The Society of American Period Furniture Makers

Tools and Techniques => Period design and construction => Topic started by: jacon4 on February 13, 2011, 12:49:59 PM

Title: Dust Boards
Post by: jacon4 on February 13, 2011, 12:49:59 PM
I am considering a Pennsylvania late 18th century walnut chippendale 4 drawer chest of drawers with ogee bracket feet, fluted quarter columns, original brass pulls & full dust boards. The only reason this chest interests me is because of the dust boards (yeah i know, I'm weird). Dust boards on period American chests are unusual, anyone know what the deal is on them or why american makers mostly did not install them?
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: jacon4 on February 13, 2011, 12:50:51 PM
Dust Boards
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Jeff L Headley on February 13, 2011, 06:04:50 PM
James, Weight. You will see many if not most pieces in the Shenandoah valley with full size (they will be full to 3/4 width) dust dividers (drawer bearers) into the 1820's. They carried many period influences thru many different eras. New England pieces let go of this infuence ealierer than some of the southern states. I attribute this to the shipping of pieces, Carters charged by weight.  
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: msiemsen on February 13, 2011, 08:53:39 PM
A chest with a lock on each drawer requires dust panels or you can pull the drawer out from above and access the contents of the drawer below.  Doesn't really answer your question though.
Mike
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Jeff L Headley on February 13, 2011, 09:05:45 PM
Lets explore this piece. Bottom dovetailed, with half blind dovetails, up from the bottom. Bottom will have a strip of primary wood applied to front edge.  Mold applied from underneath mitered at the front with a rear block butted on the inside of the mold for glue blocks and a stop for the back. Feet are mitered at front edges with a vertical glue block. Back feet have secondary wood notched into the back edge of the facade with a vertical glue block and then glue blocked to underside of the mold. Sides will be dovetailed into the top, mold will cover exposed dovetails of top through the sides. Top rail is glued under edge of dovetailed top. Rails will be slid in from front with a dovetail on the bottom edge flat on top edge with an 1 1/4" or better notch (for quarter column) plus whatever the stile is. Stile will be nailed onto rails then glue blocked. Dust divider(thinner than rail will be slid in from back) and glued to back edge of rail. Dust dividers were as much for bearing drawers as for keeping things (wood dust, coal dust, critters. your help) out. Everything shrinks and swells together, I feel it is superior construction engineering if you don't have to move it. The drawer guides will run cross grain from the sides and dust dividers so they should be shy of the back by 3/8"at least. Capitols and bases will be seperate pieces with the column in between. Actually you would set in the capitol under the top then the coulmn then the base then trim the overhang and apply mold to bottom. Better chests would have stop fluting. Philadelphia would stop their fluting about a third from the bottom straight across the flutes. Winchester Virginia and then down the Valley would stop their flutes with the center flutes higher than the outer flutes giving an arched upwards apperance. John Shearer from the Martinsburg (then Virginia) WVa stopped his flute concave. 1/2" back nailed on. Some drawer bottoms would be blocked to give a wider bearing surface.  
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: jacon4 on February 14, 2011, 04:07:56 AM
AHHHH HAAAA, Weight. That makes sense to me plus it's a very american reaction to fix a problem. A quick glance thru Hurst/Prown Southern Furniture, 1680-1830 shows some chests of drawers with full dust boards, interesting.
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Antiquity Period Designs, Ltd. on February 14, 2011, 09:39:31 AM
Jeff,

Do the dust boards slide into a dado in the sides and from the back?

Dennis Bork
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Jeff L Headley on February 14, 2011, 06:17:46 PM
Dennis, Yes and yes. Hope all is well. Jeff
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Adam Cherubini on February 15, 2011, 02:19:57 AM
I don't think the issue was weight. My sense is that full dust boards require good clear wide secondary wood that England was running short of in the 18th century.  If you've got nice wide pine or cedar, full dust boards are faster and easier to make than a frame and panel divider.

Jeff, thanks for that description. I have to read that again to make sure I'm tracking 100%!

Adam
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: jacon4 on February 15, 2011, 03:17:24 AM
Hmmmmm, well, timber for secondary wood was not an issue in 18th century america, thats one thing that was very plentiful. What i usually see in american chests of drawers are strips of wood attached (usually nailed) to the inside of case sides for drawer runners to ride on, 3/4 or full dust boards are fairly rare. It is my understanding that full dust boards were common in London built chests during this period. In addition to the Shenandoah, it seems some makers in Charleston SC installed dust boards on their chests as well.

It's almost embarrassing what the high bid on this chest is at the moment, $570. Gee Wiz, you cant buy the walnut for that.
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Adam Cherubini on February 15, 2011, 06:17:27 AM
I don't think full dust boards are uncommon in Philly pieces.  I've seen country pieces from the Delaware Valley and even early pieces with full dust boards.  Though I think the influential Philly builders were all London trained.  (all isn't true but surely most is).

I've seen a couple nailed in drawer runners, but these have always been let into narrow dados and usually tenon into the drawer divider.

