The Results Are In.

The auctions have finished and the winning bids have been verified. I thought some of you might be interested in what went for how much. Or maybe not.

Tennessee Cherry Lift-Top Sugar Press
Estimate   $3,000 – $5,000

Description:  Circa 1820-50, att. Sumner County, with poplar secondary, one piece form with upper dovetailed case, hinged lid with applied molding, divided interior, base with single long drawer above two paneled and hinged doors, paneled sides, the whole raised on ring turned tapered feet.

Size   46 x 36.75 x 19 in.


This lot has sold for $4000.

English Lancashire Mule Chest of Drawers
Estimate   $800 – $1,200

Description:   Late 18th century, oak and mahogany, mahogany veneers, with oak and pine secondary, top with applied dovetailed three-quarter gallery, applied molded hinged full length lift top lid above three over two faux drawers over two over two side by side lipped drawers flanked by rounded quarter columns, raised on ogee bracket feet with shaped central foot.


This lot has sold for $1200.

North Carolina Piedmont 2 Drawer Blanket Chest
Estimate: $1,200 – $1,800

Description:   Circa 1840s, Western NC region, walnut dove-tailed case, yellow pine secondary, hinged lipped lid with breadboard ends, divided interior with single drawer, four long drawers, applied bracket foot base.


Realized Price: $650

Mid Atlantic Paint Decorated Miniature Blanket Chest
Estimate: $300 – $500

Description: Mid 19th century; 6.25 inches height x 12 inches width x 5.5 inches depth; made of solid white pine, hinged lid, full length drawer, supported by original bracket feet, has brownish red paint throughout, trimmed with mustard and green, front of chest is outlined in green with mustard yellow geometrics, bracket feet has wide green trim outlined with mustard yellow paint, paint is dry alligatored; overall condition appears to be complete and original, with original brass hardware, with minor chipping and scratches throughout, otherwise excellent; Provenance: Recently Discovered by NC Picker.


Realized Price: $750

And one more…

 Southern Railway Locomotive Engine Headlight 
Estimate: $2,000 – $4,000

Description: Early 20th Century; 31 inches height, 36 inches width, with 15.5 inch diameter lens; #1366 Pyle National Co. Chicago R.R. Record No. 20c230 Pat. Brevete, believed to be one of President Roosevelt’s favorite locomotives out of the S.R.R Washington district, this engine finished it?s journey in Washington at the head of President Roosevelt’s funeral train, light is mounted on welded iron stand for displaying, appears to be complete original with polished brass poles for displaying flags, overall outstanding condition and an important piece of Southern Railroad history; Provenance: Gamble Estate Collection Clemmons, NC.


Realized Price: $3700

Lesser Mules

Two local auctions houses are having their big fall sales today (Friday). It might surprise you to know that I managed to make it to previews for both of them.

As luck would have it, there were mule chests at both. Not quite the quality as the Catalan chests in my last blog but certainly better than the American example I showed.

The oldest is this late 18th century chest billed as an English Lancashire Mule Chest of Drawers:


Upper two rows of drawers aren’t.

The top really does open. There was too much stuff on top with too many people around to prove it to you. The lid breaks just ahead of the gallery.

Next is this early 19th century North Carolina Piedmont 2 Drawer Mule Chest:


The tall bracket feet where also seen on a few other case pieces in this auction.

From the same auction is this mid 19th century Mid Atlantic Painted Decorated Miniature Mule Chest:


Interesting piece.


All parts are present and useful. Paint could use a bit of refreshing,

And finally is this mid 19th century Tennessee Cherry Lift-Top Sugar Press:


It still qualifies as a mule chest in my book. Or blog,

And that’s all I have for now. More later as I sort it all out.

Mules of Another Autonomous Region

mule chestnoun – 1. a low chest with drawers, mounted on a low frame.

mule chest – noun – 1. a hybrid form of chest, intermediate between a simple chest and a chest of drawers.

