Today’s lesson in freethinker’s woodworking come from the same auction as the last blog. It is contained in this Louis XVI Style Parquetry Inlaid C-Scroll Writing Desk:
From the catalog:
Description: Early 20th century, mixed wood inlays including kingwood, satinwood, and mahogany, a three quarter gallery surmounts the desk’s “C” scroll lid, interior with pull out writing slide with old tooled leather insert, with two small drawers with parquet, featuring an inlaid floral basket medallion above three side by side drawers with parquet inlays, on straight tapered legs, embellished with banded veneers, on brass cast feet.
Nicely veneered on all surfaces.
What caught my eye and amused me though was the dovetails on the drawers. (You’re surprised by this?) But first an explainer about how dovetailed drawers as supposed to work.
Through dovetails were the first ones that most of us were taught to cut. They are most commonly used for carcass or box construction.
In half blind dovetails, typically used in drawer construction, the tails do not extend through the pin board usually stopping 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through. The technique presents a smooth, uninterrupted pin board face.
Half blind dovetails are more challenging to cut in that the tail sockets can only be partially sawn and then chiseled out. It is not unusual for some people to overcut the pin board on the inner face to make it easier to clean out the socket.
What these people did was to cut the pin board as if were a through dovetail and then just chop out a partial tail socket.
A thin veneer will not adequately cover a through dovetailed joint. In time, the wood movement will crack the veneer, or if well glued, cause ripples in the veneer telegraphing the dovetails.
I have seen a few examples of through dovetailed drawer boxes with veneers in excess of 1/8″, thick enough to conceal the tails. But not many.
This overcutting is an interesting compromise. The veneer is thick enough to conceal the saw kerf.
Being French, it also has the odd dovetails at the back of the drawer boxes: