chests of drawers


chest of drawers with doors


Trent sent me a link to this object; coming up in a sale at Sotheby’s in April. It’s mid-17th century, English. Really high-style, on a par with the carved Dutch work I showed a few weeks ago. This one is listed as oak, fruitwood, mother-of-pearl, bone & ivory. Doesn’t mention snakewood or other tropical woods; but I imagine that’s what the veneers are, perhaps the applied turnings as well. 

At first glance, it’s not even apparent what this thing is – for those new to joinery, it’s a chest of drawers, with doors. It comes in two cases, the lower contains (usually) three drawers, behind a pair of doors.  The upper case has two drawers, one very shallow, the other quite deep. There is a fabulous Boston example at Yale University’s Art Gallery. 

Five years ago, I strolled thru the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and shot some pretty poor photos of one they display. Here’s some of those photos:

V&A COD w doors, open


V&A COD detail


Not too long ago, Trent & I looked at the pared-down cousin of the Yale one at the MFA. No doors. Still a great object.

chest of drawers


I got this shot from their website,  but you’ll see more of it when Trent & I finish our article for American Furniture 2010. Woods used include ebony for the long applied turnings on the upper case.

I was both surprised and pleased to see that the deep drawer was made of stock that is glued-up – surprised because I assumed it was wide oak stock riven from a giant log. Pleased because, if the day comes when I get to make one for my wife, I can work it up from a reasonable oak log. (my photos below show different color because of lighting conditions, these shots were for study purposes…)

interior view, deep drawer on MFA chest of drawers


The drawers are oak on the sides & rear, I think pine fronts if I remember right. The carcass is made up mostly of oak & cedrela odorata; a cousin of mahogany. But in this case, riven stock. Some cedrelas are ring-porous, which means they split well; unlike mahogany, with its interlocked grain. (like I know anything about mahogany)

detail, drawer front MFA


The drawer’s back board is wide oak; but riven down to clapboard-like thickness. barely dressed at all…just on the inside.

rear view deep drawer


Here’s the drawer’s details; half-blind dovetails at front; rabbet at rear (nailed from the back); a groove for the bottom boards to fit to the inside of the drawer front. Bottom is nailed up to the edges of the sides and rear. The side-hung deep drawer runs on a pair of slats inside the case, all the other drawers have single runners. I doubt I measured the drawer; but my guess is it’s about 10″ deep, maybe a bit more.

1/2 blind dovetails; double grooves for runners


So, not the kind of stuff I am making these days; but the stuff I am thinking about while we write this spring. Really the pinnacle of joinery in New England. Look up Yale’s when you get a chance; here is a link: