First joinery for the next cupboard

I started cutting joinery for the next version of the Essex County cupboard.

part of the lower case’s end framing

I hate to use the word “unique” when describing particular antique furniture. But these northern Essex County cupboards from the 1680s or so have some features that we don’t see elsewhere in New England furniture of that period. The framing I cut in the past day or two (part of the end framing of the lower case) illustrates some of that distinction. Two very deep (or tall) end rails are the first feature that stands out – these appear in the cupboards and also in some of the joined chests from this unidentified shop. These two are each 7 1/2″ high. Below is the original cupboard now at the Massachusetts Historical Society

MHS cupboard detail

Those double tenons on the rails join a “normal” stile at the rear, but at the front they join separate square blocks that are connected by the large turned pillar. Behind that pillar is a recessed stile that frames the middle two drawers. This recessed section, or the overhang above and below it, is part of this shop’s signature approach to making large cupboards.

So what’s “normal” look like? Here’s another shop from Essex County, another elaborate cupboard (at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem). But look at the lower case, essentially a chest-of-drawers. All the drawer fronts are in the same plane – none of that overhanging “jetty” like the northern Essex County stuff. This is what most New England court/press/wainscot cupboards present for their lower case, whether it’s drawers or doors down there.

Symonds shop cupboard

Some of the overhangs are significant, some very slight. Here’s the one at Winterthur that Jennie Alexander used to call the “lunar lander.” Here the overhang is to the sides, not the front.

Winterthur cupboard

And the most extreme example, even with its later additions/changes – the Currier Gallery of Art cupboard. It has double-jetties both to the sides and the front in the lower case. Framing that takes some head-scratching.

Currier Gallery of Art

The deep rails appear on the joined chests-with-drawers, usually as the bottom rail on the ends. Here’s just one example.

Wadsworth Atheneum chest with drawer

It’s fun to be back at this sort of work. Time for a new log so I can keep going.

7 thoughts on “First joinery for the next cupboard

  1. If I were your patron, I would have chosen the Currier one. As I recall, the one now at Chipstone and the Currier one are one big case, no?

  2. That cupboard reminded me that some time ago I spotted a relative of it in a thrift/antique store.
    I first noticed the carving, then the pinned tenon joinery and only then the overall design.
    This was in the Netherlands and I did take some pictures:

    https://imgur.com/lLPlOzs

  3. Such interesting pieces, and their elaborate ornamentation is unexpected for the period- at least to me.
    I have been wondering how you avoid glue squeezeout and manage to keep the appliques in place. I can imagine tiny brads to fix them in place. ( I have read of sprinkling salt in the glue, but nobody seems to have given any consideration to the chemistry of that, nor have I found historical precedent.)
    So if you could give a quickie overlook of the process I would be grateful.

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