Of course, I'm still of a mind that we don't know how chests of drawers were actually used.  I think it's possible drawers were fully removed for access.  In earliest times, they called these boxes of boxes and the builder the box maker.  If true, this would help explain some of the construction details (lack of kickers for example), wear patterns and also high chests with drawers over head height.  Viewed in this light, light-weight runners may not be so bad. 
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: albreed on February 15, 2011, 06:47:47 AM
As far as dust boards in NE are concerned I suspect it was a cost issue. Th Goddard secretary I copied had full dustboards in the desk section, just nailed onto runners nailed into the side. Some Portsmouth, NH pieces had dustboards only between the second and third draw in th Federal period. They keep all the dust and wear dust from the draw above from falling onto the contents of the draw below, and as such would, I think, be a nice luxury, since often expensive fabric may have been stored in the draws-Al
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Antiquity Period Designs, Ltd. on February 15, 2011, 08:33:02 AM
Jeff & Al,

Were dust boards ever slid inot a dado that was in the drawer runner support?

Dennis Bork
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Jeff L Headley on February 15, 2011, 09:34:58 AM
Dennis, I have a high chest I just purchased which is probably 1720's (Pa or Va)with such dividers. They sit in dados in the bearer and in the back side of the rail with no central framing.
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Jeff L Headley on February 15, 2011, 12:51:13 PM
Dennis I was wrong. The dust dividers(1/2 thick) on this chest I have are in a dado (the width of the rail) in the side with a filler piece underneath to hold it up with a guide on the top side to fill out for the stile which is wider than the side. So never mind. You will certainly see it in later period pieces.
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: jacon4 on February 15, 2011, 05:05:11 PM
MMMMMM, high chest from 1720s huh, I would love to see a pic. OK, weight & cost of installation seem to be the top candidates for why American makers choose to mostly not install full dust boards on their chest of drawers, this seems reasonable to me.
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Jeff L Headley on February 15, 2011, 06:31:26 PM
Nothing is as simple as it seems.
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Jeff L Headley on February 15, 2011, 06:57:16 PM
OK 1720's might be pushing it. You can't believe everything you read on the internet.
The feet were replaced a few months before I got it. What a nice job!!! If only I had been a little earlier before they were removed.$$$ I will get pictures of the bearers soon. The top molding is a secert drawer.
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: jacon4 on February 16, 2011, 03:13:34 AM
Neat @ the secret drawer, very william & mary feature, to bad about the feet but hey, they can be fixed. What kind of feet did it have, ball or bracket?

Nothing is as simple as it seems.

True, but as a collector i get to speculate like a mad man.

One of the things that i find great about American furniture is the makers were free to adapt, experiment not only in design but construction technique as well. It's my understanding that in England for instance, this was not the case, they had a powerful guild system with very rigid rules and regulations about building furniture.
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: jacon4 on February 16, 2011, 05:41:16 AM
OK, here is a recent sale of a Shenandoah Valley chest of drawers with 3/4 dust boards with impeccable provenance and a price tag to go with it, $48,875 with BP. An interesting feature are the wedges under the dust boards.
http://jeffreysevans.auctionflex.com/showlot.ap?co=45242&weid=13494&weiid=5262804&archive=y&lso=pricedesc&pagenum=1&lang=En
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: albreed on February 16, 2011, 07:13:21 AM
Usually the top molding as a draw is a feature found on highboys, but your piece looks too tall to be a highboy top, I think. That would be a reason to "redo" the feet, however. Have a good look at the bottom to see if it's had feet before the present ones. Also look for a shadow around the base where the top may have sat in a molding to capture it.
As far as dating it goes, check for holes for cotter pin brasses, which would indicate an earlier date.-Al
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Jeff L Headley on February 16, 2011, 04:54:21 PM
I have seen many examples of highboys also. Many in Miller's book but no high chests. I have seen one and I can't remember where. Maybe in Williamsburg or MESDA or someone's private collection. I would like to know where if anyone else knows. The chest did have bracket feet. I have not seen this method of extending the side down to the floor used on a high chest before to back up the brackets facade. Certainly seen it on many corner cupboards and other pieces.
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: jacon4 on February 16, 2011, 05:12:14 PM
I would say Jeff's chest is a transitional Queen Anne (1730-1760) tall chest of drawers, transitional because of the W & M secret drawer. Any sign of bat wing brasses?  A few similar form queen anne tall chests that have sold recently

http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/5241474
http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/8381236

http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/8019536
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Jeff L Headley on February 16, 2011, 07:43:22 PM
My earlier date comes from the rivened oak secondary wood. Just hopeing!
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: jacon4 on February 17, 2011, 02:19:06 AM
Hmmmm, riven oak secondary wood huh, dang, now i am stumped. As Al & you pointed out earlier, that secret drawer is a fairly common feature on W& M highboys but your chest is clearly a tall chest form. The reason i picked Queen Anne is because I am not aware of american tall chest forms in the W&M era, naturally, that doesnt mean there were none. It could be late W & M, say 1720-1730, the feet would help alot, to bad they are missing.
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: jacon4 on February 17, 2011, 05:15:45 AM
Meanwhile, back at my chest ranch, my bid of $1630. was beat by a $1730. bid, 4 mins prior to bid dead line, naturally i was on the road at the time and could do nothing about it. Someone got a nice chest in good condition for a very reasonable price.

