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Thursday, April 7, 2011

English Regency Mahogany Chest of Drawers (ca. 1810)

The piece I am currently working on is a chest of drawers made during the English Regency period and dating to around 1810. The chest has two short drawers over three long drawers and each layer of drawer is graduated by 1 inch. Although this piece is from the Regency period, previous repairs make this chest look more like an earlier Chippendale chest, and perhaps this was intentional.

The chest retains many of its original features, which were useful in dating the piece, but the molding around the top, the cockbeading around the drawers, the ogee bracket feet and the brass hardware are all later additions. I believe that the brass hardware has been with the piece for some time, and there is evidence of three different types of hardware on this chest. Originally it would have had turned knobs. The feet would have originally been a French foot, or possibly a turned bun foot. There is evidence of a bun foot in the blocking beneath the chest, but it is hard to tell if this is original. While on one level, these changes are inappropriate to the piece, they are old enough to be part of the piece and no attempt will be made to undo these changes.

All of that being said, this is a spectacular chest that has some very nice features. The top is veneered with Honduran Mahogany and inlaid in that veneer is a marquetry design of an urn in Satinwood with a Rosewood background. The corners of the top are inlaid with Satinwood fans with a Rosewood background and the entire top is framed with cross banding of Yew.

The drawer fronts are inlaid with Holly and are framed with Rosewood cross banding. The sides of the chest are Solid Honduran Mahogany. The newer feet and all of the moldings are also made from Honduran Mahogany. Below is a photo of the chest as it came to me.
This photo shows the top of the chest. The finish on the piece was a modern Lacquer which had yellowed and separated from the wood. This was removed and the entire chest will receive a French Polish finish.
The photos below are close up shots of the Urn, the fans in the corners of the top, and the Yew cross banding on the top. Note how the finish has deteriorated in these photos.

Below is a photo of the chest with the finish and hardware removed. You can see the original holes for the wooden knobs in this photo.
This photo shows the Urn with the finish removed. The oval background is Rosewood. The upper half is the sap wood, while the lower is the heartwood. This motif falls nicely into the Neoclassical designs employed during the Regency period.
Here is a close up of the fan and the Yew cross banding. The dark edges of the fan, which give it depth, are achieved by dipping the veneer in hot sand.
This photo shows the cross banding on the drawers. It is Rosewood framed in Holly stringing. the inner layer of Holly is actually two strips, one dyed black. Within the Mahogany drawer front is more Holly stringing.
If you look closely at this photo of the drawers, you will see that the fronts have blue tape in various places. This is where the cross banding has loosened. The next few photo show the cleaning and re-gluing of these loose spots.
Lifting the loose cross banding with an X-acto knife.
Gluing down all of the loose cross banding.
The drawer sides and interior runners on this chest were completely worn. A feeble attempt was made to address this, but the drawers still operated very poorly. At first, I was going to attempt to flip the interior runners and use the smooth undersides, but once I examined the joinery, it became clear that I needed to re create these pieces. I did this using nice oxidized Pine left over from an older project. Below is a photo of the interior runners that remained in the chest.
A close up of one of the runners shows how much it was dished out.
This runner, used as a center support for the two short drawers, was also dished out and needed to be replaced.
The pieces on the left are the original runners and the ones on the right are the new ones ready to install.
I clamp the interior runners in place while the glue drys by jamming in long boards between the runners. this applies pressure while the glue drys. The next two photos show this process.

Here is a photo of the center runner between the two short drawers being glued up and sitting next to the old center runner.
An attempt was made to repair the drawer sides by adding on strips of cheap Mahogany. These were removed.
This photo shows the wear on one of the drawer sides. this should be a level surface, and not sloped.
After the drawer sides were leveled, new wood was added to the sides to allow them to open and close. The photos below show this new wood being glued in place.

The last two photos show the new center interior runner being glued in place. The following post will deal with the finishing of the chest.

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