In Friday’s “Furniture Details” post I tossed out a photo of a Newport dressing table (or lowboy if you prefer), but shot from below. The idea was to get you looking at not only how the piece was made but how things had been repaired/replaced over time.
I made the post into a little contest to see who could pick out what was wrong on the piece. And, we had a few who tried to cover all the bases by saying the whole under carriage was replaced, but others took stabs at specific parts. What interested me the most was the reasoning behind the choices (whether they voted for everything or specific things).
I said I’d let this thing run until 8am today (Monday, June 30) before divulging the answers and announcing the winner of the contest. And, after sending the submissions off to an independent accounting firm to tabulate the results…I think I’ll jump into what’s wrong with the piece and why before I announce the winner.
As with Friday’s post, all the photos are courtesy of the Chipstone Foundation.
Let’s start with the painfully obvious, or not. Virtually all the entries for the contest listed the two outside drawer runners (they’re called that because the drawers “run” on them – guides are something different because they actually “guide” the drawer in and out of the opening straight) as being replacements. This assessment is mostly correct which is not quite like being mostly dead and we all know there’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.
Sure some folks pointed out the washboard surfaces from being thicknessed by a motorized planer, but no one got the biggest clue as to why these two runners were additions (as opposed to being replacements) – they never existed when the piece was originally built. How do I know from this one little photograph?
The answer is simple if you look at the picture to the left. The two interior drawer runners are the clue. The bottom, outside drawers had center runners. There was no need for runners against the left and right sides of the case. There may have been a guide attached to the insides of the case but that would have been all. The drawer was supported entirely by the two center runners.
As to the rest of the replacement parts, there’s a handful but thats it. If I start with the arrow pointing to the upper lefthand drawer runner, and work my way around clockwise, Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. That upper lefthand runner is replaced and there are two reasons I can say that. First, the color is all wrong.
Second, and most important, that back corner has been clipped. Why is that so important? Think about how you could get the old runner out and a new one in. At full width, it would be nearly impossible to angle the new runner into place without breaking the joints loose or seriously damaging the back board. By hacking off the inside corner of the runner, you can maneuver the piece into position fairly easily.
The central upward pointing arrow indicates a place where glue blocks once resided. None are there now, but it’s clear when looking at the underside of the top, they were there right between the top front rail and the underside of the top. The coloration underneath the glue tells me if the glue blocks weren’t original, they were extremely early in the life of the lowboy or there would have been some oxidation prior to their inclusion.
Similarly, the next upward pointing arrow shows the missing glue block between the front apron and the drawer blade (the horizontal divider between the drawers). It has obviously been missing for some time because some oxidation has crept in where the glue is missing.
The right pointing arrow indicates the only corner block that I think might be a replacement. There’s just something that doesn’t look right about it. When in doubt, it’s been replaced.
The downward pointing arrow in the middle just points to the obvious replacement glue block between the back and the top. The blocks immediately to the left and right are also suspect because of their shape and color – neither matches anything else underneath. The blocks immediately beside those two blocks are pretty dark compared to the rest of the undercarriage so, I consider them suspect as well. When in doubt, it’s been replaced.
Finally, there’s the 45° angle block in the lower lefthand corner. It points to a replacement block in the upper left corner between the back and the top. The leg blocks stop at the drawer blade (the case is constructed as a dovetailed box with veneered front corners to give the appearance that the leg blocks extend through to the top), and because the back corner of the drawer runner is missing you can see the new surface of the glue block through the gap.
There are assorted nails and screws inserted in the various corner blocks throughout the piece, but the blocks themselves appear to be original. The screws and nails, however, not so much. It’s reasonable to assume the glue gave out over time and someone nailed, or screwed, them back in place. Of course, the label is not original.
And now, for the moment you’ve all been waiting for (drumroll please) the person who got the most correct without going so far as saying the entire thing was new is…Michael Terry of Grants Pass, Oregon who got all but one or two of the incidents I listed and emailed them to me over the weekend. Thanks to everyone for playing. It was great fun and the PWM audience never ceases to amaze me with their knowledge and reasoning. Excellent job all!
Here’s two more details of the dressing table that might be of interest.