A Good Reason to Get Off I-95

Not that you really need one. If you spent any time on I-95 between North Carolina and Baltimore, you know it is a bit boring. Except for the 20+ miles from mile marker 156 to Washington, DC. That section tends to be annoying. Really, really annoying. The Potomac Mills Mall and IKEA don’t help much. Then there is the Wegmans grocery…

A good excuse to get off 95 and stretch your legs is an antiques mall just north of Richmond, VA. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is a better reason but it’s way across town and you have to park. This mall is right close to I-64, I-195 and I-95. Easy off and easy on, as they say.

It’s a big place with a wide assortment of inventory from primitives to some pretty nice stuff. Nothing too fancy. Like this interesting, small table:

A table with too many things going on.

What, no bell flowers?

This table almost has too much going on. Splay legs, stringing, some banding and odd little feet.

Mary May would appreciate the linen fold carving on this wall cabinet:

Carved corner cabinet.

Carved corner cabinet.

A nice dresser with gallery:

Just like grandma used to own.

Just like grandma used to own.

This cabinet starts fancy:


The door makes it fancy:

How's that for fancy?

How’s that for fancy?

What pushes the fanciness quotient even higher is the treatment on the reverse of the door:

Not yer typical inside door panel.

Not yer typical inside door panel.

And no set of pictures from me would be complete without a nice assortment of dovetails from fine and tiny:

Can it be made any thinner?

Can it be made any thinner?

to the bold and plentiful vulture tails:

I don't have a 45° dovetail marker.

Not quite 45° but close.

To see all 130+ pictures, click HERE.

Oddities and Amusements

There are often things I see at auctions and shops that are interesting yet are not easily classified. Objects that don’t really fit into categories of furniture that I write about. They are unique items that need to be shared.

It’s what I do.

First up is this wicker casket:

Used to transport the recently deceased to wherever they are transported to.

Used in earlier times to transport the recently deceased to wherever they are transported to.

Back in the days before gurnies and body bags.

Back in the days before gurneys and body bags.

I think it’s perfect for the casual, springtime funeral.

I first covered this item in Behold the Lowly Gout Rocker. I have seem other gout rockers since but this is the first one of this form I’ve seen:

A gout rocker, only different.

A gout rocker, only different.

Ever need to find a use for that spare baby grand piano you have kicking around. Just turn it into a fabulous table like this one:

Nice piano, nicer table.

Nice piano, nicer table.

Then there is this most unusual gun cabinet:

Very unusual.

Very unusual.

What makes it unusual? It’s empty. Lots of second amendment enthusiasts in North Carolina.

And what oddities collection would be complete without some tool? Consider this coffin smother:

A low angle coffin smoother.

A low angle coffin smoother.

A narrow, low angle coffin smoother.

A narrow, low angle coffin smoother.

I found this decorated coffin smoother.

A Christmas smoother?

A Christmas smoother?

They called it a coffin smoother but I thought it looked more like a Mary Jane, as in the style of women’s shoe.

More rounded that most coffins.

More rounded that most coffins.

And lastly, this laminated mallet with an interesting taper:

Taper is not what I expected.

Taper is not what I expected.

It reminds me of…

Gyro meat!

Gyro meat!

90 Miles of Primitives.

Way back in February of 2013, I indulged in an 90 mile pursuit of primitive furniture and antiques. It wasn’t necessarily my plan, it’s just the way it worked out. It all started when I became aware of an annual primitive antiques show in Fishersville, VA. The idea intrigued me. My wife was still studying at the Culinary Institute in California , so I was free for the weekend.

I needed a plan maximize my viewing pleasure. What I came up with was heading north on Friday and taking the Behind the Scenes Tour at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. This tour takes you to some areas of the house that are not on the regular tour. Mostly the second floor. I have toured the main level several times but had never made it upstairs. It was interesting but I don’t need to do it again for a while.

I then went a bit further north and visited Montpelier, James Madison’s plantation house near Orange, Virginia. In the early 20th century, a branch of the duPont family acquire the house and greatly expanded it. In 1983, the last private owner of Montpelier, Marion duPont Scott, bequeathed the estate to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Trust spent several years restoring the house to be as it was when occupied by the Madisons.

My wife and I have visited it several times to check out the restoration. The last time we were there, the restoration was complete and they were vetting the returning furniture.

Anyway, Saturday, I hit the primitive antiques show when it opened at 8:00 AM. Lots of interesting furniture. Largely primitives, believe it or not.  Some of the highlights include:

A table with four, quarter round legs.

A table with four, quarter round legs.

