by Phil Lowe
When I walk into the American decorative arts Gallery at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., I am always drawn to a great Federal piece that was built by Cotton Bennett in my hometown of Beverly, Mass. My research turned up Bennett’s close connections with New England turner Thomas True and carver Samuel McIntire, who helped contribute to the tour de force that is this 1809 “Lady’s Secretary.”
There are a number of stunning details, such as the end-matched swirl mahogany on the lower drawer and the crotch mahogany on the fall front. The crotch satinwood panel, which supports the McIntire gilded eagle at the center top, is balanced with the same material spanning the lower apron of the carcase front. The cornice is accented with cross-banded rosewood and mahogany, and supports two gilded flame finials with laurel leaf carving. I’m also astounded by the small multicolored banding that surrounds the fall front and accents the satinwood panel.
But what really gives this piece presence is the door construction – diamond-paned lights made of maple bars and small mahogany astragal mouldings.
So I worked out how to make diamond divided light doors of any size; I share the pictorial process with you. Before you dive in, study the drawing below and picture 12 on page 52 – those show the four angles that get bisected to find the complementary miter angles.
Key is to start with a flat and square mortise-and-tenon frame. Make a full-size drawing of the door; work from corner to corner and from centerlines on the rails and stiles to lay out the angles for the bars that hold up the mouldings.
Article: Fitting Inset Doors
Website: Take a class with Phil Lowe at the Furniture Institute of Massachusetts: furnituremakingclasses.com.
Article: Make a mortise-and-tenon door.
Article: Make a simple non-traditional) divided-light door using a trick from David T. Smith.
In Our Store: “Building Period Furniture from Photos,” by Mike Siemsen.