I just flew back from Spain and boy is my butt tired. Two hours Barcelona to Munich. Ten and a half hour Munich to Charlotte and then a two-hour drive home. Good to be back. Now I have over 1,000 images to sort through.

We were gone for seventeen days leaving on Nov. 1st and returning on Nov. 17th.  Starting in Lisbon, Portugal  we moved on to Porto, Santiago de Compostela, León, Bilbao, Bielsa    finishing in Barcelona.

Anything happen while I was away?

Being a tour, I had less freedom to explore. We had adult supervision. Whenever we had free time, I explored what I could. I did find several worthy museums. I didn’t find any open antiques shops although I did find several abandoned ones.

I did the best I could get away with.

But first, a few words about Spain. The Kingdom of Spain consists of 17 autonomous regions and two autonomous cities. The cities are actually across the Straight of Gibraltar on the northern coast of Africa. People tell me the Moroccans feel about these cities as the Spanish feel about the English in Gibraltar.

These autonomous regions all celebrate their unique languages, culture and history just like Texas and Oklahoma. If one is to believe one’s local guides, the regional citizens accept being part of Spain but many are less than thrilled about the prospect, just like Texas and Oklahoma. As each local guide bid farewell, our wrangler would give us a slightly different perspective on regional relations and history.

End of lesson.

I used my free time in Barcelona to visit the Museum of Design of Barcelona (Museu del Disseny de Barcelona). The six of us traveling together agreed to visit the museum the following day. Knowing this would never happen, I went on my own. The others sought out markets and that really cute hat they saw on the walking tour.

On the third floor of the museum was an exhibition titled Extraordinary! Collections of Decorative and Author-Centred Art (3rd-20th Century). It looked interesting, worth the long escalator ride up, and I went. Many museums have taken to show only the best of the best, this museum just puts it out there right up front.

There was a grouping of 16th century Catalan (possessive of Catalonia (the autonomous region in which Barcelona exists)) chests that caught my eye. These, while a bit fancier than the typical mule chest, do technically loosely fit the definition of a lidded chest with drawers. Only these chests have their drawers on the right side with the left side being an open space:


Not your typical Anglo-American mule chest.

The structure of the displayed chests were all the same, open space to the left and three drawers below a fixed tray on the right. The top drawer isn’t a drawer. It is fixed and supplies structure and support for the chest:


When is a drawer not a drawer?

Some have conventional drawers as well:


Well, it’s location and orientation are conventional…

And the level of decoration  varies from lightly decorated:


The interior is undecorated.

to slightly more so:


Lots of gold, leaf and other. It is so convenient to have colonies to supply gold.

We have mule chest on this side of the Atlantic as well as demonstrated by two I was at the Raleigh Antiques Extravaganza last weekend:


This variant has doors below.

and this one:


It’s sort of decorated.

I am tempted to build a Shaker version of of these side drawers chests. I’ll add it to the list…

To see the rest of the 29 pictures of the fancy chests, click HERE.

Things You Can’t Control

It started with the best of intentions. I was looking for a project for the Monday night woodworking group that often meets in my shop, the Hillsborough-Orange Woodworkers. I’m always looking for something relatively challenging, interesting and potentially useful.

It was with some excitement (a bit of an exaggeration) that I saw plans from Chuck Bender at 360 Woodworking for a dovetailed nail carrier/box. I showed the plans to a few members. There was some interest so I proceeded to the next logical stage and built a prototype.


My first prototype as Mr. Bender intended.

The members liked the prototype but then the discussion turned to making something actually useful that might hold nails. The prototype as built really was not suitable for holding an assortment of boxed and loose nails. I pointed out that argument was moot in that I could not imagine any who built it actually using it for nail storage and cartage. I was ignored and the dissenters marched forward with ideas and notions of their own. Two trays with handles in the upper section, a tilting handle for easier access to the lower section….

To save face, I built a second prototype incorporating their ideas:


I thought this is what they wanted.

