Angled stiles

I’ve been working on the joinery for this cupboard I’m making. Having just done one of these last year makes this one a snap. But I couldn’t find the notched blocks I made last year to hold the stiles for mortising. They must have ended up in the stove. So I made new ones.

fitting side rails in rear stiles

But that got me to thinking about the surviving cupboards from this group. I think there’s 11 or 12 of them. I have measurements from several when I studied them with Bob Trent and Alan Miller for our 2001 article. I wondered if they used the same angles every time – I remembered that the components’ dimensions varied a little. So I drew some scaled half-plans of the upper cases.

Here’s the one I’m making, same as last year. The angle between the back edge and the side is 50 degrees. Makes a roomy cupboard inside.

MHS 50 degrees

I don’t have measurements for all of them, but checked the ones I do. Three of them came out at 45 degrees, like this one.

BHS 45 degrees

On those three, the shoulder-to-shoulder dimensions of the side rails are 14″, 14 1/4″ and 15 3/8″. Front shoulder-to-shoulders vary as well, 15″, 15 1/4 and 13 5/8″. Stiles vary only slightly – 2 3/8″ or 2 1/4″.

This cupboard is the shallowest of the ones I measured. Forget the glass door and some other oddities, those happened later. But they didn’t change the format of the piece.

restored/altered cupboard, 1680s

Its upper case is pretty shallow. Angle comes out to 35 degrees.

Currier angles

It doesn’t mean much – especially because I didn’t get those dimensions from the whole group. For comparison, I checked the side framing of the lower cases – to see how much variation there is. First of all, here’s the format I’m looking at:

PF cupboard 2021/2022

But it might be hard to visualize with all that junk applied to it. Here it is before assembly, before the pillars and applied decoration.

PF cupboard test assembly

The dimensions of the one I’m making are this:

I have measurements for four of these. They vary here and there – the shoulder-to-shoulder of those deep rails run from 14 3/4″ to 16 3-8″. These panels are 5 1/8″ wide, the others are 4 1/8″, 4 1/4″ and 4 7/8″. The part that’s interesting to me is the space between the recessed stile and the blocks/stiles that frame the top & bottom drawers. Here it is slight – 1 1/8″. One has a 2″ space there, one at 1 7/8″ and 1 3/8″. But the final overhang, from the recessed drawer/face to the top & bottom drawer faces is quite consistent – 4 3/8″, 4 3/8″, 4 5/8″ and one at 5 1/4″.

The one with the greater overhang is the one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art –

Cupboard, 1680–85 American, Oak, maple, tulip poplar with oak and pine; 58 1/4 x 49 1/2 x 20 3/4 in. (148 x 125.7 x 52.7 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Rogers Fund; Sage Fund, by exchange; Sansbury-Mills Fund; Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Gift, in honor of Morrison H. Heckscher; and Friends of the American Wing Fund, 2010 (2010.467a–p)

There’s no conclusion to all this looking at these measurements. Other than they didn’t have a standard size/angle to work with or from. And I can’t imagine I’ll be making a third one of these – but I’ll hang on to those blocks just in case.

plowing panel grooves

One thought on “Angled stiles

  1. reminds me of when i analysed Bach’s cello suits looking to see if there was some unifying tempo relationship i could use in performance. like the poem: one tempo to rule them all, one tempo to find them, one tempo to bring them to the concert hall, and in the silence sublime them…. (i didn’t find anything convincing either, but going down that rabbet hole was great fun, as I’m sure digging through your notes was for you.)

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