Monday, November 19, 2007

Mom-in-Law's Antiques

We visited my partner's mom (Lynn) this weekend in Charleston, WV, home to gorgeous mountains, friendly people, and 70 mph speed limits on circuitous roads.

Lynn has an extensive collection of 18th and 19th c. antiques that fills 3 houses and a 3-story barn. In the Charleston house, here are a few of my favorites.

The first is an 1840's corner cupboard made from poplar. The simple design and turned knobs are similar elements found in Shaker furniture.

The second piece is an 8' tall, and nearly 8' wide, cherry flatwall kitchen cupboard that belonged to General McCausland of the Confederate Army, who was responsible for burning the town of Chambersburg, PA to the ground during the Civil War.

Next is a mahogany highboy from the late 1800's.

Fourth is an 1840's sugar chest made from cherry. Woodworkers are famous for checking beneath the "undercarriage" to investigate joinery, as I did with this piece. The sides, front, and back of the sugar chest are joined to the legs with very large mortise & tenon joints, hence the split in the side. The wide boards were restricted in seasonal movement across their widths, having been glued to legs whose grain runs vertically. By rights, all four sides of this piece should be split, but are not.

And finally, some very well made English style half-blind dovetails. English style refers to very thin dovetails, where the tops of the pins are as thin as the width of the kerf of a sawblade. Not sure why the maker felt it necessary to also nail the sides to the front. With dovetails that tight, it would have held together just fine without even using glue. Notice also, the little nails that attach the cock beading to the drawer front.


Unknown said...

Could you make something like that?

Kari Hultman said...

At my skill level, I could build all but the highboy. If I tried to build that, no doubt, I'd invent a few new expletives.

Presbyfruit's History Bits said...

You said "cock beading," heh heh. And you like to check under the chassis, eh?

JUST KIDDING, Polly Presbyterian! Don't delete me!

The photos are gorgeous!

Unknown said...

What makes the highboy different?

Kari Hultman said...

The highboy has ornate shell carvings, ball & claw feet, an arched pediment with carved rosettes, turned finials, and decorative corners on the carcase. So, lots of handwork, detailed turning, and more complex joinery than the other three pieces.

Conversely, the other pieces of furniture are just boxes with some basic joinery. Even the crown molding on the corner cupboard is simple. There are turned legs on the sugar cabinet, but they are not very elaborate, and the doors on the other pieces are just frame and panel.

In short, I neither have the patience nor the know-how to build the highboy.

Unknown said...


Good to know though.

Anonymous said...

It is more difficult, but she fails to mention another important reason. She doesn't like that style, so she really hasn't tried doing something like that or would want to. She is very talented and I believe that she could make a piece like that if she wanted. Just like I have no intention of EVER building Modern or Arts and Crafts furniture since I just don't care for those styles. I have changed my mind on the Shaker style though. It has gone from no interest to one of my favorite.

Anonymous said...

Sitting over the heat register WILL crack the other three sides on the sugar chest.