Irony of Ironies and a “Secret” Compartment

But first the back stories. My last auction and antiques blog is actually from February 20th of this year. It has been sitting out there on flickr until either I needed it or I came up with a narrative. I finally came up with a narrative and blogged it.

Story 2: On Monday I got a call from a friend asking I wanted to go about an hour north to visit some interesting furniture in a shop that is open by appointment only. It sounded to me like a plan. Well, he mumbles, I am part deaf and we were talking on cellphones. Hilarity ensued. I went up there. He wasn’t there. The shop wasn’t open. On my second call to him we connected. He was thinking Tuesday of next week. I went up a week early. Things happen.

Suddenly I had a few hours to kill before my scheduled quarterly haircut. I looked around and found a few small antiques shops. At the first shop I walked into, I saw something familiar. Remember this one from the last blog:

Look familiar?

Look familiar?

This is what I saw:

Old friend, new home. Click to see a novel back.

Old friend, new home. Click to see a novel back.

It’s just odd that a piece I had ignored for six months shows up again so quickly after I remembered it.

This dresser was there too:

Another migratory piece of furniture. Click for the dovetailed drawer.

Another migratory piece of furniture. Click for the dovetailed drawer.

Then there was a blog recently about a till in a chest, A Drawer Might Have Been Easier.

In the lower level of the same mall, I found a contemporary example of a “secret” compartment. I offer this as only an example.

A chest.

A chest.

A chest with a till on the left.

A chest with a till on the left.

A chest with till on the left opened.

A chest with till on the left opened.

A chest with till on the left opened with front removed revealing "secret" compartment.

A chest with till on the left opened with front removed revealing “secret” compartment.

Maybe concealed is a better word. The till front rides in the dadoes and just lifts out. One unique thing is that the till lid is inset (lies within the till) as opposed to the typical overlay door (sits atop the till). It does use the usual pintle hinge.

To round out this blog and make sure you get your money’s worth, I’m throwing in two more wall boxes. Both from the same local shop that had the last set. This one is billed as a candle box:

A candle box. Click to see the back and some very small snipe hinges.

A candle box. Click to see the back and some very small snipe hinges.


Then there is this one with a mirror:

Wall box with mirror.

Wall box with mirror.

And finally another poll. I found this in a drawer in another antiques shop:

A Bruce Willis 45 RPM single. How many lost cultural references are there in that phrase?

A Bruce Willis 45 RPM single. How many lost cultural references are there in that phrase?

I Like Wall Boxes

I like wall boxes. It could be because they are things I can afford. Or things that I can make quickly. Or I just might like wall boxes. A few months back I walked through the local antiques mall and noticed the dealers there also had a fondness for wall boxes.

There was this rather large one:

This box is a bit more complex than most. Click to see details and a different views of the knobs.

This box is a bit more complex than most. Click to see details and a different views of the knobs.

All these boxes have rather interesting knob. Like this smaller one:

Smaller, simpler wall box. Feet indicate it might not technically be a wall box. Click to see the square knob.

Smaller, simpler wall box. Feet indicate it might not technically be a wall box. Click to see a square knob.

Here is a smaller box with interesting details:

Box has interesting, carved ornamentation. Click to see the faceted knob.

Box has interesting, carved ornamentation. Click to see the faceted knob.

All these are possible future projects. Eventually.

This piece made me think it might be contemporary:

Something from Bassett?

Something from Bassett?

until I looked at a drawer:

A Knapp joint. Covered in a previous blog..

A Knapp joint. Covered in a previous blog..

This means is was most likely made between 1890 and 1900. Not contemporary but not ancient.

Who made it is not a mystery:

It's a Paine. From Boston.

It’s a Paine. From Boston.

And a  gout rocker.

And a gout rocker.

Click HERE to see the entire set on flickr. Lots of interesting stuff in this one.

Lawn Mower Blades: HSS, O1, A2, or PM-V11 (No Furniture Content)

Before my required weekly appointment with the lawn, I had to do some deferred mower maintenance. It is a self-propelled mower that had lost the self part. It was even hard to push. The teeth on the inner rim of the wheels and been mostly ground off. The bigger problem was the the the remaining tooth stubs would bind up against the drive gear and not propel, self or otherwise. The replacements of the wheels and the dust shields was uneventful. This surprised me.

