Corner Chairs. Or Are They?

This is another situation were we need some Federal regulation as to the standardization of furniture terminology to avoid confusion and indicate the actual use and derivation of a furniture type. It is commonly called the corner chair but there is not indication that these types of chairs were used  exclusively in corners:

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Circa 1740 – 1765, probably made near Dover, Delaware. From the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover.

There is speculation that this design was meant to allow men wearing sword to sit comfortably. Many doubt this. It can also be called a writing chair, a smoking chair, a roundabout chair or simply Edgar. My personal belief is that exist to promulgate manspread.

There are many variations of corner chairs out there. The common design elements are that the legs are rotated 45° from typical, the side legs continue up to become the arm supports and that the chair arm goes from one side leg to the other. I now believe that some of those odd chairs I came across are just corner chair variants.

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A previously undiscovered variant or mutant, if you will.

Some are more functional:

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A wide apron indicates it probably concealed a chamber pot. From Winterthur.

Some are more elaborate than others:

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Twists and splats and beads, oh my.

Some aren’t rounded:

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This one would fit well into a corner.

Some are less than utilitarian:

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Ugly with a certain lack of grace.

Some are more modern in their approach:

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With a touch of Asian influence.

Whatever they are and however they’re made, you can find more in a photo set HERE.

You Can’t Get There From Heah!

If you are of a certain age, you will know this is one of the iconic lines from  Firesign Theater’s The Further Adventures of Nick Danger (1969). Depending on how you’ve lived your life, you might have been surrounded by college friends that, from memory, would constantly reenact entire Firesign Theater routines. Often on a daily basis. Possibly more often but you only saw them on a daily basis. (For extra credit, explain regnad kcin.)

That phrase has also recently become my life. A bridge that links us to the world is being replaced. Bridge 77 on Route 1133 was built in 1954 and has been declared Structurally Deficient and Functionally Obsolete. I was born 1954 and have been declared Structurally Deficient and Functionally Obsolete.

With Old 77 missing, the only way out of here is to go 3.5 miles south or 1.5 miles west on an unpaved road. From one side of the bridge to the other is 6.2 miles on the unpaved road or 9.3 miles if car cleanliness is important to you. I observed the gentleman servicing the job site toilet discovering this the other morning. Our access to Chapel Hill and Carrboro is unaffected so we can still eat well.

Here is the bridge as it is being removed:

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Note you can read the individual wooden beams through 5″ of pavement.

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The entire understructure is wood. Weight limit was down to 6.5 tons.

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There is a lot of wood in this bridge. And I want none of it.

Why wouldn’t I want this wood. No one can positively say how it’s been treated. Creosote is a given. It was once widely used by all including the homeowner before coal-tar based creosote’s carcinogenic properties became known. And there could be other things in there including heavy metals. The supervisor told me it costs around $2000 per dumpster to dispose of it properly (legally).

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240 board feet of death.

Demolition being finished, construction is well underway.

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Here, the far side is complete and the near side has just been poured.

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Both ends prepared.

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Finally the beams have been placed. No one can explain the 3° rake other than it is as designed.

It takes a big crane to build a bridge:

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Panoramic photos can be taken vertically as well as horizontally.

Depending on weather, the replacement could be ready by month’s end. The one thing we will miss is having the road to ourselves on our early morning walks:

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Almost 7:00 AM and no cars in sight.

Three

It always interests me that often on those rare occasions I go out looking at furniture I will find very similar items. Similar but not the same.

First I found this:

Continental Victorian Burled Sideboard

Description: Circa 1860, choice burl wood veneers, ebonized highlights, oak secondary, three part form, backsplash featuring a central cartouche with relief carved nuts and fruit, mirrored back, base with two upper side by side drawers above two paneled cabinet doors, flanked by rounded cabinet doors, on suppressed bun feet.

Size: 72 x 65 x 23 in.

Condition: Likely later mirror; top with several shrinkage cracks including one long crack; wear and paint loss to ebonized edge highlights, shrinkage crack to left cabinet door panel; other imperfections from age and use.

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This lot has sold for $320.

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Dovetailed drawers mean quality construction.

The French are very fond of the knife hinge.

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The use of knife hinges require some additional clearance in for the back of the door.

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The knife hinge.

And this one has the cutest little bun feet:

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Maybe not so little.

