Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My new project

Having just finished a William and Mary spice chest for Popular Woodworking, I'm now planning my next project...

18 x 26 spice chest. No, it isn't 6 feet tall
I need a desk. The library in my new house is quite bare and needs to be furnished appropriately.  However, I'm not a huge fan of the traditional Chippendale secretary form. It is simply too tall in proportion, too ostentatious for my tastes. They are lovely work, of course, but they are not for me. So I looked a little further back in time.

photo from Colonial Williamsburg
This is the 1707 Edward Evans escritoire desk. It is the earliest known signed and dated piece of Philadelphia furniture. It is currently in the collection at Colonial Williamsburg, but I love the form so much that I will build one for my own personal use.

My new piece.
This piece is featured in numerous books on Philadelphia Furniture, including Worldly Goods, Philadelphia Furniture and Its Makers, and Hornor's Classic (and indispensable) Blue Book: Philadelphia Furniture. William Penn to George Washington.

Using the published dimensions and a couple of photos from the above mentioned sources, I worked out the dimensions of the piece. This is a wonderful way to make use of your dividers, your folding rule, and a sketch pad. I've got the process down to an hour or two to work out the major dimensions and proportions. The rest will be figured out at the bench as I work.

At 5 1/2 feet tall, this is is perfect for my library. Walnut, like all my furniture. Classic William and Mary style. I will be documenting this build as I complete it, but I just finished my construction drawing last night. Rarely do I work from a drawing (and never a plan), but this piece is complex enough that I felt a working drawing would be helpful to make sure I lay out all the dadoes in the right spot. Plus, I really like sketching moldings...

9 comments:

  1. Beautiful stuff Zach! Awesome job on the spice chest! Not enough W&M stuff being reproduced in my opinion. Congratulations on the article too! Can't wait to read it.

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    1. Thanks Bob! W+M is my favorite style and there isn't enough of it out there. Looking to change that...

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  2. Love what your doing for the next build. You have really sparked my interest in W&M. It has a such a lovely classical look without being overly ornamental or like you said ostentatious. Looks like I need to find a way to do some turning.

    I need a new desk so I'll be checking back here to see your progress. My will need to be something smaller yet, more like the standing desk Adam C build a while back, but this will provided some great stuff to think about. Keep up the great work Zach!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words Chris. If you don't turn, you could always do a simple bracket foot in place of the turned foot. It would be a little "later" in style, but would still be appropriate. After all, the pieces didn't always show hard and fast differentiation between characteristics. A bracket foot would be fine looking on a slightly later desk, and this desk could certainly be a transitional form, especially if you changed the composition slightly to make it have a taller, narrower proportion.

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    2. Thanks for the info Zach. Bracket feet I can do. From a quick Google search it looks like there are some cabriole legs in the style as well. I do love those little ball feet, but until I buy or build a lathe its good to know that there are other appropriate options.

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    3. Cabriole legs didn't appear much until well within the Queen Anne style. So, if you lengthen the proportion and put a cabriole on it, you're solidly in Queen Anne. Not that you cant do it, of course, I'm sure it would a beautiful adaptation.

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    4. Oh my, you certainly know your furniture. I was wondering if the pieces I saw with cabriole legs on my google search labeled as W&M were mislabled. I hadn't recalled seeing them on W&M before, but I don't know my styles well, so I figured maybe it was a late adaptation. I actually love bracket feet so I'd me more inclined to stick with those anyway. Thanks for the info!

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    5. Love me some W&M, this really kicks off the "Golden Age" of furniture and later styles take a lot of cues from it. Amazing what just adding a dovetailed box does to take us away from the Jacobean panel chests. At the same time extending the leg posts up through the case made huge strides to creating a lighter appearance in the Queen Anne. It is the little details like this that make 18th C stuff so compelling. Looking forward to the build Zach.

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  3. Wow, I'm looking forward to seeing that. Congrats on the PW article.

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