Even Reproductions Can Have Secrets, Part 2.

Genuine Reproduction Furniture!

There was actual reproduction furniture there. Like this pair of Formal Federal Tables:

They went for $325.

They went for $325.

I found this informative label in a drawer:

Every furniture maker should use something like this to explain how the world works to clients.

Every furniture maker could use something like this to explain how the world works to clients.

There were several cellarettes with and without internal dividers. I always thought that cellarettes without dividers were called sugar chests but what do I know?

This cellarette is typical of all the ones there.

This cellarette is typical of all the ones there.

They all have hand-cut dovetails

They all have hand-cut dovetails.

Then there is this cellarette:

 

Hand cut dovetails and nicely turned legs.

Hand cut dovetails and nicely turned legs.

Then you look at the back:

Fine high grade American plywood.

Fine high-grade American plywood.

Back in Would Duncan Phyfe have used Masonite® or Luan?, I explained my observations of furniture backs and materials used to make them. Worth a read.

The was something there I had never seen before at this or any other auction:

In the back gallery, they had entire rooms displays.

In the back gallery, they had entire rooms displays.

Your Aunt Edna's living room right out there in public.

Your Aunt Edna’s living room right out there in public.

Getting to the title item of this blog:

A Formal Biggs Secretary Bookcase, a reproduction.

A Formal Biggs Secretary Bookcase, a reproduction.

I used their picture because I forgot to take one. If I start taking pictures of details up close, I, on occasion, lose track of the fact I didn’t get the master shot. Fortunately, I had theirs to fall back on.

Based on all the galleries I've seen, this one is relatively bland.

Based on all the galleries I’ve seen, this one is relatively bland.

I grabbed the right document box to see how it was made and found it was not coming out. It wasn’t stuck or jammed but restrained. I pulled the left document box and it came out easily with light force. When I saw the back corner of the left box. I realized the right drawer was locked in place.

Document box with tell-tale locking hole at the back.

Document box with tell-tale locking hole at the back.

I pulled the top left drawer and found this:

A nicely executed locking system.

A nicely executed locking system. Turned knob/pin on a wood spring.

One problem with this locking system is that you have to pull then knob to lock the drawer as well as unlock it. No automatic locking.

I think it’s remarkable that a maker of reproduction furniture would add a secret compartment.  I’m going to keep looking for them in all furniture, old and new.

 

Even Reproductions Can Have Secrets, Part 1.

Last Thursday, I went to an interesting preview at a local auction house. Not the high-end auction house but still a reasonable place. What made this auction unique was the large amount of reproduction furniture. It is the estate of a someone that must have populated their house with better reproductions. Largely factory reproductions but still, the better stuff. The featured manufacturers were:

Biggs – A Richmond, VA based company that among other things was licensed to produce the Old Dominion Collection, Old Sturbridge Village Collection and Thomas Jefferson Furniture Reproductions. Acquired by Kittinger Furniture in 1975 and somehow disappeared in a series of ownership changes.

Craftique – A local venerated furniture company that made more period inspired furniture that reproductions. Closed in 2012 during the economic downturn.

Benbow Reproductions – A Greensboro, NC based company still active, making what they call Early American and Colonial Reproductions. When I get a chance, I will go and explore.

I went. I took pictures. I blog.

First, some actual, genuine antiques, or so they claim.

19th Century American Country Windsor Rocking Chair

19th Century American Country Windsor Rocking Chair

19th Century Piedmont, NC Country Cupboard

19th Century Piedmont, NC Country Cupboard

19th Century North Carolina Open Pewter Cupboard

19th Century North Carolina Open Pewter Cupboard

19th Century George III Mahogany Linen Press

19th Century George III Mahogany Linen Press

Not the original hardware.

Not the original hardware.

This is why it's a press.

This is why it’s a press.

Interesting details.

Interesting details.

Well executed oval banding.

Well executed oval banding.

Some vintage electronics.

