“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.

I Cost Somebody a Lot of Money. I Hope…

Back in December, one of the local auction houses had their big, classy auction. Not the auction house that has the fancy, quarterly catalog sales but another one. It was a very good auction, however. There were several pieces there that were purported to be by Thomas Day,  (c. 1801 – 1861), a free black American furniture designer and cabinetmaker in Caswell County, North Carolina. I say purported only because it is hard to say definitively if they are by Thomas Day, he didn’t sign his work, no labels, no catalog. There is much out there that is in the style of or from the Thomas Day school. Many of us believe that these are.

A nice dresser with mirror.

A nice dresser with mirror.

Pocket screws were being used in the 1850's.

Pocket screws were being used in the 1850’s.

And another example:

Dresser with no mirror.

Dresser with no mirror.

And a table:

I wouldn't mind owning this one whoever made it.

I wouldn’t mind owning this one whoever made it.

Then there was this miniature chest:

Unknown ancestry but nicely made.

Unknown ancestry but nicely made.

Many great pieces but there was one I became infatuated with. I don’t know why but I have a fascination with primitive boxes like this one:

I lusted after this box.

I lusted after this box.

And equally the contents:

Pictures would be nice but I wanted the cigars.

Pictures would be nice but I wanted the cigars.

Unfortunately, the auction was the Friday night in December when I had cleverly avoided a Carolina beach weekend by fleeing to the Boston area. Rather than leaving a absentee bid (which I always lose), I tried bidding live on-line. I sat there in my hotel room on a Friday night waiting patiently for the box to surface. Then my turn came and I sprang into action getting caught up in the bidding frenzy. I suddenly was $350 over where reason told me I should stop and about $450 over what I thought I could afford. I paused briefly and the auction mercifully ended. I lost but I like to believe that I cost the winning bidder some money. It’s not much but it’s all I have. Winning would have been nice but I would have had to pay too much plus the 15% buyers premium. And explained to my wife and the cats where it came from. It would have been a lasting reminder of my lack of self control and discipline. Cool box, though. There were a few other items I placed bids on but my heart wasn’t in it. They were pro forma bids just served to further depress me when I didn’t win. Like this other box:

It's also blue and primitive. Just like me.

It’s also blue and primitive. Just like me.

Click HERE to see the other worthy items in the auction. I didn’t win them either. Two auctions of note this weekend. We’ll see…

Swat the Fly: Flies Are Dangerous

A local auction house just had one of their semi-annual Country Store auctions. As you would expect from the name, this auction is loaded with vintage and antique merchandise from long defunct small town retailers. NOS (New Old Stock, unsold and unused), displays, advertising, salesmen’s samples and tools. This auction had lots of tools and hardware store items.

This first item is interchangeable jaw pliers. I view things like this as the kind of tools you would find at Brookstone back in the 1980’s when it was the place lawyers and doctors went to buy tools. You can only use one set of jaws at a time and they never worked as well as a dedicated tool. It has its place in the world, I guess.

The overview.

The overview of Koeth’s Interchangeable Tool.

The jaws.

The jaws.

And the instructions.

And the instructions.

Here you have one of the most specialized oils you are likely to come across.

Cream Separator Oil.

Cream Separator Oil.

For this McCormick-Deering Cream Separator. Or one like it.

For this McCormick-Deering Cream Separator. Or one like it.

Need to stuff your sausage?

You can use this. (Chris, behave.)

You can use this. (Chris, behave.)

Need to shear things?



Or linearly.

Or linearly?

This stretches something…

I'm not sure what but but I bet it hurts.

I’m not sure what but I bet it hurts.

This is a manual seed drill (planter):

For the aerobic farmer.

For the aerobic farmer.

What makes this one more interesting is that is has an adjustment for three different seed spacings. By moving the gear, the you can set what rotation of the wheel drops the next seed thus varying the spacing.

Three settings for different crops.

Three settings for different crops.

This is a variation on the collapsing ruler. Instead of unfolding, it pulls out:

The linear collapsing rule.

The linear collapsing rule.

And finally the inspiration for this post:

The captions says it all. Who wouldn't want one?

The title says it all. Who wouldn’t want one? And only 10¢!

To see all 91 photos, click HERE.


I’m Running From My Youth. And You Should Too.

One of my earliest traumatic memories is being mortified by my mother searching for a scratched butterfly chair at the functional equivalent of a Kmart. She enjoyed seeking damaged goods and then indignantly demanding a discount at the register. This tactic worked far too often. This only reinforced the behavior.

The Butterfly chair. The one back then was yellow.

The Butterfly chair. The one back then was yellow with black piping.

This was the first piece of mid-century modern furniture I remember actively disliking. First of many, I might add. And now it’s back. Vintage and reproduction. I just can’t get away from the stuff.

Ironically I was at a local auction preview (mid-century modern) when I read Chris Schwarz’s Lost Art Press blog quoting  George Nakashima on modern furniture. I don’t think he liked it.

Who can forget the stressless chair, this style attributed to Charles & Ray Eames:

This chair is still being made.

This chair is still being made.

Animal prints were big:

Stylish design and attractive fabric.

Stylish design and attractive fabric. Stereo is from the ’80’s.

This is a complete living room set with the kidney-shaped, glass coffee table, animal print floating couch and multi-headed floor lamp:

We never owned a kidney-shaped coffee table.

We never owned a kidney-shaped coffee table.

I was impressed by the back of this furniture. Look at the size of those Masonite® back panels. Each one is a single board. Can you imagine the size of the Masonite® trees they came from? Might be river bottom wood-like material.

The fronts are interesting, too.

The fronts are interesting, too.

If you would like, you can click HERE and see the rest of the collection.

If you must…

If Only I Could Show You the Dovetails…

We live about and hour away from the self-proclaimed Furniture Capital of the World, High Point, NC. This claim is based partially on being what was the major furniture manufacturing center of North Carolina and partially on the twice-yearly furniture market (open to the trade), one of the largest around. Furniture making has moved away (some of it very far away) and Las Vegas is gunning for the furniture market. Yet they soldier on.

In the nearby town of Jamestown (metro High Point?) is the self-proclaimed largest furniture store. (Lots of self-proclamations in North Carolina.) At 1.3 million square feet, who am I to argue? My wife and I tend to view it as 1.3 million square feet of ugly furniture.

Ugly is a bit of a strong word. Not meeting our sense of aesthetics might be a more appropriate way to phrase it. There is some Shaker-esque furniture we almost like. What we have found is that for the money one can buy antiques or have something built by one of the area custom furniture makers. Let’s keep the money local.

There is one piece of furniture there that has continued to impress me (favorably) over the years. But like many things that impress, I have no desire to own it. I’m not sure where I’d put it.

Not your average chest on chest.

Not your average chest on chest.

At 85′, it needs just the right room.

Easy to dust under, though.

Easy to dust under, though.

And I think the hardware has been replaced. I don't think it's original.

And I think the hardware has been replaced. I don’t believe it’s original.

That’s the second largest claw and ball foot I’ve ever seen (with apologies to Buck Henry and Mel Brooks (extra credit if you get the reference)):

It's bigger than it looks.

It’s bigger than it looks.

Can you imagine Mary May (or Chuck Bender) out there with a chainsaw carving this one.

Of course, the drawers are all dovetailed. I would love to show you but their JLG lift was unavailable.

You can read an article about it HERE.

Somewhere in High Point is the 42′, world’s largest (freestanding) dresser. When I find it, I’ll let you know.



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