While the mower was on the bench, I decided to check on the blade. I am ashamed to admit when I removed the blade, I had to stop and try to figure out which edge was supposed to be sharp. I don’t think I had been cutting the grass as much as annoying it.

What the blade is supposed to look like.

What the blade is supposed to look like.

As I was sharpening the blade, I started wondering if I would need to sharpened less often (more than two years) if the blades were made out of better steel. High speed steel (HSS) is a good material for general cutting tools but won’t hold an edge as long as other choices. A2 (air-quenched) is a very hard steel that holds an edge longer but is harder to sharpen. O1 (Oil-quenched) is easier to sharpen but doesn’t hold an edge as well. The chromium content of O1 is less than that of A2 steel and will also rust more readily. And finally Lee Valley’s PM-V11, the relatively new powdered metal alloy. Between A2 and O1 in hardness. The claim is that the powered metal is finer grained and more durable and impact resistant. Might be useful in a mower blade. In that Lee Valley already has a gardening line of products, I should be able to talk them into making the blade.

Now some of you engineer types might have issues with my proposed blade improvements. I will attempt to address them all below.

1. Expense – Rough calculations make me think that a high-speed steel blade would be around $300, A2 or O1 around $400 and a PM-V11 close to $500. If I only have to sharpen it every three years it might be worth it. One way to cut costs is to use the old method of laminating an expensive metal edge onto a cheaper blade body. Planes and chisels used to be made this way and I believe that some Japanese tools still are.

2. Brittleness – Harder steels tend to be brittle. One might think that an A2 mower blade hitting a rock at full speed might cause a catastrophic blade failure. I think after five years I have hit all the rocks that there are to hit. One solution might be to again laminate a hard edge on a softer blade. For additional safety, I might want to have a steel mower deck and not an aluminum or plastic one.

Based on the above discussion which steel would you recommend? (My first poll. How exciting!)

For my second poll, how do you sharpen your your mower blade?

It is easier to see where you mowed with a sharp blade. On the other hand, it is much easier to see shat you missed with a sharp blade. Now there is that whole oil change issue. I read somewhere that you should change your oil every 3000 miles. I’ve had the mower six years and even counting the year I had to mow the lawn of the house we owned and lived in and the house we owned and didn’t live in, I don’t think I have 3000 miles on it. If you believe the Car Talk guys, Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers (Tom and Ray Magliozzi), I should be able to get 5000 to 7500 miles between changes. It will be interesting to see if the engine fails before scheduled service.

Air filter wasn’t that bad. When I blew and banged it a bit, I could see the paper pleats.

Next, back to furniture.

It’s Baaaaack and Other Interesting Things

Based on comments, some will think this blog has too many picture. If you find that to be true, feel free to leave the blog and come back when you’re ready. We’ll be here.

You might remember this screen desk from the A Mystery Solved blog back in December:

Secretaire en portefeuille

Secretaire en portefeuille

It was at a local antique mall. I understand that the dealer died because the next time I saw it was at the local auction house:

Look familiar?

Look familiar?

Well, I just saw it back in the same antique mall in a different booth. It was so successful the first time there they brought it back.

Same shop, different booth. At least the auctioneer made money.

Same shop, different booth. At least the auctioneer made money.

Remember this one from the same auction last week:

They said it was a gout stool. I had my doubts.

They said it was a gout stool. I had my doubts.

It is now at the same mall, different booth. The new owner claims it’s a juicer.

It's a juicer, just CLICK to see the tag. $175.

It’s a juicer, just CLICK to see the tag. $175.

And here’s the spout.

This is where the juice drains.

This is where the juice drains.

A few other interesting things from the same mall. One is this chest:

Interesting legs.

Interesting legs.

Then there is this other chest built from used packing crates:

Click to see the inside of the chest and learn its past.

Click to see the inside of the chest and learn its past.

From another shop in the area is this French mailbox:

Click for a side view.

Click for a side view.

And this equally French china:

IMG_6108

The china is interesting but the pintle hings is fascinating:

Click for an alternate view of the hinge.

Click for an alternate view of the hinge.

Finally, saving the best for last:

Betcha they're French. Click to enlarge.