A consignment shop in Raleigh has this similar piece:

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1860 Louis Philippe Mahogany Buffet, France, $3650.

Again, dovetailed drawers:

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A different take on tails but dovetails, nonetheless.

This one has hinged drawers:

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Another use of the knife hinge.

This buffet also has the lock with two bolts used on many pieces of French furniture:

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The centrally located lock has two bolts. One goes low into the right drawer, the other bolt goes high into the mortise on the left drawer.

If any of you know the name of this lock or where I can buy one, please share.

This buffet also has some really great pulls:

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Ebonized pull with mahogany rosette. Very attractive.

Last and by far the least, this poor sad thing found at a mall furniture store:

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Kensington Buffet, Blue Stone Buffet Top. List $2,999. On sale for $1,999.

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Hinged drawers also using the knife hinge. No dovetails.

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Buffet doors use typical butt hinges.

Now vote:

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One.

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Two.

or

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Three.

 

Things Change.

On a recent trip to the Philadelphia area for a wedding, I had a chance to visit some of my favorite antiques dealers in South Jersey. At one of them, I came across this rather ordinary bench:

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Door on the right and vise on the left are missing.

This bench has a tool tray and a tool rack on the back:

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Rather wide breadboard end with dog holes in line with the missing vise.

Drawers have machine cut dovetails:

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It happens. Seems to be a 20th century bench.

An adjustable bench stop is currently frozen in place:

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It can be fixed.

The odd thing here was the label on the front of the bench:

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Not what you expected? Don’t that beat all?

If you know Hammacher Schlemmer at all, you probably know them for that catalog that makes you wonder why you’re getting it. It features such brilliant gifts as The Best Bug Vacuum for $69.95 and the $50,000 The Barbecue Dining Boat.

Hammacher Schlemmer actually has a more interesting past:

from Wikipedia:

Hammacher Schlemmer began as a hardware store specializing in hard-to-find tools in the Bowery district of New York City in 1848. Owned by proprietors Charles Tollner and Mr. R Stern,[2] it became one of the first national hardware stores. A few months later, Stern withdrew and Toller continued the business until 1859, moving in 1857 to 209 Bowery. In 1859, family friend Albert Hammacher invested $5,000 into the company and the name was changed to C. Tollner and A. Hammacher.

Throughout the 1860s, William Schlemmer gradually bought out Charles Tollner’s stake in the company. When Tollner died in 1867, 26-year-old Schlemmer entered into a partnership with Hammacher and Peter F. Taaks. As a result, the company changed its name to Hammacher & Co. William Schlemmer had been actively involved with the business since 1853 when he moved to New York City from Germany at age twelve and worked at the storefront. After a few years Taaks resigned and since Schlemmer owned a greater portion of the company, the name was changed in 1883 to the present style of Hammacher Schlemmer & Co.

And it was all down hill from there.

Things change. Look on eBay for Hammacher Schlemmer in collectables and antiques.

More history for young people:

Abercrombie & Fitch: Founded in 1892 in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, by David T. Abercrombie and Ezra Fitch, Abercrombie & Fitch was an elite outfitter of sporting and excursion goods, particularly noted for its expensive shotguns, fishing rods, fishing boats, and tents.

American Eagle Outfitters: The first attempt was to open American Eagle Outfitters in 1977, positioning it as a proprietor of brand-name leisure apparel, footwear, as well as accessories for men and women, emphasizing merchandise suited for outdoor sports, such as hiking, mountain climbing, and camping.

I bought my first (and last) sleeping bag and tent at American Eagle Outfitters.

I am adding the following item to this blog because I found it interesting and don’t know where else to put it. I did find it at the same shop which makes them location coincidental. It is this box:

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A box with white dovetails?

And waterfowl on the lid:

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I could speculate as to what the bid is but I choose not to.

A closer view does not necessarily provide answers:

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I still don’t know…

My best guess after looking at the actual box and these pictures if that it is a veneer failure. Looking at the corner of the lid you can see the substrate is white and the veneer likes to free itself. There is already a veneer failure at the edge of the tail board. Wood movement cracked the veneer and it either fell off or was picked of by idle fingers.

But, I could be wrong…

I Was Assured They’re Old.

