Antique Furniture Construction Question

Hey all
For the last few days I have been massaging an old dresser back into shape for my wife. The piece is an heirloom from her mom and I'm taking great care, reproducing a few parts from oak to get the drawers working correctly. I have a couple of questions--
--In the [late?] 1800's, what did cabinet makers use for adhesives-? The remnants I find are like amber--was this like the "mucilage" we had in the 50's in grade school-?
--The back is attached with square shank nails with round heads; they look hand forged--was this style representative of any era in particular-? The are equivalent to about 8d in size.
--The piece has four 2" dia. casters whose wheels are white porcelein; forged iron metal portion. Very cool looking; never seen one before. A guess at the era-?
It's interesting to note that the cabinetmaker's signature appears on the bottom--(no date)--but several European-style numerals here and there, even some arithmetic.
It's obvious that I'm no expert cabinet maker-! Pretty fair hand at repair, though, and this antique gets a lot of respect--anyway, this has been a fun project thus far.
Cheers-Buzzy
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BuZzY snipped-for-privacy@airmail.net

Yes. It's likely animal hide glue. Still availablen (in a version) at most hardware stores, but then applied hot from a glue pot.

Probably machine cut nails. If they are all sort of uniform, then they are probably not hand made. Nail-making machinery was being patented in the U. S. by the very early 1800s.

Don't know.
Frank Morrison
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Sounds like a fun project. I use a Rival Hot Pot Express, the one with dial for heat settings, for making hide glue. About $15.00 at drug store. www.homesteadfinishing.com has several forums one being repair & restoration if memory serves. May be helpful.
wrote:

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Norm did a project a project on TV (I think last week) and he used cut nails for the project . It wa a sheering table made into a coffee table. He said the nails are still available in MA. Frank
BuZzY wrote:

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items4sale notes:

Tremont Nails. Now owned, I think, by Maze Nails. Used to be out of Tremont, MA. May still be.
Charlie Self "Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened." Sir Winston Churchill
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Charlie Self wrote:

Just a nit, they're based in Wareham, MA.
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They are still available on the web. Do a Google search.

He
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The first attached link shows some white porcelein wheels. The other links are to suppliers who may be able to help.
http://www.architecturals.net/restore/home.cfm?page=productdisplay&ProductIDW8&CategoryID8&SubcategoryIDS&Start=1&subcat=y
http://www.ballandball-us.com /
http://www.horton-brasses.com /
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On Sat, 11 Sep 2004 19:34:45 -0500, BuZzY wrote:

Hide glue would have been the standard at the time. It is still available, and depending on the project it can still be the best choice. Most of the folks that I know of using it are Luthiers, especially the craftsman luthiers who will build one guitar, or mandolin at a time.
http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Luthier/Data/Materials/hideglue.html lots of information on how to prepare the glue, and use it. He also mentions a trick way to put a label on finished woodwork using plain paper and hide glue.
Tigger
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wrote:

Hide glue. Restore and repair with the same stuff, or at least the cold hide glue in a tube. Hide glue is a good glue for woodworking, and especially importantly for restoration or even first construction of a quality piece, you can undo it.

Hard to say without a photo.
Nails were rarely forged square. In fact they're rarely square. More usually they're _rectangular_ in section, having been sheared from a sheet. The wider side was the surface of the sheet, and the edges may show signs of the shearing. If they're truly forged, then it's easier to forge nailstock down into an even round than an even square - they might be square, but if so there's very likely to be some uneveness to them.
A truly round headed nail is nearly always machine made. Handmade nails had a rose head instead (or "four clout", or "five clout"). This is round, but instead of the top surface being flat, it's formed into a shallow pyramid by the hammer blows that upset it.
It's hard to tell whether cut nails are hand or machine made. The best guide is consistency, rather than the style itself. Many were also sheared by machine, but headed by hand.
As always, 50 years (or 300, with some styles) may be explained by a rustic origin rather than an urban one.

Hard to say without a photo.
Likely to indicate quite late origin though - mid 19th. China wheels relied on cheap and reliable slip casting. which didn't happen until the early 19th and took some time before it was as mundane as all those Victorian doorknobs and bath taps.
Is the iron really forged ? I'd have expected machine-pressed steel, or maybe cast iron to be more likely in conjunction with china wheels. Older pieces might still be brass.

Cabinetmakers rarely signed pieces. Pencilled notes are just as likely to be the retail shop that had ordered the piece, or the end customer if they dealt directly. Numerals (I, II, III, IV, V style ?) often indicated drawer or component sequence as much as anything. Arithmetic may well have been working out the height of the carcase, or even the journeyman's hours for the week. Paper was expensive and any convenient flat timber becomes a notepad in the workshop.
There's no real point in trying to date something without a photo, description of the style or any hint of local provenance, so I'm not even going to try.
--
Smert' spamionam

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