Oxbow part 6 – Revenge of the dovetail

I knew when I wrote the post for the sixth installment of my oxbow build that SOMEONE would ask about the molding dovetail reference. Well, Glen Huey get’s the gold star for being the first one to ask the question.

He said:

Also, when you mention the molding is dovetailed into the case bottom on some period chests, is that a single large dovetail, such as in MA block-fronts? I wasn’t aware of the method being used in designs other than block-fronts. Care to elaborate?

He surely knows me well enough to know I’ll elaborate…a lot…probably too much…and after a couple of drinks, even more. So, here goes. The picture at the right is a page from Brock Jobe and Myrna Kaye’s book, New England Furniture: The Colonial Era. The picture is tough to see but it is the lower portion of an oxbow chest made by Benjamin Frothingham who worked in Charlestown, Mass. The chest was made in the latter quarter of the 18th Century. If you look very closely at the enlarged version of the picture, you should be able to make out the giant dovetail. It’s easiest seen on the upper photo where the drawer is removed.

The Frothingham chest is very similar to one I adapted. If I wasn’t so lazy…err, busy, I’d dig my sample chest out of storage, roll it over and take a pic of the giant dovetail. Unfortunately, that’s not happening at the moment. If it becomes an option at some point in the future, I’ll post it right here.

The important part of this blog entry is, the giant dovetail appears on many Boston pieces. Block fronts and oxbows alike share this construction feature.

Now that I’ve posted the picture of my Boston oxbow, I’ll let you in on a preview of the final Oxbow build series post. It’s going to be a critique of the oxbow I’ve been building in the series. Take a look at the copy above and compare it to the one that has been being built in the series. Do you see any differences in proportion? Design? Wood selection and use? Hardware? Etc.?

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2 thoughts on “Oxbow part 6 – Revenge of the dovetail

  1. Upon looking at the differences I spot these items.

    Your chest is wider
    The lower molding is a cove on yours whereas the other has a classic ogee form.

    The other drawers on the other one are blocked, if that is a proper term, and the ogee feet follow the form into a more complex shape.

    Your pulls are sometimes called Chippendale whereas the other uses a more classic Queen Ann style pull.

    Your chest is cherry but the other one looks like maghogany and am I going blind or is the whole face cut from ONE SINGLE board? The grain seems to flow from one drawer front through the drawer blade into the drawer above all the way to the top.

    These are some details I notice from a quick preview.

    They are both beautiful.

    Charlie M.

  2. Charlie,

    They are both my chests but you are correct. The chest in the series is wider (a specific dimension that the customer wanted). The second chest is mahogany. The front is made from one single mahogany board but not one board wide. The board was wide enought to get two drawers side by side. The grain pattern matched well enough that I could use two sections of the plank and keep the grain flowing through all four drawer fronts. You’ll get more coming soon.

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