I was talking to Peter Follansbee about life, woodworking and this blog when he asked my why I didn’t take pictures of anything really old? My threshold for old is pre-McKinley (1900) while Mr. Follansbee’s is 16th century. The obvious answer is that the places I have access to don’t often have anything old. The number of Empire chests-of-drawers far exceeds the number of jointed English stools in the retail/auction market.

To address Mr. Follansbee’s concerns, I offer here two dealer-confirmed old pieces. I completely trust antiques dealers. What possible incentive would they have to lie or deceive?

Is it a cupboard if it was built before cups were invented? Could it be a jelly if all they had was preserves? It’s that old:

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It’s a really old cabinet of some sort.

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They told me that the door is as old as the rest of the cabinet.

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Hand forged pintle hinges.

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Even the drop pull is hand forged.

Equally old or even older is this chest:

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More frame and panel construction. They didn’t have wide boards back then.

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A coopered domed lid with a hand hewn rib.

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A primitive hinge notched for leg clearance.

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This lock (interior view)

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is held on with clinched nails.

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Looking at the end, somebody really liked their beading plane. Note the through tenons on the legs.

 

A Secret, A Deception and A Mystery

Wanting to do something different, I recently went out to visit a few antique shops. I discovered many things wonderous and mundane as is typical. These three are not as they seem and I find them worthy of being shared.

First up is a desk with a secret. I haven’t seen one of these in a while. I’m not sure if it is my declining skill in finding them or there just hasn’t been one to be found. Whichever, here is the desk:

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A handsome Georgian number. Around $3,600 as I remember.

The main drawer bottoms are made of several board that over a few hundred years were not dimensionally stable:

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Wood shrinks and splits, who knew?

An appropriately handsome gallery:

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Fancy but not to fancy.

A lot of wood in the drawer fronts:

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Drawers are not dovetailed.

Nice prospect door:

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Brass inlay.

Nothing within the prospect:

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Nothing but air. Doesn’t look like there was ever anything in there. That is unusual.

I reached in to see if there were finger notches to push out the letter boxes on either side of the door. I made a discovery:

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The entire prospect moved.

An it turns out that the letter boxes come out the back:

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No dovetails here either.

There is also a less than obvious drawer above the door:

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Not obvious but is it a secret?

Next is the deception. This deception might have worked better when young and the doors hung true:

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Things sag as they age. Again, who knew?

The press is actually an armoire:

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No shelves or drawers, just green. Is it the original green or at least a historically accurate green?

And now, the mystery. I speak of this large, two piece press, shelves and drawers:

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A large, hulking press.

The upper section is shelved:

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Not tidy within but that is why there are doors! A good place to hide inventory.

Drawers below:

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And yes, they’re dovetailed.

Now, here’s the mystery: how do you access the area between the shelves and drawers? Storage space was always at a premium. I do not believe that the builder would have left the space unused. There are rough sawn board internally above the drawers so the space was not intended to be unused.

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There is lots of inaccessible space between the shelves and drawers.

I don’t think the only access to the space is by lifting off the upper section. The carcass is pinned frame and panel construction so nothing comes off or is hinged.

My only conclusion is the access was gained by lifting out the bottom shelves of the upper section, the top over the lower section being left open. Those bottom shelves did seem loose and not part of the carcass. Inconvenient but workable. I didn’t have the time, patience or chutzpah to try so I don’t know.

Then the question is is it a secret or mystery or just something we don’t know because it is not now in common use?

Yet More of the Same only Different

I’ve recently come across some more furniture that is similar/the same as in some previous blogs. No one piece is worthy of its own blog but taken as a whole, it’ll do.

In April in There are No Rules, I wrote of this chair with this unique leg layout:

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Four legs, just not where you expected.

In the past two weeks, I have come across the following:

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Four legs just rotated 45°.

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In this configuration, the arms supports are carried by legs.

And in Georgia, I found:

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A totally different feel.

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This one is a bit rough, missing a few parts.

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Maybe not even an antique.

In the metal-for-wood category we have:

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Looks like wood, welds like metal.

Two more Wooton rotary desks:

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One in Chapel Hill,

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Looks nice from the client’s side as well.

Another in Monroe, Georgia:

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Looks like the one on Chapel Hill.

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Like this closed.

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Opens to this.

A Hitchcock chair:

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Well, not a real one.

A Hitchcock settee?

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Probably not.

