Finished the chest of drawers

The chest of drawers is too large to photograph in the shop, I was outside the front door to shoot this one. And I see I left a can of WD-40 in the window. Oh well. It feels good to have this done. Forget the notion that I started it 10 years ago; I feel like I was working on it forever this summer & fall. But, I can tell roughly how long I worked on it, thanks to Chris Becksvoort. I bought his book Shaker Inspirations from Lost Art Press https://lostartpress.com/products/shaker-inspirations. Not because I care about Shaker furniture, not because I want to convert my shop to a mixture of hand & electric tools. Not because of any reason except I really admire Chris’ dedication and skills and was sure there’d be stuff in there that’s useful, regardless of his minimalism and my horror vaccui. In that book, he notes that he keeps records of all his time on a given piece. Careful detailed notes…

I used to many years ago write on a calendar what I worked on each given day, roughly how much time, etc. When I was in the museum world, the most common question we ever got, no matter what, was “how long does that take?” I realized the question was not going to go away, so in the winters, I would carefully keep track of my time for making a piece, a joined carved chest – 75-85 hours; joined stool, 12-14 hours. And so on. 

But after a while, I got out of the habit. After reading Chris’ book, I started at least writing what work I did each day, and roughly how much time I was in the shop. So  I was able to go back and calculate that I worked on the chest of drawers 14 full days and 17 partial days this year. Some of those “partial” days were 1/2 days – in other cases, I listed three or four projects I flipped back & forth on a given day, so might just be an hour or two. But let’s call them all half-days to simplify the math. That comes out to 8 1/2 more days. So just over 3 weeks to make the lower case entirely; and finish work on the upper case. Umpteen zillion pieces of wood. Plenty of mistakes, poor miters, irregular moldings – but no blank spaces to speak of.

A slew of photos; with captions.

The cedar base molding mitered and applied to the end rail.

And pegged w a square peg. I did this to all the large moldings.

this turning blank is the first of many steps to make the final 2 pieces of decoration – 2 oval applied turnings. 3/8″ thick rosewood glued to sacrificial oak.

On the lathe, you just turn beads of various proportions; here’s the initial shaping. Ordinarily, I’d apply thin pieces to every face of the oak & end up with lots of these things. I just needed 2, so I got on with it.

You see them taking shape now.

I turned a few so I’d have some to choose from…

Not the best skew work, but it will do.

The rear of the lower case. Pine panels, oak frame.

End view of the lower case – Spanish cedar panels, resawn, bookmatched. Same wood for the moldings.

Lower case, empty. East Indian rosewood turnings.

 

Looking into the empty lower case. Tenons in end rail engage mortises in lower edge of upper case to keep the two pieces aligned.

Drawer construction. Side hung, half-blind dovetails at front, nailed rabbets at rear. Pine bottoms, ship-lapped. Beveled at front into groove in drawer front. Nailed up to drawer’s bottom edges.

First two drawers inserted, the only carving thus far, a recycled box-front-as-drawer-side.

The lower case, filled w drawers now.

The upper case. Empty. Here’s the oval turnings applied on the top end rails.

Bottom edge of upper case. Mortises for those tenons to align the cases. Another recycled carving, as drawer runner for side-by-side upper drawers. I left out a dust board that should be in rabbets in the lower front & side rails. I ran out of 1/2″ pine boards, so let it go.

the WD-40 shot again.

The sunlight on the rosewood is something else. I had heard nightmare stories about using this wood. Too hard, allergic reactions, etc. I got lucky, had no problem. It turns like nothing I’ve ever seen.

8 thoughts on “Finished the chest of drawers

  1. Beautiful chest. I really appreciate your posts as well as your transparency about your work–“Not the best skew work, but it will do.” Makes me feel better about my own work.

  2. Thanks for taking us on the journey Peter. Quite the marathon with a beautiful conclusion. And I feel lots better about my glacial working speed!

  3. Unbelievable amount of work, and you hadn’t made one before. Almost as much as a Plymouth cupboard wit drawers, minus the big pillars. Certainly less work than the Milford cupboard at the Metropolitan. Getting it in your house will demonstrate why it was made in two parts.

  4. That monster ended up looking really great. The overall proportions are really nice and the big moldings breaking up the front, along with the contrasting woods, really works well. Thanks for all the posts on this project, Peter.

  5. Hello Peter…that is a real master piece….really beautiful.
    Thanks for sharing and for the notes on keeping track of time….excellent idea.
    Joe

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