I presented Prototype II expecting praise and adulation. Neither was forthcoming. It seems the criteria I missed was the ability to be converted into a beer carrier. I don’t drink so it never occurred to me. What did occur to me was that converting it to a beer carrier would make it much less likely to ever be exposed to a one pound box of 6-Penny bright steel smooth shank box nails.

At this point, I yielded the project to Ed Brant, the head of the loyal opposition. He built his interpretation of the project and was followed by several other members.

This is what they built:


As you see, it holds beer.


And it holds nails.

The top tray lifts out and can be replaced with one that holds more nails.


Did I mention the handle tilts?

And apparently this is what passes for beer in these parts:


I don’t drink. I wouldn’t know.

Well, this time I only built two prototypes of something for which I have no use.

I Had to Look.

There are several levels of auctions in my area. This is about one of the ones that I classify as moving stuff from one basement to the next. Mostly ordinary stuff that one typically finds at thrift shops or flea markets. Still, I check out the pictures on Auction Zip on the chance that something interesting shows up. It happens.

One day I saw a clock that looks like it could be an Arts and Crafts era artifact. It had a familiar shape and reminded me of the Voysey mantel clock that Robert Lang built for the August, 2013 issue of Popular Woodworking.


An original Voysey from the Virginia Museum of Fine Art in Richmond.

Closer to being in the spirit not the execution. It was tapered and had a copper face with clock hands. I went to the preview and realized I was not going to be taking their clock home. Firstly, the thing was metal:


A bit crudely made.

Metal would necessarily be a disqualifying issue but a quick look at the back showed me it was not old:


Plastic clips, Phillips screws and plywood do not indicate historic practices.


And the welds were really bad.

Having spent the time driving there, I felt the obligation to take a quick look to see if there might be anything of interest. There were a few things that were mildly interesting.There was this large and odd hall table:


Vases available separately.

There was this French server/sideboard:


To start with, it’s oak.

It is dovetailed and has that unique French lock the secures two drawers with a single lock mechanism, bolts head out in both directions from center:


I will stop writing about this lock as soon as you guys give me the proper name and/or a source for this lock.

And these back drawer dovetails I have only seen in French furniture:


An odd way to make a drawer. Odd but not rare.

And finally, unique pulls:


Looks French to me.

The only other interesting piece was the rather large monstrosity:


Big sucker, ain’t it?

Dovetailed drawers:


Surprisingly thin pins. The curved drawer front looks applied.

A very unique door panel:


End grain veneer door panel.

And a little bit of unique hardware:


Ring pull or drop pendant?


They don’t brass plate like they used to, thank heaven.

Nothing outstanding but I had to look.




The Workbenches of Your Dreams.

The kind of dreams you get when they deliver your large anchovy and green pepper pizza and you discover the only thing in the house to drink is chocolate milk that’s just about to turn.

On a recent trip to Raleigh I visited the used furniture place I wrote about in Where the Mediocre Goes to Die. There is a showroom with some furniture that has been cleaned up a bit or painted. Then there is the warehouse with stacks of rough, used furniture. The furniture has two prices: one price as is and one price painted.  Prices are written on a piece of blue tape

It was in this warehouse I found four retired workbenches. I would say former workbenches but I feel the need to give them the benefit of the doubt. With a little work they could be as useful as they ever were.

First up is this English pattern workbench variant:


Big apron and leg vise.


Placing the end vise by the leg vise minimizes travel. The blue tape states that the bench is $895 as is or $1,095 with a coat of paint in your choice of color.

Then there is this large sturdy fellow with drawers:


Built for serious work. Massive legs and reasonably thick top.


Leg vise, all the parts are there.


I’m not sure what the extra parts are for.

Number three is this odd little number with the oddly placed vise:


Might not have been a bench for woodworking. I hear there are other uses for workbenches

But the star of this little show it this 13′ slab bench:


Undercarriage seems a bit light for the size.


A real slab. Just a piece of the log.

There is/was a leg vise:


Parts are missing.


It is an unusually tall leg vise

There is an odd collection of holes at the leg vise end:


No obvious pattern but who says there needs to be.

