There Are Many Ways To Fail.

Failure is always an option and often inevitable.

This blog exists because I ran into this poor old sot at last week’s auction:


Something not quite right here.


All four legs are present just not necessarily where you expect them to be.

We should explore some of the design flaws that led to the state of this poor table.

First, it has these small castors:


Castor – A pivoting roller attached to the bottom of furniture to allow it to be moved, not a hat made from the fur of the beaver.

The problem with castors is that upon seeing castors, people now expect furniture to roll. And it does after a fashion. These are not 50 mph casters and not even 2 mph castors. They seldom work well on a flat, even floor and not that well on irregular floors or carpets. The transition from hard floors to carpets or rugs even more problematic.

The next failure is a bad glue joint without any physical reinforcement. I am holding up the leg to show you where it is intended to be:


The leg broke off on the glue joint. The legs where just glued onto the center without dowel or spline or tenon for mechanical support.

And this is the joint:

IMG_4436 - Version 2

Bad glue joint or a bad repair of a failed glue joint? You decide.

Of course, even if the glue joint doesn’t fail, you are still working with a wood that Peter Follansbee loves for how cleanly and willingly it splits, oak.


Glue joint is fine, wood failure is imminent.

The fourth leg and glue joint seem firmly attached:


For now.

I am not claiming that all tables of this design will fail, I just saying you shouldn’t be surprised when they do.

I wonder if it arrived at the auction house like this or broke on site? And who bought it and for how much?

Action Packed Furniture

Most furniture just sits there. The most action they see is, maybe, a drawer opening and closing or an additional leaf being added to a table.

But other furniture change and transform, become other than what is was. I call this convertible furniture. And there is so much of it out there.

Like this table:


A tilt top table with a difference.

Tilt-top tables are fairly common but this is the first tilt-top gaming table I’ve run across. It looks contemporary.

A more utilitarian example is this table:


It looks like another sewing table. It is but


not in the way you think. There’s a sewing machine within.

The sewing machine is attached to a hinged panel that swings up when the top is opened.


Sewing machine in motion. You can see the connecting rod on the right.


Almost raised.


Fully raised.

There is this similar bed chamber appliance:


Almost looks like a fancy oak dough box.

Lift the lid on this one and you see another surprise delivery:


Inside the lid and a lift that would hold a wash basin.


The basin’s platform is attached by two hinges that allows the basin to hang level.                               Basin not included.

Next is this desk with a tambour top and what seems to be a treadle wheel below.


Odd looking piece of furniture. Not too pretty.


What could be beneath the tambour.


A small lathe?

The sides actually fold down but based on the desk’s condition, I decided it was safer to force you to use your imagination.

The following uniquely designed chair adjusts to three heights and easily converts to a rocker or a stroller. It is missing its tray so once again you need to use your imagination.


A child’s chair without a tray and in need of repair.


A side view gives you a clue to how this miraculous transformation occurs. Imagine the tray.

If your imagination fails you, here is another example with tray:


See, it has a tray.


A side view shows it is similar but not the same.

And there is a third example:


Not the same but close. No wheels. Now. Might have been wheels once.

Here is another unique transforming chair or table.


Here is a slightly odd looking chair.


To transform, the back flips around and becomes a leg. A bit low but a table nonetheless. 


Are the corbels to reinforce it as a back or as a leg?

Under an obscure US law, this is the only style of furniture allowed be incised with a heart. All else is strongly discouraged,

And finally tonight, the packable campaign chair:


This chair breaks down and can be packed in a roll.

This chair, a roorkee chair,  was a British design for use in colonial India and has been frequently copied with varying degrees of success.


This is a less successful copy.

If I remember correctly, there was some guy in Kentucky making copies of this chair in his basement. Rumor has it, he’s moved on.

If anybody knows what happened to him, let me know.

Tales of Foreign Secrets and Intrigue

Ya just never know what you might find when go out for the day.

A few weeks back I headed west to Greensboro and while there, visited a new location of a antiques/consignment shop. There, my eyes were drawn to this secretary with bookcase:


The eye-catching secretary with bookcase.

It didn’t look old but it did have:


Hand-cut dovetails, of a sort.


An elaborate gallery. And dust.


With many uniquely shaped drawers. Note the quarter palm document boxes.


An oddly veneered prospect door. The shell below is actually a drawer.


And nothing behind the door.

A few weeks later in a new antique and consignment shop in Raleigh, I found this interesting specimen:


A fancy-ish desk.


Hand-cut dovetails, of a sort.


With many uniquely shaped drawers.