Grain-painted chests.

Grain-painted chests.

A boarded chest-of-drawers.

A painted chest-of-drawers.

When I see a piece like this one, I think that it might have been built by a carpenter and not a furniture maker. Construction is closer to a boarded chest with the legs being continuations of the sides and not things attached to a carcass.

After absorbing everything I could from the show, I started back home driving south along Interstate 81. Along the route, I hit every antiques shop I could find within a few miles of the Interstate. At 5:00 PM, I visited one last shop in Roanoke.

Along the way, mostly primitives. After nine hours of antiquing, I was very tired of ’50s rock. Every shop. No classical. No show tunes. Fortunately, no Elvis either. When I lived in Pennsylvania, there was a large antiques mall that played Elvis all day on Thursday. I never went there on Thursdays.

A few things of note from the pilgrimage, a chest made by someone who liked dovetailing too much:

Dovetail overkill?

Dovetail overkill? Strong but…

And this desk with an interesting story: IMG_2182 IMG_2183 A long and interesting day. Still two and a half hours to home.

To see all 131 picture in this set, click HERE.

Now Back to the Good Stuff.

Back in December, I fled north to the Boston area to avoid a weekend beach rental with wife and friends. I don’t love the beach and this would have been the sixth trip to this Emerald Island rental house in the past seven years.

Boston sounded more interesting.

Saturday, I drove up to Manchester, NH to visit the Currier Museum of Art. I wrote about part of this visit in Come to New Hampshire for the Contemporary Furniture?

Aside from the M.C. Escher exhibit, the tasteful contemporary furniture and the Frank Lloyd Wright house, they had a nice collection of regional period furniture. One of the first pieces I noticed was this Federal dressing chest with mirror by Thomas Seymour from around 1807:

Not all old furniture is dark brown.

Not all old furniture is dark brown.

Thomas Seymour and his father, John, were important furniture makers in the early 19th century. (A brief article about them HERE.)

I was impressed by this chest on chest by Samuel Dunlap circa 1790-1795:

It's maple, another not-dark-brown wood.

It’s maple, another not-dark-brown wood.

An unusual top design.

An unusual top design.

Unusual molding around the lower chest.

Unusual molding around the lower chest.

And most unique feet.

And most unique feet.

This chest was described as “one of the most original and inventive pieces of American regional furniture from the late 1700s”. I can’t argue with that. I’ve not seen anything like it.

If you need to purge yourself of the horror of the odd table, you can check out the Currier’s collection HERE.

“Curious” as Spock Woiuld Say.

Interesting that the week in which I had no new posts, the number of followers went up. Views and visitors were down but one would expect that.

When I issue a new blog post, the number of views and visitors goes up. This makes sense. Occasionally, the follower count goes down. I try not to think about it.

I am not all that concerned about numbers, however. With the new grant, I am good for at least another three years. By then I should really be out of things to write about. Some argue that happened two years ago but I choose to ignore them.

The blog was down for a few days while we were on shoring production. As most of you know, since the beginning of the blog it has been written and edited by the staff in Bangalore. I  found that most Indian editors had a better understanding of grammar and spelling that I ever hope to have. With the new grant, I had the money to bring all this back to the US. OK, most of the work is done in the break room at the Hyundai factory in Marshall, Alabama. Hey, I’m trying.

Now that the staff has been selected and trained, blogs should be coming more regularly. Whether of not that is a good thing is not for me to say.

As a follow-up to yesterday’s blog, It’s Just Wrong…, I would like to thank all of you who have commented. There were many interesting origin myths and stories. What I was looking for, though, was an explanation of why it’s wrong. I want people who shop at Restoration Elm Barn to understand why this table is an un-good thing. Why some of us are amused and/or annoyed.

The table, in case you have forgotten:

Bad, bad table.

Bad, bad table. Am I the only person that thinks anchor when viewed?

I approved all comments but one. A reader called “Jeremy” seems to have submitted a no-comment comment. There was nothing there that I could find. Nothing to approve. He either forgot to include the comment or is a genius and is making the statement that there is no suitable comment to be made. Or, that needs to be made. Or, res ipsa loquitur, the thing speaks for itself.

My readers are just that brilliant.

For Those Joining Us for the First Time, An Introduction is in Order.

I just noticed that the daily views of this blog are way up. Over 30 so far today. Usually this means that Chris Schwarz has defamed me again. I checked his blogs and no mention of me there. Then I looked at the list of referrers and saw it was my friend Megan Fitzpatrick over at Popular Woodworking in her editor’s blog.