1959 Sylvania Halo-Light Television

1959 Sylvania Halo-Light Television

1937 Zenith 12U158 Floor Model Radio

1937 Zenith 12U158 Floor Model Radio

I’ll tell you what, this is getting a bit long. Why don’t you all take a break. Get your favorite beverage. Do some work, if you must.

I’ll be back in a bit and get to the reproductions.

Oh, to be Brazilian…

One of the more curios things I saw at the big antiques market in Atlanta was claimed to be foreign. The dealer what owned it says that previous dealer alleged it was from Brazil.  Antiques dealer being inherently honest, I believe it. Or I don’t know enough to disbelieve it.

This is the desk:

A painted slant front desk for the south.

A painted slant front desk from Brazil?

I don’t know what Brazilian furniture should look like or if there is a particular look and feel to Brazilian furniture. I assume there are differences based on region and era. Is it derived from Portuguese or other European influences? What were the influences from the indigenous peoples?

The gallery looks almost exactly like this:

Not too much going on in there.

Not too much going on in there. A very simple layout.

Construction is quite heavy with thick drawer sides:

Bead board drawer bottoms.

Bead board drawer bottoms.

Hardware is primitive and blocky:

Paint is were worn.

Paint is were worn.

Lock has a unique keyway:

The key must be curved.

The key must be curved.

Pintle hinge on the slant front with a very different square loper:

Again, notice the paint wear.

Again, notice the paint wear.

I am not sure if this is an authentic piece of vintage Brazilian furniture. Spending time searching online images was not that fruitful. I didn’t see much out there that looked like it. It reminds me of the type of furniture you can find at rustic resorts or vacation homes.

Then again, there has to be the original on which that furniture is based.

The Ever Frugal Woodworker

Fewer words today.

I stopped in one of my favorite antique/consignment place is Raleigh today. Turns out the For Rent sign out front and the large SALE banners in the windows do mean they are moving. This is only important in that I took more time look everything over. I might never see this furniture again.

Several pieces caught my eye but this one secretary stood out. It is billed as an Early 19th Century Georgian Secretary:

A tall, handsome one at that.

A tall, handsome one at that.

Interesting moldings around the top.

Interesting moldings around the top.

Bookshelf with fixed shelves.

Bookshelf with fixed shelves.

Gallery with drawers and document boxes but no doors.

Gallery with drawers and document boxes but no doors. Leather writing surface could use a bit of work.

Drawers, document box and drawers behind the facade. Left side is the same.

Drawers, document box and drawers behind the facade. Left side is the same. Interestingly, the drawers are not dovetailed.

No door on the prospect.

No door on the prospect.

The floor of the prospect is loose revealing some storage below.

The floor of the prospect is loose revealing some storage below.

Major drawers are dovetailed. The smaller drawers also serve as lopers for the desktop.

Major drawers are dovetailed. The smaller drawers also serve as lopers (supports) for the desktop.

Bail pulls with rosettes. Interesting shadow line

Bail pulls with rosettes. Interesting shadow line.

A view from inside shows plugged original pull holes and interesting round nuts.

A view from inside shows plugged original pull holes and interesting round nuts.

Pull on the loper drawers.

Pull on the loper/drawers.

Small/short bracket feet.

Small/short bracket feet.

Now here’s the interesting part. Looking at the left loper/drawer, something looked really odd. I could see some light between the drawer front and the drawer bottom. It looked like the bottom was dovetailed to the front with gappy dovetails. I pulled out the drawer, turned the drawer over took a look.

The drawer bottom was made from a failed drawer side with bad dovetails:

The bottom is a drawer side.

The bottom is a drawer side. Really!

Quite obvious at the back of the drawer.

Quite obvious at the back of the drawer.

Visibie at the drawer front, as well.

Visible at the drawer front, as well.

The maker of this secretary was not willing to throw a piece of wood away just because it failed as a drawer side. He repurposed it. Although it does grow on trees, he paid for it and he is going to use it. Who looks at drawer bottoms?

How frugal.