Betcha they’re French. Click to enlarge.

Who wouldn’t want a set of poodle knife rests? For your mothers. Favorite aunts. Slightly odd fathers. Christmas is coming. At $475 for the set, that’s less than $40 per poodle.

Woman’s Home Companion Household Book

One of my wife’s best friends is a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher up north. (In my youth, it was called Home Economics and taught mainly to high school girls with a slightly different curriculum.) While out and about, I have found her books from earlier times that reflect the rather stringent gender stereotyping of their time. On a recent trip out I found this one:

Published in 1948 by P. F. Collier & Son, New York.

Published in 1948 by P. F. Collier & Son, New York.

I paid the $16 and took it home without really reading too much in the store. I was intrigued when I looked at the table of contents and saw the title of Chapter 19:

Right between the "Sewing Index" and "Keeping the Home Clean." Click to see the last 6 chapters.

Right between the “Sewing Index” and “Keeping the Home Clean.” Click to see the last 6 chapters.

Amused, I turned to Chapter 19 and was disappointed when I saw this picture:

Dad and son, appropriate for 1948 but still disappointing for the Woman's Home Companion. Click to enlarge.

Dad and son, appropriate for 1948 but still disappointing for the Woman’s Home Companion. Click to enlarge.

Moving on, I kept reading and came across the recommended tool list:

Not a bad basic tool list. Click to see the second half.

Not a bad basic tool list. Click to see the second half.

The next ten pages are line drawings and descriptions of most of the tools. Then there are 34 pages of drawings and instructions for many projects including a fern stand, shoeshine box, bookcase and various toys. Toward the end, there is a page with drawings for a workbench (Courtesy Stanley Tools):

Why spends a fortune on all those books on workbenches when you can just build this one? Click to see the full page of drawings.

Why spends a fortune on all those books on workbenches when you can just build this one? Click to see the full page of drawings.

They also had plans for sawhorses:

Back from the days when 2 by 4's were 1 3/4" by 3 3/4" and 1 by's were 7/8" thick.

Back from the days when 2 by 4’s were 1 3/4″ by 3 3/4″ and 1 by’s were 7/8″ thick.

The Household Book really is a very comprehensive manual (around 900 pages) covering everything from flower arranging to plumbing (sewage disposal?) and financial management. It does contain useful information and only suffers slightly from being a product of its time.

Get your copy today…

A Drawer Might Have Been Easier

Occasionally, as my busy schedule permits, I will stop by and visit one of the several local auction houses. From time to time, I even take some pictures and share. A few weeks back, I came across a blanket chest that looks an awful lot like this:

Just another chest or so it seems.

Just another chest or so it seems.

I cleared off the lid and looked within. There I saw the typical lidded till on the left, as most tills tend to be. This one was a little unusual with that appeared to be a drawer below the till.

A drawer beneath the till. How unusual.

A drawer beneath the till. How unusual.

Only it’s not a drawer. It is a drawer front sized panel that is loosely mortised into the carcass front and back. The mortise in the case front is a bit deeper. To remove the panel, one slides it toward the left and lifts the right side of the panel out of its mortise and pulling it free.

No drawer but still storage.

No drawer but still storage.

“Secret” compartments in chest tills are fairly common. Usually it’s the front of the till that lifts up or out to reveal the hidden compartment. Others have a false bottom that slides out or lifts up. I always wondered how “secret” they really were. It’s usually quite obvious to me that there is some space not accounted for. Yet I still need to point out these tills to auction staff and dealers. They either didn’t see it, didn’t care or are allowing me to be the clever one. Then again, maybe I see more tills that the average dealer.

I’m not sure this one qualifies as secret. It’s got a knob. It’s just storage. There was some effort expended in creating the two mortises to capture the panel. The panel is a bit fussy getting it in and out. The geometry of the compartment makes thing a nuisance to get things in and out of. Wouldn’t a drawer have been easier and more useful? Maybe less work.

There are a few other things of interest from the auction. One is this large cabinet:

It's really big.

It’s really big.

The really impressive thing is the width of the backboards:

Not yer typical Lowes Depot white wood.

Not yer typical Lowes Depot white wood.

