Wood ID please

lazy_gardensApril 22, 2012

Bought a cheap old 5-drawer dresser at the swap meet, and what I assumed would be a sturdy locally made utility dresser in crap pine turned into something else entirely ....

Is it walnut, cherry or mahogany? All I can say is it's not pine.

The before is all the alligatored old finish, after the chicken poop and decades of barn dirt had been scrubbed off. The bottom is after Formby's refinisher and a lot of patient scrubbing. needs more, but I'm really curious.

It has brass keyhole inserts, metal inserts where the original knobs would have been (alas, they were replaced by copper 1950s knobs)

More pictures of the whole chest will follow, but I have a plumbing crisis to deal with today.

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It looks like good old mahogany to me. Not bookmatched (unless that's one of two side-by-side small drawers, which is unlikely, since they usually only had one knob centered), so it may have been the work of a local cabinetmaker. The original knobs may have been simple wooden or glass ones. What is the shape of the overall piece? Are the dovetails handmade? Just looking at this much, I'd hazard a date of 1830-1850, but would like to see the rest of it,

Looks like you got yourself a treasure.!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 6:10PM
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Can't say for sure with out a better picture but it sure looks like flame grained mahogany to me.
Could be walnut....but looks more like mahogany.
How about a picture of the whole thing? often the style will tell something....and how about a picture of the dovetailing.
Linda c

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 6:11PM
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Better pictures, and details, will come soon.

But, really, the washer drain-s backed up into the utility room this morning and I'm still dealing with that.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 6:18PM
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Walnut crotch.
The large semi-circular grain figure in the background is the telling feature.It's very pronounced on the right of the view. Mahogany does not do that.
It's been stained red, because mahogany has always been considered more highbrow than poor native North American walnut. The irony!

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 8:06PM
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You might compare with my Empire, walnut veneer dresser with graduated drawers. Like all of these old veneer pieces the veneer needs a little TLC. I also like having a key for the locks.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 9:37PM
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It could be mahogny verneer or walnut. If its not a verneer, but solid, and dovetailed, you have a winner.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 4:03AM
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OK: More pictures taken and uploaded to Photobucket.

* Drawer fronts are solid, not veneer. I only have the top smaller drawers done, and they are similar but not bookmatched.
* It's "blind dovetailed" at the front of the drawers
* Back of carcase is three boards, grooved to slip over a connecting spline
* The backs of all the drawers are marked with a "5" in brush and ink or black paint ... shop ID number I guess.
* The lock tongues fir into a longish groove cut into the frame, not a metal catch-plate.
* Locks are steel, half-mortised, no ID marks on them, crimped together.
* Key is 2-piece, stamped, barrel key
* Screws holding locks in are machine-made typical wood screws, but the groove for the screwdriver is skinner than modern. I had to use a paint scraper blade as a screwdriver.

Here is a link that might be useful: Old dresser ID pics

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 12:25PM
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Great!....Walnut....old....notice the hand done dovetails, notice the straight not circular saw marks, notice the nails in the back...can't say for SURE without removing them but they appear hand cut.
I'll go with chibimimi on the dates.
Still haven't seen a picture of the front view!
Just for kicks......what did you pay for that "utility crap pine dresser"???
Linda C

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 1:01PM
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Walnut ... I like walnut. I bought a set of reproduction walnut knobs for it, based on the old marks in the finish. The plain, slightly squashed wood ones.

I need to get drawers back into the carcase and haul it out where I can shoot the whole thing.

The screws holding in the locks are definitely machine-made, with factory-cut slots, which pushes the date to after 1846.

I paid $85 with delivery included. Had it been plywood or imported pine, it would have been worth it, because it's a useful size and in immediately usable condition. For 1850s walnut, it's one of those trophy moments.

Had it been local pine, it would probably be worth more than walnut because of the scarcity value of native NM furniture.

Any yes, I'm definitely going to ask that vendor if he has any more old junky furniture in his storage sheds. Maybe it has siblings.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 3:28PM
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Possible the locks were added at a later date...?

I have a mahogany chest made by my great grandfather some time before the Civil War, similar in many ways to yours. I have known that chest well for 70 years......and seen pictures of it taken before I was born and it always had bat wing Chippendale style brasses. But there is another hole in the center of the brass pulls, larger...likely wooden knobs.
So sometime in the mid 1920's or before, someone changed the hardware on that chest. I wonder who.....and why?
Linda C

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 4:28PM
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In your set of 9 photos:

Photo 7: The finishing nails have old style square type heads. Those appear very old to me.

The style of dovetailing on the drawers may be handcut. This is a very old style of dovetailing.

The back of the cabinet is made with 3 boards. I can not tell if these are tounge-and-groove or shiplap. In either case, this was a common way of closing up the backs of cabinets and furniture by using samller width boards. These boards are solid - no verneer. This piece could have been hand built in a private shop, not a factory. Its construction is pretty good. Too bad, you acn not find a maker's mark. Look on the inside surface of the back boards. Before you put the drawers back in, turn the cabinet upside down and look for marks on the bottom and the underside of the top.

One mark of quality is a bottom board. Bottom boards closes the cabinet and stops mice and insects from entering the cabinet from the bottom. Cheaper cabinets omit this barrier.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 4:52AM
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I don't think there is much doubt that it was made in a private shop.....certainly not "manufactured".

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 9:41AM
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OP posting from Arizona. Can't you imagine that chest coming west on a conestoga wagon with the pioneers? I'm glad lazy found it and appreciates it like the original owner must have.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 11:18AM
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could very well have moved into a condo with it's retiring owners.
I spent an afternoon in a Phoenix resale shopping and was amazed at all the wonderful antiques!
Linda C

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 12:19PM
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Piece was found in New Mexico, not Phoenix. I'll be talking to the guy I bought it from, to see if he has any provenance on it, and any similar ratty old stuff in his barn.

Hate to rain on Sam's parade, but railroads brought most of the old furniture (and the settlers) into the West. Before railroads, furniture fittings (nails, screws, hinges, locks) were shipped in by freight wagon, but the wood was local. You had to be seriously RICH to be shipping in something as bulky as furniture, or send it by ship to California.

Adding to the local fun, freight routes also came up from Mexico with expensive luxury goods, so you can have Spanish or French hardware on a locally made pecan or mesquite piece.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 10:26PM
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