Aged to Perfection

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The flat surfaces of this Shaker woodbox were the perfect place for the author’s experiments in creating an authentic-looking antique finish.  

Everything old is new again. 

 It’s optimistic, and furthermore, it’s true. Antiques are so popular today they have their own traveling reality show. Good craftsmen have always acknowledged the beauty of old forms in furniture; these days, recognizing and replicating classics has become an art form.

During a recent visit to the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community, I obtained permission to measure and recreate a handsome old woodbox: an austere jewel with its original yellow paint and a 150-year collection of dings and dents (Fig. 1).

The utilitarian box has through dovetails at each corner and a lid hinged to a rail fastened to its back with a row of cut nails. Its four feet are each comprised of a simple turning that swells slightly at its midpoint below a square shoulder, with a turned transition in between. The only embellishment is a radius on both sides and along the front of the top and lid.

My reproduction differs only in the method of attaching the legs. I suspect that the legs of the original are attached with short tenons, perhaps only ¾". I wanted 2½" tenons, so I placed 3¼"-thick glue blocks inside each corner of the box (Fig. 2). 

Actually, there is one other way in which mine differs from the original. The original has surfaces worn by 150 years of hard use, while mine merely looks that way.

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