And an extremely sophisticated latching system:

Bottom view. It is a very nicely made hook.

Bottom view. It is a very nicely made hook.

And, because we haven’t had a new one for a while, a gout stool. Or so they claim.

They say it is. Me, I dunno.

They say it is. Me, I dunno.

I didn’t see their description until the next day and wasn’t able to go back and explore it further. It could be. Here is their picture:

Is it or isn't it and why do we care?

Is it or isn’t it and why do we care?

There are a lot more pictures of the auction HERE.

Clever Retrofit or Overisght

It had been days since I looked at old furniture. I was in the early stages of withdrawal. Fortunately a local auction house had a preview that very day. I went and saw many wonderous things. And a few mundanes. And I took lots of PICTURES.

One desk caused me to stop and think for a bit. At first it didn’t make sense. I stared for a while and finally figured out what was going on. The only question now was if this was a creative correction of an oversight or was this the plan the whole time.

First look at this fall front desk:

A nice desk but nothing out of the ordinary.

A nice desk but nothing out of the ordinary.

Then I opened the top drawer for my usual dovetail shot and saw this:

That's odd.

That’s odd.

And another view:

One just like it on the left side of the drawer.

One just like it on the left side of the drawer.

Stop and think about this for a minute. There are two sliding bolts on the inside of a drawer that can only be accessed when the drawer is open. Makes them a little less useful than one would hope.

Being a curious lad, I looked for an explanation. I examined the desk and finally came up with a working hypothesis.

Look at the gallery of the desk:

Nice but nothing out of the ordinary.

Nice but nothing out of the ordinary.

Like many similar desks, it has a sliding panel to allow you to quickly store your papers out of view.

One way to quickly clear your desk.

One way to quickly clear your desk.

The fall front has a lock. The drawer doesn’t. Papers would be secure in the gallery but not in the drawer. Then it occurred to me that you could slide the the blots locked through the sliding panel in the gallery. Just reach into the drawer from above and secure the drawer. How this is easier than moving papers into a drawer with a conventional lock escapes me, but, there you have

Back to my original question, was this a correction to an oversight or the way it was designed to work from the beginning? Wouldn’t it have been easier to just add a lock to the drawer? What do I know? Might just be the way it was done.

There were other pieces of interest at this auction including this chest with tambour and drawers:

Small cabinet on top is not part of the chest.

Small cabinet on top is not part of the chest.

Interesting details on the legs and upper carcass.

Might have to try this on my next shaker chest.

Might have to try this on my next shaker chest.

This desk looked just like one at a local antiques mall.

I blogged about this one.

I blogged about this one.

Seems when a local dealer died, their inventory was sold at auction

And finally there was this odd item.

I know my grandfather had one of these.

I know my grandfather had one of these.

Don’t remember what it is called and a Google image search turned up nothing. More once common items that have fallen from our collective consciences.

Oh well. To see the entire set from this auction, click THESE WORDS.

I Build Stuff Too.

A few months back in blog titled The Ones That Got Away , I wrote about two auction items I coveted but apparently not enough to win. One of them was this salt box:

I didn't win this one.

I didn’t win this one.

For a friend’s birthday I made this saltbox:

I turned the knob, too. I couldn't find a brass equivalent.

I turned the knob, too. I couldn’t find a brass equivalent.

I was pleased with the build. Only thing I believe I got wrong was the angle of the cut-a-way for the lid. I didn’t pick the color, the recipient did. My mistake was picking up a milk paint sample chart from an antiques dealer 80 miles from home. I did find a local dealer but would have preferred she had chosen one of the General Finishes acrylic “milk paint” over the mix-me-up powdered genuine milk paint. She also wanted a more primitive finish, not the smooth and uniform finish that I usually try for. Just like Peter Follansbee not letting me make the English jointed stool too pretty when I took the class at the Woodwright’s School.

If you read Chris Schwarz’s blog at either Popular Woodworking or Lost Art Press, you know he has been writing about historic squares in the past month or two. The squares looked like an interesting project, relatively quick to build and not requiring much material. (No trip to the Hardwood Store.) As a woodworker with ADD, I am always looking for a diversion and something to keep me from doing what must be done. These fit the bill.

Walnut, I have lots of walnut.

