I’ve been studying a few examples of chests for an upcoming article in 360 Woodworking. One of the subject pieces was built by John and Thomas Seymour who were Federal-period cabinetmakers in the Boston area – quite possibly the best shop of the time.
What I’ve discovered in their work is a shop that understood wood and wood movement, and made amends to preserve their furniture. One thing with which the Seymour shop experimented was the connection of drawer runners to case sides. The normal cross-grain connection, which often resulted in cracked case sides, bothered them, so they developed a technique to reduce the affect. (Fig. 1)
The Seymour shop built-out the insides of some cases with wood frames that matched the vertical grain of the case sides then they attached runners to those frames. It was extra work, but few of their case sides have split throughout the 200+ years since.
In a recent 360 Woodworking article about building a period Tea table, Chuck Bender, also a furniture maker who understands wood and wood movement, shared a glue-block process that allows tabletops to expand and contract without the blocks being knocked off, something that often happens with period furniture.
Chuck uses a split glue block with one part attached to the apron, and the second part attached to the underside of the tabletop. Hold remains intact regardless of the seasonal movement. (Fig. 2)
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