Seeing Something Where There’s Nothing to See.

My wife and her alternate travel buddy went to the beach over the weekend. I was happy for her. I don’t much like the beach. Or the shore. Or most other water related tourist destinations.

One big reason is quarterly visits to a young dermatologist who is very enthusiastic in her search to find something to biopsy. Her fervor at once delights and disturbs me. I have become less of a pincushion of late and I don’t miss the experience.

Another reason is the typical beach activities. The inventory at the local craft shops turn slowly. I’m on a first name basis with the inventory of the antiques shops. Sand gets in my shoes. Too cold to swim now. If I were a swimmer. Beach rentals remind me too much of my first apartment out of college.

I have had business on South Padre Island and in Biloxi over the years and do enjoy the morning walk on the beach. Sunset is nice. It’s the twelve hours in between that makes me yearn to be elsewhere.

This is a long, roundabout way of saying I was free this weekend to do some traveling to far away antiques. Relatively guilt-free. When I went to Atlanta in April, several dealers I talked to said I was there the wrong weekend. I should be there the second weekend of any month to see an extremely large four-day antiques show on the south side of town. This blog isn’t about that show.

This post is about a small shop on the South Carolina/Georgia border. Driving south, I visited two shops in the Greenville, SC area. I was hoping for more but I got off to a late start. Litter boxes, trash and other facts of daily life interceded. I ran out of time after those two shops. (To be covered in a later post.)

Continuing south, I saw a highway sign (billboard) for an antiques shop on the border. I had mixed emotions about the sign. I am a huge fan of Lady Bird Johnson’s Highway Beautification Act of 1965. I believe that sign shouldn’t be there. I should not have read it. But I did. It’s antiques…

I checked while safely stopped at an appropriate location and discovered the shop closed at 5:30 PM. It was Thursday afternoon and my plan was to head home Friday night. A M-WTCA meeting on Saturday looked interesting. I needed to create the impression of being a good husband and clean up the garage and do some yard work. Master illusionist.

Another excellent reason for getting to the shop on earlier on Friday was to get out of Atlanta before rush hour became too intense. Atlanta has some very unpleasant traffic in which I have wasted too much of my life. You know traffic is bad when you start listening to the rebroadcast of Morning Edition or All Things Considered.

I left Atlanta roughly on time and got to the area about 4:45. The GPS couldn’t find their street address. Their billboard said they were behind the Burger King and I selected that address. Wrong one though. Who knew a town of that size had two Burger Kings about a mile apart? I discovered my error and found the shop right where they said it was.

I was not encouraged by what I saw. I’ve seen lots of these antiques dealers in older strip malls just off the interstate. Some are OK and others struggle to qualify as flea markets. This had the potential to be one of the latter. But, I was there. It was there. Traffic this far out wouldn’t get too bad for another 20 minutes.

I went in.

(Click on any picture to enlarge.)

It wasn’t bad. Nothing compared to what I saw earlier in the day but not embarrassing. And here is the proof, a different yet familiar dresser:

Not seen this exact form before.

Not seen this exact form before.

With nicely cut thin pins:

Tails leave something to be desired, though.

Tails leave something to be desired, though.

A nice, smaller dovetailed chest:

I might have bought it but I have similar and the cost to unique factor was too high.

I might have bought it but I have similar boxes and the cost to unique factor was too high.

It does have a covered till:

But the till is on the right and that's wrong. Or so I've been told.

But the till is on the right and that’s wrong. Or so I’ve been told by people who know.

Then there’s this odd little painted chest:

Which followed me home. More on it later.

Which followed me home. More on it later.

A faux-painted mule chest:

Still there. No room at home.

Still there. No room at home.

Faux-grained or abstract?

You be the judge.

You be the judge.

A closer look:

This looks like quarter-sawn oak.

This looks like quarter-sawn oak. Not really.

Every house needs a server:

Server. Sideboard. Whatever.

Server. Sideboard. Whatever.

Nice construction details:

Made just like real furniture.

