Input Please?

DLM2000April 18, 2010

I'm hoping someone2010, and others will chime in on this piece. I have NO interest in buying this but am interested in hearing the impressions others have. I'm really enjoying the information about wood pieces lately and have to say the polite exchanges, even with differing opinions, has been refreshing. The refinishing doesn't look all that hot to my eye but maybe this really is an improvement, who knows.

Here is a link that might be useful: STUNNING FLAME/CROTCH MAHOGANY DRESSER

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It's beautiful....and certainly appears to be what he says it is....the refinishing...or restoration as he calls it, looks to have been beautifully done.
What some may not realize is that a very shiny French polish was historically correct with pieces of that era.
I bought a dresser of the same period for my daughter when she was about 12. It's not nearly as fine, not veneer but solid walnut....full boards for the sides. She still is using it.
And I have a similarly styled piece in my dining room. Not as old, made by my great great grandfather, but he was using the old Empire styles, 4o years after the period! LOL!
Linda C

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 10:19AM
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I once saw a Antiques Roadshow where the person brought in a piece of furniture they had purchased on Ebay. I don't remember exactly what the piece was, but I remember it was large. The guy said he paid around $1,200.00 for it (I think). The appraiser said the piece was made up of several different pieces (he mentioned the different types of wood) and was worth about $200.00. Another time, an antique dealer brought me a walnut dresser he said was from the Federal period and wanted me to fix the drawer runners. I took it apart to fix it and there were circular saw and band saw marks all over it. Also, it was not walnut. I could go on but I think you get the point. My point being, if it doesn't seem right, be suspicious. Something made out of two primary woods with a funkey looking mahogany crotch and a finish that doesn't even look good in a photograph bears more investigation. Now days, you can buy paperbacked veneer, roll on a little contact cement, and boom, there you are. I've got a whole bunch of rose cut nails and any other style of antique nail you want. Of course, if you don't mind buying something that's fake then go for it. I'm certainly not the know all, be all of the antique world, but when you purchase something, take the time to check it out.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 11:28AM
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All the things you mentioned were "of the period"...including the "funky mahogany crotch".
It's certainly easy to check the hand done dovetails and the drawer bottoms, and signs of wear on the rails. But there is nothing I can see from those pictures that would make me in the least bit suspicious of the authenticity of the piece...all looks exactly right for the period...the legs, the keyholes, the wooden knobs, the way the side panels are set...everything I see looks good.
Linda C

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 1:37PM
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I have to see and feel old wood unless the photography is excellent before I really feel comfortable committing to even a guess. It may very well be just exactly as the poster suggests. Like you, I am not thrilled with the looks of the refinishing of the piece it looks 'raw'. Nor am I so sure having been refinished, it's market value is what is asked. When you get to bucks that big, you get second opinions from experts who go see it in person.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 6:44PM
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Its a beautiful piece of furniture, but the hammer price of these pieces(with decent original finishes) at my local Auction House (prestigious old firm, Mid-Atlantic) are much lower than the $4000 the seller is asking, unless the piece is really special. I don't know whether it is a local regional glut of Empire and Classical pieces. You could, however, pay that much for a bench made reproduction.

I could be really wrong on this, but the almost bun spooled feet on an empire piece of this sort seem later, rather than earlier, to me. Empire style was fairly long lasting and certain elements changed.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 6:49PM
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The Empire chest I bought for my daughter has feet just like those...I thought they had been replaced, until; I saw the picture of this chest......too much of a coincidence to suppose they both were replaced with the same spool turned foot.
Yeah...I think the price is high...but perhaps not in some areas of the country.....even "restored".

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 6:54PM
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Judging from ebay the price this guy wants is really high, and the quality of the ebay chests are, in most cases, more apparent. Plus the pictures are so bad it's hard to tell what it is, but I would be very hesitant about this piece and check it out throughly. That's why the old finish is important to maintain in readable condition. It precludes hiding changes that are contemporary. I would advise anyone, judging from what I can see, to be very careful.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 12:06AM
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I agree the price is out of line; authentic or not, I'd never pay that for this. Price aside, I love the piece and believe it's original enough. The lines of the piece; its overall design with the protruding top, all speak of authenticity. But I buy antiques to use, not to collect, so if knobs or feet or finish are not fully original it wouldn't bother me.

Seems like the guy was indulging in an orgy of connection with the piece and its history when he wrote the blurb and in addition he wants to make a buck on his time... I've gotten that engaged with furniture myself, I have to admit. Unfortunately its the buyer, not the seller, whose enthusiasm pays the bills!


