The Evolution of the Chest of DrawersThe History of the Origin of the Design Period Known as Early American Colonial Furniture

Parquetry and Marquetry

Panels and geometrical shapes were filled with veneer cut from coloured wood and other material formed into patterns. When the patterns were geometrical they were called Parquetry. When they formed birds, flowers, etc., it was called Marquetry (ix and frontis­piece). This marquetry was first arranged in small panels of flowers, birds, etc., but later was spread over larger areas and is called " endive" or " seaweed" marquetry, from the resemblance to the fern-like leaves of those plants.

The story of the chest has nearly been told. It has continued to be made until today. The woodworker keeps his tools in a tool chest. But the all-important place that the chest held in palace and hovel has been taken by the articles told about in the next section.

Things to do in the tracing of the Origins of the Style Known as Early American Colonial Furniture

  1. Make a systematic visit to all the churches within reach, and make a complete record, i.e. draw and measure all the old chests, or old poor-boxes or alms-boxes, being particularly careful with any decoration.
  2. There are a number of books dealing solely with old chests. Any good library will supply these for study.
  3. In the workshop : make a series of models of the various chests, using their original modes of construction. Make specimens of the joints mentioned in this section. There are plenty of good books on woodwork joints which give working detail.
  4. Make a collection of English woods, oak, elm, ash, beech, holly, yew, pear, apple, ivy, sycamore, etc., and read up their uses.
  5. Continue those applicable with this section.
  6. What are "hard" woods and "soft" woods ?
  7. Take a thin board of even-grained hardwood, or a sheet of oak-faced plywood ; mark on it a series of traceries in historical order, and pierce the patterns, as a "sampler" .
  8. Design and make a small cabinet in some definite style.

The Children of the Chest of Drawers in the Tracing the Origins of the Style Known as Early American Colonial Furniture

WHILE the chest had to be carried about it kept its simple box-like shape. So soon as it could remain in one place it was found to be inconvenient. All chests had lids, hinged at the back. The Greeks and Egyptians made boxes with sliding lids, but these were clearly not suited to the chest. The chest could not be made very high, otherwise it would have been impossible to reach the bottom inside. Then, if something at the bottom was required, the whole contents had to be moved. As soon as " framing " was introduced and the use of the panel, it was possible to make a part of the front separately and a small box fitted in which could be pulled out. So the first " drawer " was made. Drawers were first called tills." It is clear that these were the result of a more settled mode of living. The first drawers had thick sides which were grooved and ran on " bearers," and the fronts and sides were nailed together. This was bad, and by the end of Elizabeth's reign one large dovetail was used. By the time of Queen Anne the common dovetail was in full use in drawer construction, and from then on very beautiful varieties of the dovetail joint were introduced. At first one or two drawers were put in the bottom of a chest, and these are called "mule chests " (ix). The advantage of the drawer over the box led to a very rapid development of the " chest of drawers," until the whole frame­work of the chest was filled with drawers, and the lid was no longer necessary. The chest of drawers became higher and higher. Some­times it was raised on a stand, sometimes one set was placed upon another set, and in this way the " tall-boy," which reaches to the ceiling, was born.

Many combinations of chests of drawers with cupboards, etc., have been made, of which there is no space to tell here.

The Cabinet in the Tracing the Origins of the Style Known as Early American Colonial Furniture

The invention of the " drawer" solved the difficulty of storing a number of small articles, trinkets, jewellery, writing or toilet requisites, etc., separately, but in the same article of furniture. Chests entirely filled with a nest of small drawers were made in the in the tracing of the origins of the style known has early american colonial furniture time of the early tudors. these chests were usually provided with a pair of doors so that the contents could be protected by one locking operation, and to ensure that the drawers should not tip out when the cabinet was carried from place to place. in order that they should be easily accessible they were, in most cases, supplied with a stand. These chests were called " cabinets" as the cabinet contained articles of value, great care was taken in its construction and decoration. the smallness of the drawer joints and other parts of the cabinets necessitated the use of hardwoods and so the most skilful of woodworkers in hardwoods came to be called cabinet­makers. It was fortunate, too, for the cabinet-makers that a new wood was introduced to europe that was so well fitted for the purpose. This was mahogany: it seems that the first englishman to use mahogany was sir walter raleigh, who, on one of his expeditions to the Spanish main, repaired his ships with the wood. It was being regularly imported by 1715. Its beauty of colour and markings, its freedom from warpiug and twisting, its strength and the fact that it could be used for delicate carving, led to its use for all kinds of furniture. later on other beautiful woods, one of the chief of which was satin-wood, were used in cabinet-making, and even today new woods are continually being used beside the old favourites for gramophone and wireless cabinets.

The chest of drawers and the cabinet are but two of the great family of the " children of the chest." Two others that always deserve attention are the " commode " which is a kind of chest of drawers with a curved front, and very numerous varieties of writing "bureaux".

Chest of Drawers

A Mahogany Bureau, in the Form of a Double Chest of Drawers

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