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William & Mary desk

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Project by acanthuscarver posted 05-29-2008 04:11 AM 3877 views 3 times favorited 30 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The original of this desk was in the collection of an extremely good friend. It was made in Philadelphia around 1690 – 1710. I saw the original piece when I was in my teens and knew I had to copy it one day. After nearly two decades of seeing this piece with some regularity, I finally worked up the nerve to ask if I could take patterns. When my friend eagerly agreed, I jumped at the chance. He even allowed me to borrow an original knob from an interior drawer front and one from a lid slide so I could have them copied exactly.

The original was made in walnut with yellow pine and white cedar secondaries. Naturally, since I was making a precise replica, I used the same materials. The yellow pine was recycled from a building in Bethlehem, PA that was built in the mid 1700’s. The white cedar for the drawer bottoms and back boards came from a friend in Virginia Beach who carves decoys. The walnut I used was actually cutoffs from a log set of crotches. I never realized how curly the excess material was until I milled it.

There is a hidden compartment just in front of the two center drawers of the interior. Part of the wrting surface slides back to allow access to a well below. That is the only hidden compartment in my replica. The remainder of the brass hardware was made in England. The iron hinges for the lid were made by a local blacksmith. I “aged” the piece and the final finish is orange shellac, as usual.

My friend has passed on now. He was a WWII hero, a great collector of William and Mary furniture and my friend and mentor. I’m glad I have the copy of this desk to remind me of the great times we had talking until the early morning hours about furniture and the history of our great country. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the decades of seeing the original.

-- Chuck Bender, Senior Editor Popular Woodworking Magazine, period furniture maker, woodworking instructor





30 comments so far

View GaryK's profile

GaryK

10262 posts in 2712 days


#1 posted 05-29-2008 04:15 AM

Great job on an amazing desk! I’m sure you made your friend proud.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Woodhacker's profile

Woodhacker

1139 posts in 2447 days


#2 posted 05-29-2008 04:17 AM

Chuck, what a great piece! You did an excellent job, it is truly beautiful.

Thanks for posting it … and the great story that makes it so special.

-- Martin, Kansas

View trifern's profile

trifern

8132 posts in 2491 days


#3 posted 05-29-2008 04:19 AM

Awesome job. The attention to detail is impeccable. It would be hard to discern between this and an original. Thank you for sharing.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27251 posts in 2545 days


#4 posted 05-29-2008 04:40 AM

Chuck,

This is simply a stunning piece. I am sure your friend was proud of the effort that you put into this reproduction of his original.

Thanks for the post and the story behind it.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Rxmpo's profile

Rxmpo

251 posts in 2469 days


#5 posted 05-29-2008 05:13 AM

Chuck,

As always your posting is a true work of art, yet the story behind this desk is as moving the desk itself. Congratulations.

Mike

View Bigbuck's profile

Bigbuck

1347 posts in 2387 days


#6 posted 05-29-2008 05:56 AM

Very, very nice. It is always interesting to hear the story behind a piece and that is a beautiful desk. Thanks for sharing it

-- Glenn, New Mexico

View ND2ELK's profile

ND2ELK

13495 posts in 2497 days


#7 posted 05-29-2008 09:12 AM

Exquisite detail and design. You did a beautiful job on this piece as always. Thanks for posting.

God Bless
tom

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View acanthuscarver's profile

acanthuscarver

261 posts in 2436 days


#8 posted 05-29-2008 01:25 PM

Thanks everyone for the compliments. My friend was indeed pleased with my reproduction of his desk. Getting his stamp of approval on my copy was far more difficult than actually making the piece. He started collecting period furniture right after WWII. He was a serious student of the period and had tremendous recall of even the smallest details of pieces. He was a good friend who is gone just under two months now. My hope is that one day when I’m closing in on 90 years old, I’ll have been a friend and mentor to some LJ somewhere like Joe was to me.

To start myself on that path, check out my blog, I’ve just today started another series of posts regarding furniture design and connoiseurship. It’s not limited to “period” furniture. In the coming months I’ll be exploring design from many different angles. Between that and my ongoing series of project posts, hopefully someone will be inspired to greater heights.

-- Chuck Bender, Senior Editor Popular Woodworking Magazine, period furniture maker, woodworking instructor

View GMman's profile

GMman

3902 posts in 2421 days


#9 posted 05-29-2008 02:34 PM

That is a very fine job you are a very good patient woodworker, I love your work thanks for posting

View Charles Mullins's profile

Charles Mullins

94 posts in 2435 days


#10 posted 05-29-2008 03:46 PM

Chuck,

I am inspired.

As usual, a great job!

Charlie M.

-- God makes the wood beautiful--I simply rearrange it to make it more useful, hopefully.

View stanley2's profile

stanley2

326 posts in 2519 days


#11 posted 05-29-2008 04:13 PM

Chuck – the quality of your work is always high – the story behind this piece is what’s special for me.

-- Phil in British Columbia

View CharlieM1958's profile

CharlieM1958

15714 posts in 2942 days


#12 posted 05-29-2008 05:49 PM

Amazing reproduction. I’d swear those were photos of an original.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 3038 days


#13 posted 05-29-2008 07:23 PM

The craftsmanship of days gone by has always inspired me. A piece of work like that is to be treasured, but you add the personal story and it is ever more inspiring! Thanks

View acanthuscarver's profile

acanthuscarver

261 posts in 2436 days


#14 posted 05-29-2008 07:50 PM

Thanks again to everyone for the kind words. CharlieM, I’ll try to toss up a picture of the period desk when I have a chance to dig it out. You can tell me then if you still think mine looks like the original.

I’m really glad everyone likes the story behind the desk. Most of the pieces I make end up with their own tales. I’ll make sure I post the better ones as I add projects. Thanks again for checking out the piece.

-- Chuck Bender, Senior Editor Popular Woodworking Magazine, period furniture maker, woodworking instructor

View bfd's profile

bfd

502 posts in 2530 days


#15 posted 05-29-2008 08:45 PM

Hi Chuck,

OK had I seen this before my project post I would have never posted my project after this! This and all your pieces are simply AWESOME. The story behind the piece is as special as the work itself. Seeing craftmanship like this motivates me to become a better woodworker…very inspiring.

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