You might have heard that there is a schlub out there that has over 1,000 pictures of dovetails online. Well, that’s me and they are all in this blog and in my Flickr albums.

It all started with me taking pictures at every auction, show, museum and antiques shop I visited. And I visited a lot. I shared these with a select group until blackmailed into starting this blog. It’s all explained in my inaugural post, Chris Made Me Do It.

So I blogged. To date, this is my most popular picture:

Click to see the box.

Click to see the box from wenst it came.

The first set of 473 dovetails pictures are HERE.

The next 409 pictures are in the blog: Holiday Dovetail Extravaganza

And, a set of nothing but Thin Pins.

Moving away from dovetails, I covered pie safes in :

Pie Safes? Ya want Pie Safes? I got your Pie Safes.

Boarded furniture in: Nailed It!

For painted chest fans, we have the seasonally appropriate:

As Close to Easter Eggs as I’m Going to Get.

If you are a fan of brass and other shiny things, check out:

OCD is not a Four Letter Word or Hardware I Have Known.

And then there are museums, Russian museums, Galapagos animals, antique keyboard instruments, tools, feeble attempts at humor and an origin myth in:

Campaigning for the Truth.

And lots of antiques from auctions, shops and shows. Look around, there’s lots to see.

…Then, All of a Sudden, This Auction Breaks Out…

I really need to remember to read the fine print.

Last weekend was the highly anticipated quarterly catalog auction. This auction house usually has the good stuff but their catalog auctions have the really good stuff. Normal practice is to go and take pictures during the Friday preview. I got off to a bit of a late start, litter boxes, trash, recycling and other assorted domestic tasks must be tended to before I can go play. I have responsibilities.

I got there a little before noon and started checking things out. There seemed to be more people there than usual for a preview. I worked my way around the gallery taking picture. It was taking longer since I had to wait for people to get out of my way. I don’t want to alienate the auction staff by annoying the real bidders.

Then a large percentage of the people started sitting down and the professionally dressed auction staff started appearing at the business end of the gallery. I knew by reading the catalog that wine was sold Thursday night, 20th century design and arts would be Friday night and the main auction is Saturday morning. What I hadn’t read was that the fine jewelry auction was Friday at 1:00 PM and I was running out of time.

I finished talking pictures in the podium area before the announcements started. As quickly as possible I worked my way down the remaining undocumented pieces of interest. Jewelry auctions move fairly quickly and this was a very genteel and orderly auction with polite pauses for the phone and internet bidders. I finished my work by the tenth or twelfth piece and left. I could have spent more time but I was satisfied with what I got. And I got some good stuff.

There is an entire bedroom suite in the style of this armoire:

Large armoire with mirror.

Large armoire with mirror.

This is another knock-down armoire. It makes sense to ship flat. It costs money to ship air. Something this size is difficult to handle and more subject to damage being shipped assembled. This one unbolts top and bottom:

Unbolt this bolt and its three siblings and it all comes apart. Note the shelf support system. No little pins here.

Unbolt this bolt and its three siblings and the armoire comes apart. Note the shelf support system. No little pins here.

I like this little desk:

Or is it a table?

Or is it a table?

It is uniquely decorated.

Diamonds and dots. Or are they berries?

Diamonds and dots. Or are they berries?

I know I’ve shown if before but I really like the locking system on this server:

A nice server and I believe it's French.

A nice server and I believe it’s French.

One central lock with two opposing bolts locks two drawers.

The centrally located lock.

The centrally located lock.

This bolt is high and to the left.

This bolt is high and to the left.

And this bolt is low and to the right.

And this bolt is low and to the right.

As soon as I find this mechanism for sale somewhere I’ll stop writing about it.

Did I mention there were desks? There were desks. I offer the following galleries as proof:

This is from a Butler's Secretaire Bookcase.

This is from a Butler’s Secretaire Bookcase.

This relatively plain one.

This relatively plain one.

This one features banding.

This one features banding and veneer.

This one

No prospect door but an arched drawer stack.

And this

This one has a prospect door, document drawers and a few secret drawers.

To see the entire fabulous set (123 pictures), click HERE.

20th Century Arts & Design Still Sells. Well, Mostly.

Local high-end auction house had their quarterly catalog (or catalogue) sale last weekend. According to their web site, sales exceeded $2.25 million. The economy must be getting better. They had two sessions of rare and fine wine, a coin session, one for estate jewelry, a fine and decorative arts session and a session for 20th century arts and design. Here I am writing about the 20th century arts and design session. I know I just did a blog on mid-century modern, but this is different. OK, it’s more expensive. And a bit higher quality. Not all of it suffers from being mid-century modern. Like this setting:

What you grew up with if your family was trendy and comfortable.

What you grew up with if your family was trendy and well off.

In the back is a triple sliding door, hanging cabinet by George Nakashima. Or at least his company. Pre-auction estimates were $8,000 to $12,000. It went for $24,000 plus the 18% to 23% buyers premium.

The chairs are part of set of eight “Pigreco” chairs by Gavina. These chairs were designed by Afra and Tobia Scarpa, award-winning postmodern Italian architects and designers. Estimates were $1,000 to $2,000. Actual was $7,000 plus premium.

Then there was the Nakashima Frenchman’s Cove II dining table. I like this table very much. Estimates were $7,000 to $10,000. It didn’t sell. Who can figure?

Here is a less distinguished living room grouping featuring an iconic glass kidney table:

Gotaa love the kidney table.

Gotta love the kidney table.

The Adrian Pearsall cocktail table realized $475 of the estimated $300 to $500.

The rosewood lounge chairs of uncertain ancestry were expected to bring $200 to $400 but only could manage $275. $260 more than I would have bid.

Most disappointing was the walnut bookshelf. Only $125, well below the $200 to $400 they were expecting. No reserve at this auction it seems.

And lastly, I was intrigued by this American Modernist “Cobra” Desk Lamp by Laurel Lamps Co:


It brought the estimated $300. No slouch, this one.

There was more and you can see it all HERE.

Back Before There Were Apps…

Stopped by for the preview at a now familiar auction house. Not much in the way of furniture this week. There were a few things that did make me stop and reflect on changing times.

We are so used to technology that I think we at times tend to forget that engineering and science were practiced in times before the era of programmable devices. Back then, there were computational devices in wide use and I found an interesting and specialized one in this slide rule:

A 6" Keuffel & Esser slide rule form the early 20th century.

A 6″ Keuffel & Esser slide rule from the early 20th century. Billed as a “Power Computer”.

This is a specialized slide rule that was used in the design of steam engines.

A 6" Keuffel & Esser slide rule form the early 20th century.

Steam engines and slide rules are not as common as they once were.

Doing some looking about, there were many specialized slide rules. Merchants, mechanics, engineers, architects and others had their own specialized slide rules. Where smart phone apps might cost $6.00 or more, this slide rule sold for the modest price of $1.20 in 1923. A bargain.

It comes along with friends:

All things I have used.

All things I have used.

Back in college, I worked summers at the front desk in one of the dorms. There was a program for gifted, financially disadvantage high school students. It was interesting to see the kids walking around with their new, encased 14″ Pickett slide rules hanging on their belts. The next summer’s batch had large Sharp, four-function calculators hanging on their belt. Times change.

There was more in the way of specialized vintage tools such as this shaving horse:

Not new but serviceable.

Not new but serviceable.

A view of the business end.

A view of the business end.

And a view of the jaws.

And a view of the jaws.

Yet more:

Two planes and a slick.

Two planes and a slick.

Some froes and other useful things.

Some froes and other useful things.

Note to Hummel collectors, your kids probably don’t want them.

Prices aren't what they used to be.

Prices aren’t what they used to be.

My father had a major Hummel collection. He passed on and now my mother has a major Hummel collection. The prices have dropped dramatically. The original manufacturer dropped the line. The next manufacturer went bankrupt and another company is making them now. None of us youngsters have any interest in the collection.

If you’re not sure what Hummels are, consider yourself lucky. I gained knowledge through osmosis by hanging around with my father. Not all life lessons are useful.

And some different kinds of tools, these plug in:

They are tools that plug in and don't spin or cut.

They are tools that plug in and don’t spin or cut.

Many are handmade. Well, Heathkits. Look it up. I built a few in my time. None of these are mine.

A really nice radio:

They don't make 'em like this anymore.

They don’t make ’em like this anymore.

Old radios, like old upright pianos, can be true works of art, only industrial. If I had infinite space and money, I would collect both.

There was one dovetailed piece there and I had to document it. It is in my nature.

It has hand-cut dovetails, I'm excited.

It has hand-cut dovetails, I’m excited.

And here they are:

Dovetails and beads.

Dovetails and beads. Who could ask for anything more?

Once again you see that furniture makers really did not want to do anymore work than they needed to. Who cares about the back of a dresser?

Doesn't have to be pretty to keep out dust and provide stability.

Doesn’t have to be pretty to keep out dust and provide stability.

Well, that’s a wrap. Not the entire auction, just the interesting bits.


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