the only one of these sticks I’ve ever seen

I’m cleaning & sorting. It’s just awful. I’ll spare you the gory details; but found these photos of an interesting board chest. It was probably 20 years ago I shot these, a few are worth seeing. Here’s the overall chest, pine throughout.


It was made in Plymouth, 1699 (the date is carved on the till lid) – an ordinary enough board chest, with a drawer. The real kicker for me is the mechanism for locking the drawer. Garish color here, but here’s the sleeve with the stick that slides through a hole in the chest floor –

chest interior w stick


And then engages a related sleeve in the drawer. Amazingly, it’s all there, a rare survivor. Seems like the drawer also was compartmentalized, note the notch in the inside of the drawer front.

drawer interior w stick

Here’s the only detail I have of the decoration on the chest & drawer fronts:

punch work & carving

The chest we’re building in class at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking had a similar drawer-locking arrangement, so we’ll copy this sort of stick.


Another board chest with drawer(s)

To pick up where I left off the other night,

Here’s one more board chest, made in Plymouth Colony…late 17th century. Hard to pin a date on such a thing.

board chest w drawers

Lots of added junk inside to house the drawers. Runners nailed to the inside for the drawers to ride on, (pictured) and a divider between the two narrow, side-by-side drawers.

drawer runner

Very simple cut-out to form the “feet” of this chest. Note the decorative end of the lid’s cleat. I like this sort of treatment and use it way more than I see it on old chests and boxes. It’s hard to resist.



side view

Simple rabbeted nailed drawer. Note the sawmill’s tally mark scribed on this drawer side. The board’s been planed, but not deeply enough to get all the way past the race knife marks. Is it the number of board feet in each board? I don’t know for sure how it’s employed.

drawer and sawmill tally mark

Here’s the juncture of the moldings outlining the  “frames” on the chest front.

applied moldings, with saw-tooth decoration

Another view of one of the drawers. Nailed-on bottom board. Running side-to-side.

another view of a drawer

All in all, a great chest, but pretty simple. All white pine, maybe the moldings are Atlantic white cedar, I’m not sure. There’s a till on the inside; the chest lid’s been repaired with a new strip at the back edge where the hinges busted out.

a couple of New England 17th-century board chests

I have been reading about Chris Schwarz’ take on what he’s calling “Furniture of Necessity”, I’m interested particularly in the board chests. Here’s Chris’ post:

Chris & I corresponded a bit about these things, but I was no help really. I haven’t studied them much. I made a few for PBS’ show Colonial House many years ago, and a few others besides. Here’s one of my Colonial House chests, I have another here at the house, filled with kid’s junk. The color in this photo is off- I did paint is w iron oxide mixed in linseed oil, but it doesn’t really look like this.

PF board chest

So I have been digging through some old photos in my files. Here’s a couple of board chests, made in New England in the late 17th century. This first one might even be in Chris’ slide show he copped from auction houses. I had it here to make replacement brackets under the front board. (I see it was pre-kids, there’s no plastic toys in the photos, but was shot at the house.)

board chest, pine

One nit to pick is to say that these are un-decorated. This chest is covered with “crease” moldings run along all the front and end boards. I often see pine paneling in early New England houses decorated the same way.

board chest, foot cutout

If you want to cut out the feet in some simple scheme, here it is. No turning saw, bowsaw – just a handsaw.

closer shot of foot cutout

Most often in the New England examples I know best, there is a drawer or drawers under the chest carcass. Makes it more useful, but some fussing around to fit drawers in it. This one is part of a huge group of joined and boarded furniture attributed to Plymouth Colony. See Robert St. George’s book The Wrought Covenant for details about the whole show – but here it’s a pine chest w drawer. Dated on the till lid 1689. Drawer front carved. Applied moldings above and below the drawer. Punched & scribed decoration on the chest front. Replaced hinges. It’ s pretty big – H: 32″ W: 48″   D:  20″

board chest, Plymouth area, 1689
side view

One great thing about his chest is the surviving stick that locks the drawer from within the chest. (This batch was scanned from photos I shot 18 yrs ago, these are the best I have of this chest) – the sleeve is nailed to the inside face of the front board. There’s a mortise chopped through the chest bottom = and the oak stick slides down into a corresponding sleeve in the drawer.


sleeve & stick to lock drawer
inside the drawer

Notice that here, the joiner used front-to-back boards for the chest bottom and drawer bottom. Looks like the drawer had a divider in it once also. Here’s the drawer front, and the applied moldings.

carving detail

Here is the till. It’s a bit of a mess. Maybe always was. Horrible carving, but gives us the date just the same. Other Plymouth Colony chests have similarly awful carved dates.

the till

I have another, but am out of time. So more later.