Made just like real furniture.

A really unique table:

I don't have a table like this one.

I don’t have a table like this one.

An amazing inalid top:

More patience than I will ever possess.

More patience than I will ever possess.

A decorated column:

Stringing and banding on something round.

Stringing and banding on something round.

And the legs deserve some attention as well:

Inlay or banding?

Inlay or banding?

A lard press:

I haven't seen one in a while.

I haven’t seen one in a while.

For more about my previous encounter with a lard press, go HERE.

And, finally, every shop needs at least one piece of really pretentious, over done furniture:

And this is it.

And this is it.

The details make it better:

Cast your own parts, anyone.

Cast your own parts, anyone.

Interesting finishing technique:

I have no furniture that looks like this.

I have no furniture that looks like this. Thank goodness.

So, even if there is nothing to see, there’s always something to see. Sometimes.

More Defiance

Let me first say that nothing in my last post should be construed as criticism of any of the techniques or methods mentioned. I am agnostic on most furniture issues. There are only two furniture techniques I cannot accept: cross grain dovetails and shabby chic but there might be exceptions for one of them. And I might be softening on the other. Not softening but examining the philosophical objections. More on that later.

With that out-of-the-way, there was another auction last Friday and Saturday. I went and did my usual documentation. Some interesting pieces here as one would hope. I’ll stop going when it stops be interesting to me. When it stops being interesting to you, you’ll stop reading.

First, the ever popular dovetails variations. Last time I showed two desks with the dovetails configured with pins on the sides and tails on the top. This method secures the top and not the side as is the more expected method. This auction included this desk:

Another English slant front desk.

Another English slant front desk.

This is their picture of the same desk:

Amazing what you can do when you can control lighting, background and proximity.

Amazing what you can do when you can control lighting, background and proximity.

The important thing to note is the configuration of the dovetails:

The same non-standard layout and in the lst blog.

The same non-standard layout as in the last blog.

Three desks in the last two auctions makes me wonder if there are more and I just missed them. I like to think not. I always check the joinery. Half the desks are dovetailed. Some rabbeted. Some mitered. I think some of the mitered joints could be fully blind dovetails, especially in higher quality desks. Due to shrinkage, it is often possible to read the dovetails through veneered furniture. My conceit is that I would have noticed this configuration if seen before.

On a smaller scale, another unexpected thing on this gallery drawer:

Note the thin pins.

Note the thin pins.

The repair is a small screw:

A screw and not a nail. These people had class.

A screw and not a nail. These people had class.

Secret compartments or drawers. I found one. This is the American Southern slant front desk:

A desk is a desk whether it's on a stand or a stack of drawers.

A desk is a desk whether it’s on a stand or legs or a stack of drawers.

Look in the gallery to see what you can see:

A simple gallery.

A simple gallery.

But wait, what do I see centered just ahead of the structure?

Looks like a sliding panel of some sort.

Looks like a sliding panel of some sort. Thumbnail recesses at either end.

Remove the drawer behind it and see how it works:

With the drawer out, you can see there is a space in which to slide the panel

With the drawer out, you can see there is a space in which to slide the panel.

Slide the panel back and:

See that there is a pit containing two drawers.

see that there is a pit containing two drawers. The right drawer is sticking and hard to slide in back into place. But it does, with some effort, tuck back under.

Here is the left drawer tucked under.

Here is the left drawer tucked under.

And the right drawer.

And the right drawer.

These pictures are from my preview visit on Friday morning. I went home reviewed the online description of this desk. According to the description, there were three secret drawers. I went back over there early on Saturday morning in search of the missing drawer.

And I found it:

It pulls out from the front. The pull was missing.

It pulls out from the front. The pull was missing.

No possibility in this desk that another drawer pulls out from the back. Still, there is a lot of unused space on the hidden drawer level. If you look back at the external view of the desk you can see that there is space on the loper level between the desktop and the drawers:

What else could there be?

What else could there be?

In the realm of the different was a set of three Windsor armchairs:

From the Furniture - English & Continental category.