An oddly (and crudely) veneered prospect door.


And nothing behind the door.

I thought there is a possibility that these two desks may be from the same maker and turned to walk away when I saw that the lower right drawer in the gallery was not closed properly.


Something didn’t look right with the bottom drawer.

I pulled out the drawer and saw this:


There was something behind the drawer.

There was a drawer behind the drawer.


Just a little guy, but it’s there.


Snuggled covertly behind its big brother.

A look at the back of the drawer shows:


The drawer is not only short but it has an elevated drawer bottom to allow clearance for the secret drawer’s handle. Remember the writing.


The left bottom drawer has the same secret.

If you’re like me, and I hope you’re not, you are wondering about the secretary with bookcase back in Greensboro. I had a chance to go back there and look. And what did I discover? This:


The same “secret” drawers.

I looked around to see what else I might be able to discover about these desks


The secret drawer bottom and handle are one. Note the writing.


The reeded quarter column looks a little irregular and not very well applied.


The frieze below the crown molding has issues as well.

The two pictures above show the type of inconsistent workmanship I haven’t seen on American made furniture. It’s not that it mightn’t exist, it’s just that I have never seen it. This level of work is consistent with imported reproduction furniture I saw at a store in San Francisco. The color and finish is the same and the fact that the pieces are stained inside and out also leads me to believe they are imported reproductions. (Is is a reproduction if there was never a original?)

A quick google search led me to this desk being a Heritage Benchmade Furniture Chippendale Escritoire Desk for $699. From Indonesia. Never found a similar secretary with bookcase.

Last weekend, my wife and I went out to Asheville. The we drifted a little further west to visit some craft shops my wife had found in Waynesville. I went in search of an antiques shop and found this piece:


A chest on chest with a swan neck pediment and ball and claw feet


The front dovetails were covered over by cockbeading but the rear dovetails were switched around like on the two desks. The drawer was also stained like the desks.


The frieze fretwork is a bit less than precise.

It never occurred to me that we imported furniture especially reproductions.


Similar But Not the Same Height.

Every year or so I manage the trip to Charlottesville, VA to visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. It is a most remarkable place and I always find something new to admire. One of my favorite pieces is actually his standing desk located in the Visitor Center. It is TJ’s standing/adaptable/tall desk for reading or drawing. The following captions are from the official web Monticello web site:


One of the more interesting pieces of furniture owned by Jefferson is this tall, adaptable desk for reading or drawing.


The view from the other side is also similar.


The angle of the top, hinged at the front, can be adjusted with a ratchet stand.


Here you can see the sawtooth track for the lid’s support.


A closeup view of the latching mechanism.


A bail handle pulls forward the front of the desk to reveal a flat, lined writing surface.


Side view of the pullout drawer. Could be storage below.


Supported by six legs, the desk has mostly replacement Chinese fretwork brackets beneath the skirt.


The straight legs sit on casters.


A view of the uncommented upon stretcher.

The full and official description of the desk lives HERE.

The desk is believed to have been built between 1770 and 1785 and there is no indication that Mr. Jefferson took any part in the design or building of the desk. He just owned and used it.

Still, it’s an interesting and historic desk.

While visiting friends in Baltimore this past December, it was recommended that we visit the Homewood Museum on the Johns Hopkins University campus .

Homewood was built from 1801-06 for Charles Carroll, Jr., the only son of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The elder Carroll financed the project as a wedding gift to his son upon his marriage to Harriet Chew of Philadelphia.


The museum/mansion as it exists today.

Although the original furnishings were scattered, we were told that this desk was in house when the Carroll family lived there.


Another six-legged desk with a pullout drawer.

IMG_3373 - Version 2

Only on this desk the adjustable writing surface is on the pullout drawer.


And this desk seems to have drawers. 

Take note that the forward drawers are false drawers. The rear drawers may be real but I wasn’t allowed to explore.

I do wonder if the pullout drawers were made as space saving device?




Similar But Not the Same. Price.

Locally, there are two auction houses I check out regularly. One auction house has sales most Friday afternoons and has reasonable items with occasional dips into the flea market realm and box lots. The other house has at least two auctions a month on Saturday mornings and usually has higher-end items.

Every once in a while, there are similar items at both auctions the same week. This was true in October of 2018. The Friday auction had this sewing cabinet:


Sewing cabinet with harp legs(?) and a stretcher with finials.


Divided storage area under the lid. Contents are not period correct.


And a unique semi-cylindrical work drawer.

The Saturday auctioneer was offering this:

American Renaissance Revival Carved and Inlaid Sewing Cabinet


This lot has sold for $320.

