I’ve spent the last few months staring at photographs of pieces from the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) collection, while working on the drawings for our new book. While Glen D. Huey and I have great resources to work with, there have been times when we haven’t been quite sure of what we’re looking at. It’s detective work, and part of coming up with an answer is to imagine what the original maker was like; why would a guy go to a lot of trouble to do an intricate detail and then take the easy way out in another part of the same piece?
Many of the details we’ve found are things that generally wouldn’t be accepted as good practice today, but we’re looking at pieces that are a couple of hundred years old. Maybe the rules we use today are more flexible than we’ve been led to believe by those who write them down.
We’ve seen evidence of mid-project “design changes”. What do you do when you’ve made a lot of progress on a project, and you hit a point where you realize you made an error in judgment three or four steps back? Do you toss a piece that you’ve invested a substantial amount of time in, or do you adapt and hope no one will notice?
While working on the drawings for the inlaid box at the bottom of the photo, I came across a detail that showed that the maker was completely human. It took a while for me to figure out what was going on, and I decided to post the picture that puzzled me for a few hours, and see if our readers can explain it.
This is the inside of the box, made in Maryland in 1763. Overall it is about 9 1/2″ deep, 9 1/2″ tall and 16 1/2″ wide. The till is a small box within the box, has a hinged lid and occupies the upper left hand corner of the box’s interior. In the photo, there is a clue about how the front and bottom of the till connect to the front and back of the box. The same clue tells us how the lid of the till is hinged, and it also tells us something about the maker. Rather than spoil the fun with my explanation, take a close look at the photo and leave your explanation as a comment.
Ten years ago, my first book of measured furniture drawings was published. You can find Shop Drawings for Craftsman Furniture in our store.
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