I am in the process of restoring an old secretary that has been in my
family for at least three generations. In order to better understand
what I am dealing with I have a few questions.
1. What might be the age of the piece?
2. Does anyone have any more information about Matthews Brothers or
have similar pieces created by the same manufacturer? (See picture
P1010023.jpg and file WAG_99_kirschner.pdf)
3. What type of wood do you think this is?
4. What would be the best finish for this piece?
5. Note the unusual joints in the drawer. Is there a name for this type
of joinery? Where could I get more information on this technique?
I have uploaded pictures and links here:
Thank you for your help!
think Matthews is still in business, mightbe worth contacting them . As far
as the finish goes it looks like it might be varnish which is difficult to
restore ,other than strip and refinish. The piece looks like it could be
Those are a fairly common early 20th century machine made joint. They
are sometimes called "bear paw" or similar owing to the multiple rounded
shape end, but I think they are known as a "crescent" joint.
I've seen a discussion somewhere of who/when they were first produced
(perhaps as a letter to the editor in FWW sometime?) but I don't have a
There is at least one router guide/template that claims to make them
I've seen in some of the catalogs (Woodworkers Supply, maybe?)...
I'd say from this it's about 1900-1920.
As someone else noted, it might significantly reduce the piece's value
if you were to do major refinishing--I can't really judge whether the
piece would have actual value or not.
You're going to need to post a closeup picture with better focus and
lighting of the unusual joint you reference. It looks a plain old butt joint
to me, which is not at all unusual. I'm sure there is more to it, but not
apparent from this picture. It looks like there may have been some slight
blur in the picture when you took it. Try using a tripod when you take it.
First - please, please, please
a) crop the picture to remove extraneous stuff
b) resize the image to get the file size down
you can also increase the compression without
losing much of the details
500-600K files take a while to download.
I've done this to two of the piciures, got them down
to about 40K and have posted them to
(not everyone has DSL or a cable modem)
Re: the circle and peg drawer joinery - it was
machine made - a production joint that, while
probably as strong as dovetails, apparently
never caught on. I asked about this joint a few
years back and was told it was only around
for about 5 years - in the 1860s as I recall
and developed and used by several furnitute
makers in St. Louis or Chicago for the west
The piece looks like a mass market piece,
designed for production - integral cock
beading but just top and bottom of drawers,
not the sides, what may be stamped "carving",
shallow grooved dentil molding and rail
and stile glass door frames, the glass in
the doors show no wavyness so they've
probably been replaced
Primary wood, as suggested in another
response, is probably pine but could
As for the finish - could be shellac.
Find an out of view spot and see if
denatured alcohol softens or removes
the finish. If it does, it's likely shellac.
I DAGS and found this link
My recollection was somewhat off apparently, the time frame being
somewhat earlier than I was thinking. I do believe it lasted a little
longer than the turn of the century that this fellow indicates based on
the fact there are a couple of pieces using the joint that were in my
grandparents home as new purchases when they were married which was in
1912. My pushing the piece to as late as in the 20s may be somewhat on
the "too late" side, however.
Very definitely a production piece...
I really don't think it is cherry--one drawer front on the picture I
looked at (I don't recall which one) had far too much grain visible--it
was the one that made me revise my first thought of gum to the pine.
That's also possible and in fact probably more likely given that there
was no sign of crazing as one would expect on a varnished piece of this
thanks for the ponter to the Knapp Joint. I took some pics
of an old oak drop lid desk that used this joint for the
drawers and couldn't relocate the info I dug up on it.
The piece seems to want to be a Swiss Army Knife
of the furniture world
display case/china cabinet/armoire?
barrister book case
drop lid desk (drop lid seems to be missing)
It's a very incongruous piece.
Sorry about that! It is easy to take broadband for granted. I have
recropped and resized the majority of the pictures. Here is the link:
Thank you for your input! I say that to all in the newsgroup, as
well. It has been extremely helpful in understanding this piece.
As you can see, the top of the piece is noticably warped. How would
one go about making it flat again?
The wood seems to be a soft wood, very possibly pine. Could you
suggest resources to help me better identify it?
When you open the doors you are overcome with that unmistakable and
wonderful "antique" smell! Might that indicate a shellack finish?
Again, thanks for all of the help. I am estimating the work will
take me 6 months at best. (I AM an amateur, but learning fast)
Still far too many to try to hunt 'n peck at to look at w/o some id on
what is what...at least for my dialup.
Which shows it?
Look inside for places where it isn't finished. The ones I looked at
before showed some grain pretty characteristic of poine on at least one
drawer front. The front of the carcase, otoh, looked very much like
some other pieces of the same general time period that were simply gum
stained dark enough to mask most grain.
Many of these pieces were quite a number of woods that were then stained
to make them blend together.
The one new picture I looked at was the one of the open front. Some of
the small drawer fronts and dividers are more choice woods or maybe even
a veneer like a 3-ply ply. The picture wasn't close enough to see
detail enough of that small light-colored drawer front for me to guess
what it might actually be.
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