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1850’s – 1860’s Walnut Dresser…

January 30, 2012

This is the last week of the January 2012 Restore-athon, at Shady Lawn Antiques.  I am putting the finishing touches on a large number of pieces – mounting doors, replacing hardware and applying the final coats of wax.  We will once again be open for business on Saturday, February 4th.

I have just finished restoring an 1850’s to 1860’s small walnut dresser.  Several construction techniques indicate that the dresser was probably made in a primitive cabinet shop rather than at home or on the farm.   The two most obvious are the routered edge on the dresser top and the turned knob drawer pulls.

The walnut dresser before restoration...

What I mean by a primitive cabinet shop is that not much machine work went into the construction of this dresser.  The dovetailed drawer joints were cut with hand tools.  You can see that each dovetail is a slightly different size and shape.  The saw cut on each dovetail also extends slightly beyond the dovetail.  This does not occur on a machine cut dovetail.

Hand cut dovetail drawer joints and hand turned knob...

Each drawer pull knob is also a slightly different shape and size.  This indicates that they were individually turned by hand.  The two knobs on the bottom drawer have been replaced but are knobs from the correct time period.

The back joint on each drawer is also a dovetail joint.  This picture shows the thick plank drawer bottom board and how it was hand chamfered (angled) to fit into rabbet joint in the drawer side.

Hand chamfered drawer bottom and dovetail joints on the back of the drawer...

A close inspection of the before and after pictures will indicate the work that I did.  I re-glued the dresser top and fabricated a back splash to replace the missing one.  I glued the bottom skirt decorative bracket back together and reattached it.  I replaced the bottom drawer pull knobs with some 1850’s mushroom-shaped walnut knobs.  I cleaned the dresser, restored the finish and waxed it.

The dresser after restoration...

This 160 year old dresser has the bumps, bruises, stains and discolorations that you would expect from a piece this old.  Now that it has been restored, it should function as a dresser for another 100 plus years.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Hicks permalink
    February 1, 2012 2:51 pm

    Given your descriptions and the investigation you take in to the pieces you are working on—I believe that you are the true “Antique Archeologist”. Hicks

    • February 1, 2012 10:42 pm

      Thanks Hicks… it is always good to see that you enjoy my posts. These observations are not always immediate – they occur to me the more that I work on a piece…

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