From the Furniture – English & Continental category.

with what they called yolk stretchers:

I think they meant yoke stretchers.

I think they meant yoke stretchers.

Yolk stretcher is what is used at mid-level hotels’ free breakfast buffets.

Arm terminations are also not what is typical of Windsor chairs:

Shades od Maloof!

Shades of Maloof! Or Thonet.

Interesting they used more contemporary techniques with very traditional legs and back.

More aberrations as they become available…

If Things Defy Expectations, Blame Your Expectations.

I see a lot of furniture. More than most, less than a few. Based on what I have witnessed, I have an expectation of how furniture is typically built. Like feet go between the base of a piece of furniture and the floor. Except when they are in a drawer:

Not where you expect to find feet.

Not where you expect to find feet.

Way back in March, I attended an auction preview and did my usual picture-taking thing. I must amuse them in that they put up with me. At this auction I saw several things that were not as they should be. I know how they should be. Did I mention that I see a lot of furniture?

The first two are desks with inappropriate dovetails. Carcass dovetails on your typical slant top desk looks like this:

Dovetails as expected.

Dovetails as expected. Just not all that regular.

The pins and tails are configured so that the top ties the two sides together, keeping them in their place relative to one another. Any other configuration wouldn’t make sense.

Meet the desk that defies expectation:

Looks normal from this distance.

Looks normal from this distance.

Inside is more or less typical:

More or less typical.

If there is any such thing as typical.

Then it gets interesting:

Somebody didn't read the manual.

Somebody didn’t read the best practices manual.

In this configuration, the sides tie the top to the bottom. In the event gravity fails? Or they install lifting eyes to hoist it to the upper floors.

As often happens when I find something unusual, I find a second on shortly thereafter. Or on the same day. Like this desk:

More alternate half-blind dovetails.

More alternative half-blind dovetails. Gotta keep the lid on this desk.

I do like that little detail at the front edge.

I do like that little detail at the front edge. An angled quarter pin?

The next defiant piece is this very nice bookshelf on desk:

A nice antique desk.

A nice antique desk.

Bookshelf in nicely executed:

Nice and conventional.

Nice and conventional.

The gallery in nicer than most:

More arches than typical.

More arches than typical.

But, again, things are not as they seem.

The ached center section is actually a drawer.

The ached center section is actually a drawer.

Next you have to figure out what is going on behind the drawer:

Nothing obvious.

Nothing obvious.

Turns out there is a T-shaped arched top panel:

Panel lifts right out.

Panel lifts right out.

Behind that:

Drawers.

Drawers.

Just to prove I am not overly fixated on desks and dovetails, there were also two unique gate leg tables. The first one turns in on itself:

Typically, the legs are on the outer edge and fold out toward the center.

Typically, the legs are on the outer edge and fold out toward the center.

This one is different:

Doesn't look stable tucked in.

Doesn’t look stable tucked in.

Hinges are all on the outside.

This configuration does give the apron a continuous appearance when opened. I wasn’t able to examine it more closely to see if there is a mechanism to form an apron at the far end when opened.

Last lesson of the day is this cabriole legged demilune table:

Unusually wide apron.

Unusually wide apron.

The cabriole leg is not unknown but the majority of gate leg tables are turned or tapered. The apron is unusually wide.

What really makes it odd is the appearance of there being three leaves: (or leafs. Active online debate as to which is correct.)

There are three leaves. Not sure how it works.

There are three leaves. All hinged. Not sure how it works.

I didn’t notice the leaves until I got home and looked at it. How do you unfold three semicircular leaves hinged at the edge? It would seem that you would end up with the center leaf sticking straight up perpendicular to the plane of the outer two.

This is going to require some thought…

An Auction of Diversity

The auction I’ve been previewing has an a wide variety of furniture genres and origins. Lots of French, some Scottish, English and even American. Some of the French I acknowledge and move on quickly:

It's French and I got over it.