And a gout rocker:

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

 

On Our Return From the Wild Kingdom, We Continue Milking the Auction.

Back to the auction gallery.

There were a few other auction items worthy of attention. First is this:

American Chippendale Blanket Chest.

Description: Late 18th century, white pine dove tailed case, lid with fishtail hinges and applied molded edge, interior with till to left side (lacking lid), base with two side by side lipped drawers, raised on ogee bracket feet with spurs.

Size: 29.5 x 48.5 x 23 in.

Condition: Wear and marring to top; missing lock; later pulls; feet have lost some height.

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This lot has sold for $310.

They called it a blanket chest while others might consider it a mule chest. The argument is that the drawers make it a mule chest but others say mule chests must be taller. Who knows?

Some interesting details:

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Dovetailed case.

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Dovetailed drawers.

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Drawer bottoms chamfered and pinned.

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Convex bracket feet.

Till lid is missing. Saw cuts were used to make the dados for the till and mortises for the hinges:

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Note the saw cuts by the hinges and till. They were not afraid of over cutting.

The breadboards on the lid are very narrow and really seem to be wide moldings more than ends designed to keep the lid flat.

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Are the breadboard ends wide enough to keep the lid in one plane?

Interestingly, they are attached with through tenons:

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Through tenons to attach the ends.

For a minute I thought the tenons were wedged but a closer look showed me that it wasn’t a wedge but a pinned tenon that suffered a break in the end grain where the pin came too close to the end of the tenon:

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The tenon failed where pinned.

I like the pulls…

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Even if they are replacements.

Next up is this:

Cherry Dovetailed Blanket Chest

Description: 19th century, hinged top with applied rounded edge, interior with till, applied molded base with turned peg feet.

Size: 23 x 38 x 18.5 in.

Condition: Later hinges with break outs and repairs; moth ball smell to interior; surface scratches.

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This lot has sold for $90.

There carcass is dovetailed. Really. Email me if you need to see the pictures.

I haven’t shown any secret compartments for a while so I owe you this.

There is a till on the left. Thetill appears shallower than the till front board would lead you to believe:

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The till seems like it should be deeper. Ignore the scuff marks above till’s front board.

Not all that much or a secret really.

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The front board is captive but slides up a bit to reveal a shallow secret compartment.

Note the arc of a groove on the chest’s lid caused by using the till lid as a stop.

Odd to find a boarded chest at a “better” auction but, here it is:

American Grain Bin

Description: 19th century, white pine, hinged lid, divided interior with two compartments, straight legs from the solid with half-moon cut.

Size:  26.5 x 30 x 16.5 in.

Condition: Rat chew to lid and front boards; tin patch to left side.

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This lot has sold for $160.

This piece had some remodeling done:

George III Chest of Drawers

Description: Early 19th century, mahogany, pine secondary, converted originally from a commode / wash stand, now with four graduated drawers, with a bracket foot base.

Size: 30 x 26 x 20 in.

Condition: Converted from wash stand to chest of drawers; later pulls; wear and chipping.

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This lot has sold for $700.

You see, in this chest, the two doors were rebuilt into two drawers. Original lower drawers are dovetailed:

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Original lower drawers are dovetailed.

Improvised upper drawers are dovetail-free:

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No dovetails on the new(ish) drawers.

Looking at the upper drawer fronts tells the story of its origin:

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This is not traditionally how you build drawer fronts but it is how you build doors.

In review, this chest was initially built with two drawers below with two doors on top. The doors were cut up and converted into two drawer front giving the chest four drawers.

I like this sring pull, too.

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Might not be original but it works.

Finally, apparently no recent blog of mine is complete without a Hitchcock chair. This blog is no exception:

James L. Ferguson’s Hamilton College Hitchcock Chair

Description: Late 20th century, black lacquered wood with gilt and painted decoration, back support with early scene of Hamilton College and signed S. Marshall, stenciled on seat rail “L. Hitchcock, Hitchcocks-ville Conn., Warranted” and gilt signed “James L. Ferguson ’49, Charter Trustee 1973-1988.”

Size: 31 x 24 x 16 in.

Condition: Some scuffs and light wear; overall good estate condition.

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This lot has sold for $140.

And here is the obligatory picture of the genuine stenciled logo:

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Stencil variation circa 1988.

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This is what makes it a presentation chair.