There is also a planing stop:


This one is just a bent piece of strap steel wedged in place by a bench dog.

If you are interested, I can give you the address.

More Old Stuff from Williamsburg. Well, Not That Old…

In the view of the Euro descended on this side of the Atlantic, Williamsburg is old, being founded in 1632. Nearby Jamestown was founded in 1607 as the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. By comparison, Williamsburg(h), NY was incorporated in 1827 although the area was first settled by the Dutch West India Company in 1661.

The above has nothing to do with anything is this blog. I just have a pedantic nature.

We just returned from Williamsburg having spent the weekend there to celebrate my wife’s non-numerically significant birthday. Amongst visiting all the historic sites, we made time to visit a large antiques mall. Some of their inventory was relatively old but nothing going back to 1607 or even 1632.

Or 1827.

There were a few things that I found interesting or at least novel. First up is this bow front china closet from the The John A. Ebert Furniture Company of Philadelphia and later Red Lion, PA:


Lots of glass and odd applied embellishments.

This piece could be 100 years old. Still in good condition. Usually I wouldn’t find this china closet that interesting but for the label on the back:


I hope a W. G. Scott of Howard Street in Baltimore enjoyed the china closet.

Next is this overly tall chest. I am being slightly judgemental but I’ve seen lots of chests and this one is taller than most.


Like a blanket chest only taller.

Aside from the height, it seems rather ordinary. The carcass is dovetailed indicating superior construction:


Your daily dose of dovetails.

The interior is what makes this one unique:


Lined with newspaper. I think it is genuine and not a ploy to make it seem older than it is.

The newspaper is The American Traveler (1825 to 1842) of Boston, the Tuesday morning issue from October 15, 1833:


Every page is different making me believe these are originals not reproductions.

Last piece up in today’s sermon is this odd desk:


A unique and interesting design or another shotgun wedding?

It is an odd duck. As different as the pieces are it looks like they have always been together. Nothing you see looking at it would lead you to believe that the parts have been anywhere else. The top layer is nailed to the section below:


Not well nailed but nailed non the less.

An odd feature is the lopers that pull out at an angle:


This thing is not on the level.

It is odd but it makes sense in that the writing surface is slanted:


I tried it but my pen kept rolling away.

I included this on because I have found there are ring pull fans out there:


Quite an interesting ring pull.

And finally, The Orphans:


Won’t you help find them a home?

Three Legs; Endless Variations

Perhaps not endless but certainly many and varied.

I’m speaking of three-legged tables. Or is it three footed tables?

I looked back through the roughly 15,000 pictures I took of furniture in the past year and found over 140 examples of three-legged/footed tables I thought I would share. The idea first came to me when I noticed at an auction there were at least a dozen pedestal tables with three appendages.

There are a few major types that I am sure have proper names that I don’t know and couldn’t find easily. If you know, feel free to share.

This one reminds me of a ballet dancer on pointe:


Shakers on pointe. Perish the thought.

Then there is a variation with cuffed feet:


And the inverse of high arched:


Often this leg is reeded or might have brass toe caps.

Some are a bit flat-footed like a tired boxer:


I’ll do a blog about the birdcage tilt top tables eventually.

Of course there would be ball and claw feet:


Not a light look.A bit heavy, grounded.

There are carved legs like this one:


Not quite Eastlake but not not Eastlake, whatever that means.

And imminent joint failure:


I wouldn’t stand on this table.

To see all the pictures, click HERE.

Stumbling Through History

I often find something new about an old topic. A few years ago I came across this piece at large outdoor antique festival:


Described to me as a seagoing officer’s campaign chest.


Includes a drawer with a large wash bowl several small bowls.


Another view of the drawer.


Quality dovetail construction throughout.


Several drawers. Lower left drawer actually holds a chamber pot.


Pull-out shelf.


Split top opens to reveal a mirror and some small storage compartments.

