Monday, July 4, 2011

Machines: Fail

Yesterday I stopped by an antique show and this caught my eye. 

This is an English apothecary chest in mahogany from the early 1800's. I knew immediately that it was something special.

When I opened the 3" tail drawer a fine set of skinny-pin half blind dovetails were presented. Quite obviously this was not made by mechanized process. It was made by a man-machine.

I reached in and extracted the tray, made from 1/8" solid mahogany, and joined with diminutive delicate dovetails. Then the craftmanship of the man machine filled the space where I was standing.

At the front of the tray the sides are joined with through and mitered dovetails. The entire joint is mitered such that only the end grain of the pins shows. As such:

The back of the tray is joined with another variation of a mitered dovetail. This time the full tail is kept whole, the half tails being mitered.

People enjoyed less before mass production. Or did they?


  1. Fabulous joinery! Thanks for finding it.

    Now... one wonders why they were so careful with the joinery but didn't "clock" the screws on the hinges.

    Beautiful piece. (Thanking the spirits that I don't yet need a meds box.)

  2. Very, very nice box. Is the price really $3200.00?

  3. it explains why furniture were just for the high and mighty back then.... I would say that at today rates, if you were to make one of these in the US or anywhere else that is not slave labour, you would have to charge over 6000$ to get minimum wage :-)

  4. Jameel,

    The box appears to have mitered corners. Do you think they could be blind dovetails?

  5. Ethan,

    I think I remember the case itself being joined with rabbets, but there could be dovetails in there too. No way to know for sure.


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