|The Completed Chest|
I have written a fair amount about American Empire period furniture on this blog. This furniture was produced from around 1830 to around 1860. The use of thin veneers of crotch mahogany over a substrate of a cheaper domestic wood, in this case pine, allowed for an inexpensive means of mass produced furniture with fantastic results. In the case of this chest, every surface was veneered, including the sides and top. Where it mattered most, like the top and drawer fronts, sequenced pieces of fancy crotch veneer were used in a bookmatched pattern to display the dramatic grain of mahogany.
This piece was made using a mixture of machinery, like circular saws, and hand work, like hand cut dovetails. To me, one of the most interesting aspects of this period is seeing the introduction of mass production techniques and what the craftsmen could accomplish with the use of machines and what was still necessary to do by hand. As the 19th century progressed, more of these procedures were accomplished with the use of machines, culminating in the machine made dovetail (ca. 1900). During the American Empire period, most of the work was still done by hand.
The chest was in pretty rough shape. The finish had darkened and deteriorated to the point that it became necessary to remove the finish and put a new French Polish on it. The case and drawers also needed work, both on structural and cosmetic levels. Below are a few photos of the piece with the finish removed.
The case sides, veneered with straight grain mahogany, were also cracked.
These next two photos show the drawers in case while finish was being applied. Note the brass escutcheons in the drawers. Two were missing and replaced.
The remaining photos show the completed chest. Jesse took some interesting photos of the case with a filter on, making the piece appear darker. I included these because they show the dramatic grain of the crotch mahogany.