I shared what I was told about this chest with a few people. They expressed some skepticism that this was seagoing  furniture. The dealer told me that there was a similar chest at thee National Maritime Museum Greenwich. I looked online and found:


Not an exact match but certainly family.

Their site has another view of the chest:


Not a different view but a mirror image of the previous picture.

You can see the chest’s museum  page HERE.

Recently, I received my copy of Shearer Furniture Designs from the Cabinet-Makers’ Book of Prices 1788. The full title seems to be:

The cabinet-makers’ London book of prices, and designs of cabinet work, calculated for the convenience of cabinet makers in general, whereby the price of executing any piece of work may be easily found.

I have a 1962 facsimile of the third edition, 1803, formerly of the Department of Education, University of Keele in Keele, Staffordshire. I have another copy of the same edition published in 2010 by Eighteenth Century Collections Online Print Editions that includes tables with highly detailed price lists for the manufacture of furniture. For instance, a 2 foot oval work table with plain tapered legs should sell for 7 shillings. Veneering the top would add 8 pence. Cross-band or a margin around then top would add 4 pence per foot. Oiling and polishing another 3 pence. Can’t get Bob Flexner for that.

The Shearer in the title refers to Tom Shearer, a presumed designer of furniture and craftsman that signed  17 of the original 20 plates in the 1788 edition of this book. The other three are anonymous.

In this book is the following plate:


Figure 1. looks to be another relative.

And the description:


Now you know.



Ohio Works

Or at least it did based on all the workbenches and tool chests I saw at a Cincinnati antique mall.

I recently spent a week in the Cincinnati area for Woodworking in America and then a pier table class at 360 Woodworking. Through strategic planning and determination I managed to carve out some time to explore Ohio’s past. The largest antique mall in the area stays open until 9:00 PM making this much easier.

First bench I came across is this large conventional bench:


Large bench with a face vise, a big tail vise and a drawer. Poodle not included.


Detail of the tail vise. I’m not sure the dogs (if they are dogs) are original.

A bit down the same row is this bench of the same type but with a more formal presentation:


City cousin to the first bench more primitive nature.

Not everyone needs the 8′ dreadnought workbench and there is bench for them as well.


This bench is for the woodworker of more modest means and needs.


With a leg vise.

Let us not ignore the tinker or casual user:


A lightweight commercial(?) bench.

A view of the top show an odd row of dog holes and the ever controversial tool tray:


I wonder if the vise once lived on the left side of the bench.

Even lighter is this small, metal framed bench:


No dog holes, no vises but drawers.

This one qualifies more as a work table than a bench but still supports work:


Probably fated to end its life as a kitchen island.

Most interesting of all is this English pattern workbench:


First one of these I’ve seen in the wild.


There was a leg vise but it’s gone. You could put it back…


There was also a large selection of tool boxes and chest:


There is a tool chest in amongst the clutter.


Of the highest quality because there be dovetails.

Or this one in the ever popular orange:


A really big chest.


OK, there are dovetails. I like dovetails.

The big problem with looking at tool chests at antique malls is that they tend to be buried under stuff. They provide horizontal surfaces on which to pile more stuff. Dealers really like to stuff their booths with stuff. It requires more patience than I have to check out the interiors because of all the stuff you need to move. If I needed a tool chest or were a better documentarian, I would do what must be done. But neither is the case.

Occasionally the chest is buried beneath something more interesting, like this Pocket Instamatic:


A 1920’s German view camera. Film may or may not be available. As far as I know, no digital back is available. Tripod not included.


Tons of tools there. Wooden bodied planes. Metal planes. Frame saws of all types and sizes. Too many to bother taking pictures. We’ve seen them all before. There was one tool that I’m not sure if is commercial or improvised:


A float with handle and knob.


Once you have the tools, the chest and bench, you need wood and fasteners. For wood you have to look elsewhere but they do have fasteners.


An assortment, as it where.

Go check out some antiques while they’re still there. Mid-century modern is coming. And collectibles. Chalk paint and other abominations.