Description: 1880s, walnut and mixed woods, hinged lid with floral and banded inlay, interior with mirror and divided compartments over two drawers with relief carving raised on stylized cabriole legs with stretcher base.

Size: 29 x 24 x 20 in.

Note: Cabinet contains sewing ephemera.

ConditionSurface wear and some expected scuffs to lid and feet.


Hinged lid with floral and banded inlay.


Interior with mirror and divided compartments. Sewing ephemera included.


But this cabinet has two drawers.

This cabinet has the work storage drawer and another dovetailed shallow drawer.


The drawer runners are different but the drawers are very similar.

Unfortunately, by the time I saw the second cabinet, the Friday auction was well underway and I couldn’t go back and get more pictures of the first.

The are of similar sizes and shape with similar work drawers. Make one wonder if they are from the same factory or was that just a very common style of sewing cabinet?

Just one is a little nicer. And more expensive.




It’s Been a While.

Looking through my recent posts, I realized that it has been quite a while since I wrote about one of our favorite topics, the gout rocker. Starting with Behold the Lowly Gout Rocker back in January of 2014, I have enjoyed sharing with you pictures and information about the one piece of furniture I hope never to have reason to use.

First up I what I like to call “gout rocker classic”.


The classic frame and woven reed leg support.


Well woven but showing some age.

Next is a more rural version:


A simple frame with the every stylish burlap upholstery.

This rocker screams 1960’s:


Pine plywood with the ever popular medium brown stain with flat finish.


Interesting fabric choices. I wonder is either is still in production?

The next item is not technically a gout rocker but is definitely on the gout appliance spectrum. This one is for people more likely to have developed gout from foie gras and prosecco than pork rinds and PBR.


The gout appliance of the 1%.


Fabric not available at Joann Fabrics.

To give some historic perspective to the gout appliance and help celebrate the season, I took this still from the 1972 movie of the 1969 Broadway play 1776.


“the eagle inside…belongs to us.”

In this scene, at a meeting of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, summer of 1776,  John Dickinson (Donald Madden) of Pennsylvania questions the motive of John Adams of Massachusetts (William Daniels) in his push for Independency while Dr. Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia (Howard Da Silva) waits quietly in the back to spring forth with some of his legendary wit and perspectives.


From left: Franklin, Adams, Dickinson. Note Dr. Franklin’s right foot is elevated on an improvised gout appliance.

Spoiler alert. the Continental Congress voted and accepted Thomas Jefferson’s  Declaration of Independence.. Thus a new Nation is born.



Freddy Roman Coming Raleigh for a Presentation and Workshop This Weekend.

Cary, NC actually.

The extremely skilled Freddy Roman will be in the Triangle, NC area this weekend for a presentation on Friday, July 20th and a workshop on Saturday and Sunday, July 21st and 22nd, sponsored by the Triangle Woodworkers Association.

Freddy Roman apprenticed under master craftsmen Philip C. Lowe at the Furniture Institute of Massachusetts in Beverly, MA. After graduating, Freddy has worked for conservation studios and cabinet shops restoring furniture, making built-ins, kitchens, architectural elements, and reproducing museum quality furniture.
In 2007 Freddy opened a furniture making and restoration studio located in Acton, MA. When Freddy isn’t working in the studio, he can be found educating the public, teaching and demonstrating across the United States.

He has been published in Popular Woodworking and has presented at Woodworking in America.

You can read more about him at

Friday night he will be speaking about his work, his influences and his techniques during the monthly meeting of the Triangle Woodworkers. This meeting is 7:00 PM at the Cary Klingspor Woodworking Shop at:

Klingspor Woodworking Shop
107 Edinburgh S Dr. Suite 151
Cary, NC 27511

This meeting is primarily for TWA members but non-members are encouraged to attend a meeting. Beyond that, they are required to join.

There are a few slots open for the weekend workshop.

Topics for the workshop:
• The art of traditional and modern inlaying
• Different methods of cutting grooves for stringing and cutting out bellflowers
• Making and installing cuff banding, cross banding, cockbeading and square edging
• Hammer veneering and toothing a substrate
• How to sharpen a toothing plane and how to make a cheap toothing plane in a
matter of minutes
• How to work with hide glue and veneer
• Benefits of shellac

and other topics as time allows.

Participation is limited to those who register in advance. To register or for more information, you can email me at

The cost is $100 for members and $200 for non-members. There is also a $20 Material Fee.

This is a hands  on class and a tool list will be provided to those that register.

Should be fun…