Walnut, I have lots of walnut.

It was a rewarding build. Hadn’t really used hollows and rounds to any great extent. I scratched the bead on the Melencolia square with a #66 beading tool. The challenge is to figure out the sequence of using the planes and the best way to rough out the molding profiles before using the molding planes. I have been taught it is best to use a block or other plane to remove most of the wood before switching to the hollows and rounds to refine the shape. Block planes are easier to sharpen than a molding plane.

From the front, the Melencolia squares, the Wierix squares and 'Der Schreiner' squares.

From the front, the Melencolia squares, the Wierix squares and ‘Der Schreiner’ squares.

I made multiples because it is easier to make longer moldings than shorter ones. I have learned my lesson there. Now I have to find something to do with the spares. Always my problem, what to do with the stuff I make. Not a bad problem to have. Beats gout.

No, What Is It Really?

Craving adventure and a need to explore the unknown, I went over to Raleigh Friday morning for an Antiques Extravaganza. Wandering around, I found a dealer with tools for sale. Antiques and tools, could it get any better? I did something unusual and actually bought something.

What I bought was billed as a veneer thickness gauge. It is made from wood and brass and looks something like this:

Handsome piece, isn't it?

Handsome piece, isn’t it?

It is a tool, attractive and didn’t cost much. Perfect. That is until I got home and started examining the gauge. The description doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny. The slots on the lower half are all around 1/16″. The slots in the upper half also seem to be of similar widths that bear no obvious correlation to the markings.

And then there are the markings. What veneer is dimensioned from 0.25 to 8? I thought the marks might be marking off 1/4″ increments.

At 6", the marks seem close.

At 6″, the marks seem close.

6″ is close to the 6 mark. But not the 5, 4, 3 or 2. Then I noticed the tick marks are uniformly spaced but the numbers below 6 are marked in quarters, X.25, X.50, X.75. Above 6 only X.50.

That's just unusual.

That’s just unusual.

The tick marks are 1.5% out of horizontal and about 0.35″ (8.89 mm) apart. The wood doesn’t really look old.

What does it measure? Is is just an old brass strip added to new wood? And what did the brass strip come from?

So, what is it really?

Some Things Are Not as They Seem While Others Have Labels

A few months back I had one of those very long antiquing days. When I am driving somewhere, I try to plans the drive to maximize the number of antique shops and museums. I started the day with a 90 minute drive to my favorite four acre antique shop. Many of the painted chests from this shop were covered in the 172 pictures in a PREVIOUS BLOG.

Then a mile down to an always interesting auction house. And a drive to Stantonsburg only to discover most of the good shops are closed on Wednesday. Who knew? Next was a drive south hitting every promising antiques shop until I ran out of time in Lumberton, NC at 6:00 PM. I did visit lots of dealers and took too many pictures.

And now I’m going to share.

First amazing piece it this attractive chest of drawers:

Looks like three drawers.

Looks like three drawers.

that doesn’t have any drawers.

The hinge tells me it is a chest with faux drawer fronts.

The hinge tells me it is a chest with faux drawer fronts.

Ever see a chest you really like but aren’t sure what the primary wood is?

Nice chest. What is it?

Nice chest. What is it?

Just look in the drawers.

"All exposed structural parts and plywood faces..."

“All exposed structural parts and plywood faces…”

I do have a fondness for painted armoires. This one is no exception.

I don't always like painted furniture, but when I do, I look at armoires.

I don’t always like painted furniture, but when I do, I look at armoires.

It has some very nice details on the door.

An 1806 still life.

An 1806 still life.

I really liked this piece but no place to put it and no patience for sitting through an auction watching people buying stuff I don’t care about.

Nice piece that went home with someone else.

Nice piece that went home with someone else.

And the last preview is my favorite lock.

One lock, two drawers. And it's French, typically.

One lock, two drawers. And it’s French, typically.

For those new to this lock, the lock has two bolts. One is high and goes to the right. The other bolt is low and goes to the left. Both drawers have appropriate mortises for the bolts. This lets you lock two drawers with one lock.

I really want one of those locks. If anyone knows the name of this lock or where to buy one, I would be forever in your debt if you shared.

To see more of these and lots of interesting things (bellflowers), click HERE.

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