|The Completed Chest of Drawers|
A few months ago I went to a local auction where a Walnut four drawer chest of drawers was being auctioned off among other items. At first I went with a mind to purchase it if the price was right, but ended up buying some locally made chairs instead. The chest was purchased by a friend of mine who asked about restoration on the spot and I ended up loading the chest into my van and taking it back to the shop.
The chest was a real diamond in the rough. There were many condition issues including missing hardware and inlaid escutcheons. The new owner of the piece and I met in my shop to discuss the restoration and decided that a conservative approach should be taken, mainly to replace the missing parts and to try to bring the chest to a point where it was functional and complete, but still had the presence of a 200 year old chest.
The chest was a classic four drawer chest which was a very popular form along the eastern seaboard from the mid 18th century well into the 19th. Judging by the design of the chest and use of the French foot, I determined that this is what is referred to as a Hepplewhite chest and probably made shortly after the turn of the 19th century. The chest was purchased in Loudoun County and was probably made there or in one of the surrounding counties.
Despite all of the condition issues, this chest had sound construction and looks to have very little work done to it over the years (with the exception of the addition of some store bought wooden knobs). The case was built with dovetail joinery and as is typical of these chests, the top was attached with the use of a sliding dovetail joint. Where nails were used they were cut nails and in some places Rose head nails were used, indicating an earlier date of manufacture. Below is a photo of the chest before it was purchased.
These next few photos show the chest in my shop before any restoration work too place. In the detail photos you can see the veneer loss to the apron and the front legs. In fact, most of the front leg on the right side was missing and the left side was only a little better!
The following photo shows the four Maple escutcheons being glued in place.
The last step was to cut the keyholes in each escutcheon and the results can be seen below. You can also see how much dirt and wax was removed around the escutcheon area by the hot water used to clean the excess glue. Later in the restoration the drawers were cleaned and this evened out.
The drawer dividers are fitted into the case using a half dovetail joint as seen in the photo below. Originally, these joints would have been covered by a thin piece of Walnut trim running vertically and glued to the front edge of the sides. On both sides, these strips were missing. The customer supplied me with a 19th century bed that we cut up for Walnut with a similar tone and surface. The wood matched beautifully! The photos following the photo below show the new strips being fitted and glued to the case.
The skirt of the case was originally veneered with Walnut veneer. Much of it had buckled and been lost. Below are some photos of the veneer replacement using veneers made from the bed rails of the 19th century bed. Not only was the color and surface right, but I could cut veneers to thickness rather than using modern thin veneer and having to build it up.