 
Off thread but there was an important piece of Americana that sold at Christies last month, a John Goddard 1765 chippendale block & shell  bureau table that sold for 5.7 million, a record for this form, the listing
http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?from=salesummary&intObjectID=5401668&sid=d18e3b87-6f8b-40b2-b209-88cd184cdba0
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: jacon4 on February 18, 2011, 05:13:56 AM
Hey, I take back what i said about not being aware of american W&M tall chests, here's one with 5 tiers of drawers, not the usual 6 and although it doesnt say if it's american, at least someone in the world was making W&M tall chests in the period. I emailed and asked for details on this chest, the listing.
http://northeastauctions.com/search/detail.php?l=180&a=spring2011
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Adam Cherubini on February 19, 2011, 05:30:52 AM
My earlier date comes from the rivened oak secondary wood. Just hopeing!
Philadelphians rived secondary wood at least until the end the of the 18th c.  Most common secondary seems to have been white cedar, though I've seen several mid century pieces with oak as a secondary material.

I'm not good at dating furniture.  I would look at hardware, not species or even methods with a few notable exceptions.

Regardless of the age, it's a pretty piece, Jeff and it looks old to me.

Adam
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: jacon4 on February 19, 2011, 06:02:22 AM
Philadelphians rived secondary wood at least until the end the of the 18th c.

Neat! Agrees with Adam, it's difficult to date pieces unless provenance (chain of custody) can be established which is not common on american furniture. Jeff's tall chest is a fine example of the tall chest form and does it really matter if it was built in 1720 or 1750? Not to me it doesnt.
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: rac50 on February 19, 2011, 09:50:58 AM
This Pennsylvania walnut chest on frame is another possibility for Jeff's chest. It also satisfies Al's comments.
http://www.clprickett.com/CLP4733.htm
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: jacon4 on February 19, 2011, 10:21:00 AM
The chest did have bracket feet. I have not seen this method of extending the side down to the floor used on a high chest before to back up the brackets facade.

I would think chest on frame unlikely if sides of chest extended down as either a back up or as 1/2 of the bracket feet themselves.
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Jeff L Headley on February 19, 2011, 07:43:12 PM
Here are what brasses it has. They seem to be good. Original holes.
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Jeff L Headley on February 19, 2011, 07:44:35 PM
Close up of drawer
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: jacon4 on February 20, 2011, 03:59:11 AM
Neat, I am guessing E W was the original owner of this chest. Whats the restoration plan for this chest, i notice in addition to the feet, there is some drawer lip damage as well. Really fine, figured walnut in the top tier drawers, i predict this lil guy is going to look GREAT when restored.
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Jeff L Headley on February 20, 2011, 10:49:16 PM
On my posting #31 at the top of the chest in the mold is a notch. Could this be a plinth? What might it have had etched in it's surface? How about a nautical theme, maybe Neptune's face.  Just as a laugh if you look at the E and W with the star in between, from it's prospective, would that make this a Northern piece. E for East W for West
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: jacon4 on February 21, 2011, 04:33:59 AM
Hmmmmm, nooooo, I dont think so. Because of the riven oak secondary which was peculiar to the Philly area as Adam points out, PA seems likely as place of origin. The notch? Not a clue what it was.
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Jeff L Headley on February 21, 2011, 05:28:47 PM
From my last posting maybe E and W stand for Evan Williams
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Jeff L Headley on February 21, 2011, 09:42:11 PM
Dust dividers from a Virginia Cherry bow front
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Jeff L Headley on February 21, 2011, 09:44:50 PM
Virginia Federal Bow front chest
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Jeff L Headley on February 21, 2011, 09:47:17 PM
This I have never seen before, alternating hard woods poplar and walnut as a substrate.
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Dave Redlin on February 21, 2011, 10:38:18 PM
Nice pictures!  Love to see the details of the old pieces!

Thanks,
Dave
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: jacon4 on February 22, 2011, 02:49:41 AM
Interesting, i have never seen that before either. Agrees, the construction details are fascinating, it's the primary reason why i collect old furniture.
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Jefferson on February 22, 2011, 08:46:10 AM
Virginia Federal Bow front chest

Now that's gorgeous! Man, I like that.

Thanks for the pics Jeff.

Rick
Title: Re: Dust Boards
Post by: Adam Cherubini on February 23, 2011, 08:21:27 AM
Hmmmmm, nooooo, I dont think so. Because of the riven oak secondary which was peculiar to the Philly area as Adam points out, PA seems likely as place of origin. The notch? Not a clue what it was.
FWIW, I didn't mean that riving was peculiar to Philly.  It was done there.  It may well have been done elsewhere.  My sense is it may not have been cabinetmakers doing the riving.  I think they were using roof shingles as drawer components.  The parts look and smell like roof shingles (except the long backs of wide chests).  In one case, one Philly builder used a used roof shingle (with a nail hole in it) for a drawer bottom.  When one considers the effort of preparing thin stock (presuming they didn't buy 3/8" stock from a saw mill), using found items seems to make infinitely more sense.