It’s French and I got over it. Further study would be of no use.

Here is a nice row of Large Antique Royal National Lifeboat Institution Lockers. With a name like that, it must be English:

I'm told millennials love these industrial storage units.

I’m told millennials love these industrial storage units.

A 18th Century German Coffer:

Apparently, the Germans made furniture.

Apparently, the Germans made furniture.

With a lidded till on the left and the starts on the outside, finishes on the inside hinge configuration:

Fourth one I've see and they've all been since January.

Fourth one I’ve seen and they’ve all been since January. The rivet seems to be another German thing.

An early 19th century Antique Continental Child’s Potty Chair:

Continental is code from somewhere over there in Europe.

Continental is code from somewhere over there in Europe. Some parts are missing.

With an interesting example advanced of joinery on the back:

A bridle joint.

A pinned bridle joint.

An 18th Century Spanish Colonial Tooled Leather Trunk:

Grey leather.

Grey leather, very classy.

And showing examples of interesting construction details, a reverse view of the built up moldings:

Made from three parts.

Made from three parts.

From this familiar secrétaire à abattant:

In your heart, you know it's French.

In your heart, you know it’s French.

If you are interested of just have too much free time, you can see the rest of the album HERE.

Big Ol’ Foreign Furniture

I thought I would feature three interesting larger pieces of foreign furniture before posting the entire auction. Just trying to slow down the torrid pace of the blog.

First up is this early 19th century Scottish Tall Chest of Drawers:

Interesting mix of styles and decoration.

Interesting mix of styles and decoration.

First of all, it has great knobs:

Looks like some ivory inlay. I mean "bone" inlay.

Looks like some ivory inlay. I mean “bone” inlay.

The second drawer has an interesting covered section:

Lid slides back.

Lid slides back.

I’ve had an interest in dovetails but have become more interested in dovetailed drawers with thicker or curved profiles:

This is ordinary but I will have more interesting ones in the near future.

This is ordinary but I will show more interesting ones in the near future.

The French make some really big things. I’m sure others did as well,  but not as many as the French:

Big freakin' armoire. How French!

Big freakin’ armoire. How French!

We won’t deal with this piece in the blog. Too big.

In its stead, we will be looking at two secrétaire à abattant. Fall front secretaries for the non-francophones.

First, the Napoleon III Boulle Inlaid Secretaire Abattant:

Can you tell it's French?

Can you tell it’s French? 

Boulle: (noun) elaborate inlaid work of woods, metals, tortoiseshell, ivory, etc.

Top three drawers are actually the abattant part:

kasksak

abattant m ‎(feminine singular abattante, masculine plural abattants, feminine plural abattantes) flat and articulated so it can move from a horizontal to a vertical position

With a very attractive lock:

Everything gets decorated.

Everything gets decorated.

And the bolt face:

And it works.

And it works.

You knew there would be dovetails:

Unusually nice and refined.

Unusually nice and refined. Oak as a secondary wood.

The next one is the Louis Phillippe Fine Secretaire Abattant:

Even bigger.

Even bigger.

And abattant part:

Original chain?

Original chain?

Could these be the feet?

There are four.

There are four.

Very attractive hardware:

The escutcheon from the drop panel. Key is rather plain.

The escutcheon from the drop panel. Key is rather plain.

The drawers have a different escutcheon.

The drawers have a different escutcheon.

Add a simple bail and you can open the drawers.

Add a simple bail pull and you can open the drawers.

Drawers are differently decorated as well:

Center drawer is a relatively simply inlaid pattern.

Center drawer is a relatively simply inlaid pattern.

Outer drawers have more flowers and colors.

Outer drawers have more flowers and colors.

And then there’s this medallion and molding applied front and center:

Simple yet tasteful.

Simple yet tasteful.

Another dovetail of interest. This dovetail detail at the back of a drawer is seen (by me) only in French furniture:

Tails look like they were cut for thicker stock.

Tails look like they were cut for thicker stock.

One does wonder why. Now open for discussion.

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