 

 

 

 

Another Mystery Solved

We have two hummingbird feeders hanging outside our breakfast area. Our cats enjoy watching them feed and I am constantly amazed by their aerobatics and dogfights (bird fights?) Seems hummingbirds don’t get along all that well.

Unfortunately, the hummingbirds prefer the cheap copper toned available from Home Depot. We have tried nice, more expensive feeders but all are rejected. Are these feeders really cheaper when they rust so quickly and need to be replaced annually?

Over the weekend, our feeders started emptying themselves overnight. 2/3 to 3/4 full at dusk and empty at dawn. Hummingbirds don’t feed that much overnight. I’ve heard that some bats might feed there but emptying them both? Suspecting leaks, I brought them in for testing and put last year’s out. In the morning, the old ones were empty with one screw-on base on the ground.

The next step was technology. I place one of my Nikons on a tripod and programmed it to take a picture every two minutes and left the outside lights on at sunset. I got a whole lot of this picture:

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Two feeders, no waiting. Reflections are annoying but this ain’t art.

At 10:41, I got this:

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Caught.

First racoon we have seen in the eight years we’ve lived here. Deer. Opossums. Rabbits. Squirrels. Chipmunks. Cyotes, Foxes. Groundhogs. But no racoons.

Might explain what happed to all the asian pears…

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Can racoons get Type II Diabetes?

 

Different Curves.

The auction from the last post was not a great auction, there were no wonderous pieces of furniture. Many nice ones but nothing that jumped out and screamed “Take me to the Met.”

In the absence of greatness, I look for interesting details. Things done differently or things not typically done. I always wonder if these different approaches are naive or brilliant. Did they not know how things were done or not care how others did it. No clue or different inspiration

There were a few items that had a unique approach to curves. First up is this:

Chippendale Style Dressing Table

Description:  19th century, oak, shaped dish top, single serpentine drawer, cabriole legs with ball and claw feet.

Size: 29 x 30 x 18 in.

Condition: Restoration including the drawer being reworked, later glue blocks, break and repair to back right leg; insect damage; surface stains.

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This lot has sold for $110.

To start things off, the ball and claw feet are a bit different:

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That’s not how they did it in Newport.

The drawer has been reworked?

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How was it before the reworking. No dovetails yet I took a picture of it.

The serpentine drawer front caught my eye:

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A drawer front you don’t see everyday.

A sawn serpentine drawer front is not unique. What is unique is how thin the drawer front gets:

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it gets down to below 1/2″.

I do like the bail pulls:

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Seems to be original.

Next specimen is quite a bit taller:

William IV Mahogany Bookcase

Description:19th century, two-part form, mahogany, mahogany veneer, oak and pine secondary, applied cove molded cornice, two hinged glazed doors with original wavy glass open to two louvered shelves, over an ogee drawer, two paneled doors with flush base.

Size   94 x 43 x 18 in

Condition: No key; surface wear; top surface to base with looseness.

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Taller than your average bookcase.

The only curved thing on it is the, as they call it, ogee drawer. Looking at is in profile you see:

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Dovetails look kinda funny.

It looks like it started life as a squared drawer to which bits have been added and removed:

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Used to be square.

Staring at it for a while, I think I might have figured out how they did it. It started out as a drawer with a square profile. The baseline looks like it was made by a marking gauge which would require a flat front. Moldings and fillets were attached and the drawer front was then given the ogee profile. The through dovetails were hidden behind a thick veneer on the concave surface.

The third curve is the first kidney-shaped server I’ve ever seen.

English Regency Concave Mahogany Server

Description: 19th century, mahogany, oak secondary, top with applied gallery, two drawers over two tambour doors, shelved interior, on flush base.

Size: 39 x 50 x 22 in.

Condition: Right tambour door with loose panels; surface scratches; shrinkage crack to top; other wear.

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This lot has sold for $400. The figural humidors not included. They sold for $310.

The tambour doors were a bit stiff. Now knowing how the non-existent Pottery Barn Rule (You break it, you bought it)  applies at an auction, I wimped out and chose to use their picture to show it closed:

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Tambour doors closed.

The joinery might be a bit coarse but it has lasted for 200 years:

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Not perfect nut good enough.

Interesting way that the lower shelf boards installed on a bias:

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Nothing straight about this server.