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Age of Refinished Antique Chest

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Blog entry by niftynoel posted 08-22-2015 01:52 AM 729 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve almost completed refinishing this old chest, and I’m curious to know from experts out there, just what era it might be from. I simply stripped it and coated all wood (pine) with shellac and 3 coats of General Finishes top coat. We bought it from a furniture restorer / antique dealer south of Lapeer, Michigan in 1976. I always assumed it was a carpenter’s chest, but I am now not so sure. It is clearly hand hewn, uses wood pin joinery, and what seem to be hand wrought square nails.
• Once I stripped it, I discovered it had originally been painted red; I assume it was milk paint.
• All nails – except a few used later in its life are square.
• The size is 35 wide, 18 ½ high, 18 deep; each panel is of 1 solid pine board and each board is full ¾ thick.
• There are 2 morticed hinges. Each is 3 screw and measure 2 ½ wide X 1” deep. All screws used are those with narrow slots used a century ago (I think).
• Lockset is simple morticed lock. Case is stamped (?) metal.
Rear board where hinges attach to top were damaged, so I replaced that section with maple and did not attempt to hide it. My attempts to identify its age lead me to believe it began life anywhere from the 18th century to possibly the early 20th century. I’m guessing maybe about American Civil War era.

-- Noel



9 comments so far

View ForestGrl's profile

ForestGrl

445 posts in 546 days


#1 posted 08-22-2015 04:04 AM

What did you use to remove the paint? True milk paint is very difficult to remove, and the usual modern strippers won’t do the job.

-- My mother said that anyone learning to cook needed a large dog to eat the mistakes. As a sculptor of wood I have always tried to keep a fireplace. (Norman Ridenour)

View canadianchips's profile

canadianchips

2343 posts in 2457 days


#2 posted 08-22-2015 01:04 PM

Does the inside have a removaable tray or shelf built along back. Old carpenters chests had them “most of time” They did not want to just pile all their tools in one big box. Especially the brace and bits, rulers, etc.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View niftynoel's profile

niftynoel

108 posts in 1006 days


#3 posted 08-22-2015 02:44 PM



What did you use to remove the paint? True milk paint is very difficult to remove, and the usual modern strippers won t do the job.

- ForestGrl


A couple of notes: I did not strip it myself (I hate stripping furniture, having done so much of it when I was younger), but had it done nearby in Maryville, TN by a “company” that help train disabled people. So, I don’t know, but my primary question to them was whether or not they use chemicals that might harm people. (“No” was their answer.) 2nd note: it had been stripped, stained and varnished when I originally bought it in 1976. So, it’s been stripped at least twice and the red paint is still apparent on most if not all panels.

-- Noel

View niftynoel's profile

niftynoel

108 posts in 1006 days


#4 posted 08-22-2015 02:50 PM



Does the inside have a removaable tray or shelf built along back. Old carpenters chests had them “most of time” They did not want to just pile all their tools in one big box. Especially the brace and bits, rulers, etc.

- canadianchips


Nope – no tray and not trace of a tray or cleats ever having been there. I am now building a tray as I plan to give the old chest to my daughter-in-law soon and think it should have them now.

-- Noel

View ForestGrl's profile

ForestGrl

445 posts in 546 days


#5 posted 08-22-2015 04:38 PM

Looks like a good candidate for Antiques Road Show next time the are in your area. Their furniture people are very good. I went in Seattle, taking a painting bought for $25 at an auction. Turned out to be known painter, appraised at $3K to $4K. :-)

It seems a carpenter’s chest would be likely to have handles. Is there any indication that it did?

-- My mother said that anyone learning to cook needed a large dog to eat the mistakes. As a sculptor of wood I have always tried to keep a fireplace. (Norman Ridenour)

View niftynoel's profile

niftynoel

108 posts in 1006 days


#6 posted 08-22-2015 06:37 PM



Looks like a good candidate for Antiques Road Show next time the are in your area. Their furniture people are very good. I went in Seattle, taking a painting bought for $25 at an auction. Turned out to be known painter, appraised at $3K to $4K. :-)

It seems a carpenter s chest would be likely to have handles. Is there any indication that it did?

- ForestGrl


No, there is no indication of handles and none for shelf or shelves inserts inside, Forest Girl. I agree about Antiques Road Show. They were here in Knoxville last year, so I’m betting next time will be a couple of decades… may have to travel. I am pretty well convinced that it is not a woodworker’s chest. I’m betting it fits a very rudimentary version of a quilt chest or something close. He (I say “he” since it is likely it was a man that far back in America) went to the trouble of hand-working the top but not much more insofar as detail is concerned. I found a similar one on the internet; one that IS a woodworker’s chest, but is made of Cherry and is more refined.

This is the one I found at Woodworker’s Journal. Owner says: My great-grandfather was a finish carpenter for a company that made huge riverboats. He specialty was doing the fine trim work in the Captain’s quarters. He built this tool chest around 1870 and is 36″ x 22″ x 18″ and is made out of just six pieces of cherry. When I got it, I thought it had been painted as it was mostly black and my intention at that time was to just clean it up and repaint it. When I discovered what was underneath the dirt and the stains, I refinished it to what you now see. It is a treasured piece of furniture in our living room.
- Kent A Russell; Middletown, Indiana

__

-- Noel

View ForestGrl's profile

ForestGrl

445 posts in 546 days


#7 posted 08-23-2015 03:56 AM

Might be interesting to find someone who knows about antique locks and have them take a look at that one. The fact that the boards are so wide speak well to it being pretty old. I seem to remember there’s a way to evaluate the threads of the screws to get info on age also. Square nails and aging are easily faked, but big wide boards and 1700-1800’s screws not so much. I’ll look in the dusty library, see if there’s a book that will help.

-- My mother said that anyone learning to cook needed a large dog to eat the mistakes. As a sculptor of wood I have always tried to keep a fireplace. (Norman Ridenour)

View helluvawreck's profile

helluvawreck

23113 posts in 2326 days


#8 posted 08-23-2015 02:47 PM

That is a real beauty.

helluvawreck aka Charles
http://woodworkingexpo.wordpress.com

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View ForestGrl's profile

ForestGrl

445 posts in 546 days


#9 posted 08-23-2015 10:39 PM

I found 2 pages in one of my antiques books that has text and illustrations on “Development of the English wood screw.” Discusses how the screws were made, breaks things down from Pre-1760 to Post-1860. If you PM me your email address, I’ll be glad to make a PDF and send it to you. In the meantime, this document from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston might be of interest:
http://cool.conservation-us.org/coolaic/sg/wag/Am_Wood_Screws.pdf

PS: I doubt seriously that it would be 20th C.

-- My mother said that anyone learning to cook needed a large dog to eat the mistakes. As a sculptor of wood I have always tried to keep a fireplace. (Norman Ridenour)

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