floor is next.


5 thoughts on “tills

  1. I know many of you read this blog on one device or another. I had problems getting it to look right last night. so if you read it in the email that goes out, it might be garbled some. check the blog itself to see the most coherent version of “tills”

  2. Excellent information, description & pictures of till examples Peter.
    I especially like the one on the smaller box with drawer compartments.
    An idea for a future project perhaps.
    (Now, if I can just break in to that stratosphere of carving, all will be well.)
    Your chest is coming out beautifully.

  3. Peter, what supports the free end of the till? I can see from the photos that the till side comes down to rest on the edge of the till bottom. The till bottom seems only to be supported at the back edge in the notches of the stiles, and extends freely cross-grained to support the till side that is floating in the notches of the rails. Seems like any downward pressure on the till side would snap the bottom.

    • Hi Dave

      No support whatsoever out there. yes, sufficient downward pressure will wreck it. I have seen some where the bottom is nailed up to the edge of the till side; don’t think I have seen it the other way around, although that would have merit too.

      I think your suspicions are correct, that tills are a weak point, prone to damage. Many tills are missing; all that remains are the notches/trenches for them. But why would someone put downward pressure on the till? Regular use & the till should last just fine.

      • Thanks for the reply to my question, Peter. I just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t missing a construction detail.

        As you said, with normal use the till should hold up fine. I was just picturing someone leaning on the till a bit as they reached for something in the bottom of the chest. Maybe an OSHA-required yellow label — “Don’t lean here.”

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