    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 1:11PM
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This is like beating a dead horse, but I will try to explain my thinking and how it applies to any antique purchase. I buy hand planes from time to time and if I buy one I want all the parts original to the plane, not made up with parts from several different planes and manufacturers. I buy them to use, but I still want the parts to be original to the plane, whatever I pay. I feel the same about old furniture. I read a glowing report about how great this chest is and then look at pictures that show nothing relevant. Is the finish as good as he says? Can't tell. Is the mahogany crotch original to the piece and well executed? Can't tell. Are all the parts original to the piece? Can't even guess by the pictures. What can you tell from the photos? Very little. I don't know about CL but I assume he must of had some idea of what the photos looked like before he posted them. Especially after the glowing description he gave. Is the price too high? Yes. Based on this, my advice would be to go ahead and buy it if you liked it and didn't care about authenticity, but if you want a authentic antique, you need to check it out throughly. Pull out the top drawer and see if it is longer than the other drawers. See if you can find the makers name on it. Check the thickness of the veneer. Look inside with a flashlight and check the tool marks and the type and age of the wood. Check how the case is constructed, like are the drawer runners mortised into the rails? Try to determine if any of the parts are added on and not original. Check the finish that is on it now and determine if it is shellac like the original. Look at the bottom and see what you can find. Who knows? Everything might come out aces, but for the price his is asking, he could dress up some old junk and make a very nice profit. Maybe my computer doesn't show the pictures as well as others and that is the problem, but from what I can see I couldn't tell someone, "yeah, it looks good, go for it". For me, if I saw that add, I would pass it by out of hand.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 3:48PM
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The question was not asked "Is it worth $3900?"...but just "comment, please."
The price is outrageous! It ought be original finish etc for that! has every hallmark of being a real American Empire piece, original, hand made, original knobs etc....
If you are as knowlageble as you say you are and only will accept pristine all original, never repaired antiques, you will pay lots and lots of money, or have very few antiques in your home.
I am you find a new but hand made piece, like for example that stand with the barley twist legs you made, more acceptable than a piece from 150 years ago with a repaired drawer bottom?
Linda C

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 6:29PM
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I'm taking all the information someone2010 is giving as general counsel, even though it is in reference to the piece I posted about, and appreciate the detail given. I'm generally not an antique buyer - I buy things that speak to me and for the most part they are pretty junk - or junque if I'm really lucky ;-) And that's fine with me. It's unlikely I'd spend that kind of $$ on a piece even if it's value was higher - I just don't spend that kind of $$ on furnishings. But it's interesting to learn about the feet, the French polish, and all the ways a buyer can be conned with nails substituted, new veneers, saw marks that might go undetected...... This is all a learning experience and I'm glad to have the differing opinions because it just reaffirms that I should stick with the cheap stuff where I can't get burned!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 7:53PM
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Here is a slightly different Empire piece that is identifed as latter part of 19th c. A bit more classic period than the piece in question but closer in spirit to your piece that what I know of as 1810. To me the piece in question is closer to 1850 or later. Federal stretched into the early 19th c. and was followed by a Classical period which was heavier, and less graceful. And check out the estimate: $500.

Then, in the link is Classical period, again 1830 vs. 1810
and an upper estimate of $1200.

Here is a link that might be useful: Freeman's auction.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 9:31PM
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Loosing the original finish downgrades its antique value unless it was badly marred, in which case it would have been downgraded anyway due to poor condition.

The photos supplied are not adequate to judge the value of this piece.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 2:45AM
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I never appraised an antique, I just rebuilt them. I posted a picture of me standing beside the chest I made in the woodworking forum. If you look at the photo you will see a big curved yellow thing. This was the base of a large antique Biedermeier table. A dealer brought it to me to repair because the eyes of the veneer were poping on the curved pieces. He brought over a couple hundred dollars of birdseye maple veneer but that was the wrong wood. There was also a large matching bar that the same thing was happening to. Also, the 4 leaves were missing and the top was concave so I had to make the leaves concave like the table top. I ordered the correct veneer and repaired the table and bar. Then I refinished it with the appropriate color of shellac (Shellac flakes come in many different colors, but you already knew that). I won't mention the veener because I realize some of you already know what kind it is. I think if you look at the workbench I built you will see a long black object standing up behind my lathe. I dealer brought me a Gains chair, all in pieces, with one leg missing and a streacher missing. I had to make a duplicate so I made a pratice leg first, total with the turned parts and the Spanish feet. I have a Louis IV original table that a dealer brought me with the legs painted black over the guilding. To repair it requires both oil and water guilding. I'm sure some of you have done this many times. I have a picture of them but to some these would be old hat. I repaired a top of the line Eastlake chair that a lady had broken while moving. I repaired a break in the leg and turned a spindel for the crest rail. These are the things I did this year before I decided to not do anymore repairs. Tables and beds and such are getting too heavy to wrestle around by myself and my wife can't help me anymore. She advised me I should stop, so I called the antique guys and told them. They don't pay much money anyway. Now I'm just making my own stuff. What do I know? It's not like I was one of the Keno twins.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 5:30AM
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What do I know? It's not like I was one of the Keno twins.

You sure? Always suspected they were triplets and one went AWOL ;)

You know enough to teach and show us how old things can be renewed to look old again. Or made brand new to look aged. I'm the refinisher in our house, but DH is the woodworker. Just watching what he's done has been helpful in learning more about the finer details of construction. So experience from a woodworker's perspective matters, all that info adds up and helps!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 6:29AM
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