In our August 2013 issue, you’ll find a William & Mary Spice Chest built by Michigan woodworking Zachary Dillinger. It’s a lovely little project with lots of surprises (including an ingenious way to connect the top and bottom pieces as well as hidden drawers), and the article is chock-full of hand-tool instruction (though of course, it can also be built using tailed tools).
Zach shows you step by step how to build it, discusses important considerations for hand-tool use and shares his finish recipe that adds 280 years in just a couple of coats (OK – there are perhaps more than a couple…but shellac dries quickly).
But what we didn’t put in the magazine (and what I didn’t know until he brought the piece to Cincinnati so our photographer, Al Parrish, could take the opener shot) is that after Zach completed this gorgeous piece of furniture, he pretty much beat the heck out of it to make it look as if it has survived almost three centuries of use. While you can’t see the simulated wear and tear in the small picture, it’s immediately evident up close and in person.
While I’m not privy to his entire destructive process, I recall Zach saying that he deliberately knocked off at least one moulding piece with a hammer, then reapplied it. He willfully chipped corners on the burl walnut veneered drawer fronts. And the “slack” drawers simulated not only period practice, but drawers that had been pulled out and pushed in for many decades.
While I’ve taken a chain and keys to a couple I Can Do That projects over the last eight years, those are all uncomplicated projects built with inexpensive wood and just a few hours’ shop time – which is not to say they don’t look good, but they are a great deal less labor and resource intensive than a dovetailed walnut chest with nine veneered drawers (along with the non-veneered lower drawer and the hidden drawers), turned legs, curved stretchers and the like.
I just don’t think I could bring myself to go Conan on a project of that magnitude. Could you? Let me know in the comments (because I can’t get our &*%$ poll plugin to work).
p.s. Eli Cleveland, who works with Thomas MacDonald on the WGBH show “Rough Cut: Woodworking with Tommy Mac,” is a funny guy. This little chest looks the same as a well-known full-sized William & Mary form, so we needed a way to indicate its scale without cluttering up the shot. We thought the candle did that, but Eli said, “That candle is HUGE!” I suppose he could be right.