Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Time to be Thankful...

It's 2 days until Thanksgiving, which means that the stores have had their Christmas displays up for about a month. It's also auction week for me (Andrew). Friday and Saturday Garth's is having its 49th Annual Thanksgiving Weekend Auction. It's a good sale, lots of fun things, from painted furniture to ship's binnacles. Certainly the auction and the non-turkey dinner (we are vegetarians) are occupying our time, but we still always take a little time to be thankful. We are thankful that, in this economy, we still have jobs in a business that relies largely on discretionary income. In fact, we are especially thankful because it's a darn great business. We get to interact with fascinating objects and equally fascinating people each and every day.

So...have a great Thanksgiving. And since you have some time off, spend it looking at your favorite dealer's or auctioneer's website. Perhaps there will be something nifty that you just can't live without!


james conrad said...

Happy Thanksgiving everybody, enjoy your holiday.

On another note, i wonder if Andrew/Hollie know anything about "wedged dovetails". I know Jacob Werrey is a rather famous Ohio blanket chest maker/decorator and he was doing this form of construction as late as the 1880s.

Hollie and Andrew said...

Yep, I (Andrew) am intimately familiar with wedged dovetails. They are a Germanic construction technique. You see them in PA-German furniture of the 18th and early 19th century. It faded out somewhat in PA as the German immigrants assimilated. However, with the wave of Germanic immigrants from Europe in the Midwest in the early-mid 19th century, you see it often on painted Midwestern blanket chests. And these Germanic communities, like in Fulton County (NW Ohio) where Werrey was working, held on to styles and construction techniques for a long time. I've seen Werrey chests with non-wedged dovetails, so clearly he finally abandoned their use, but I've seen loads of other late 19th century Ohio and Indiana blanket chests still using wedged dovetails. Given our research interest in Midwestern Germanic furniture (see www.midwesterngermanfurniture.org), we are always on the lookout for wedged dovetails!

james conrad said...


OK, the question i have is why did they do this form of joinery and also how. I have an 18th century lidded chest over 2 drawer blanket chest which was probably made somewhere in the Shenandoah valley or wythe co VA with these "wedged dovetails" on the case, drawers and bracket feet.

These dovetails are cut so perfectly they almost seem machine made and the wedges appear to be "driven" into the center of the dovetail. I wish there was a feature here where i could post a pic as it's alot easier to see than describe.

I understand how woodworkers are in terms of, once taught a certain way of joinery, THATS IT! there are no other ways of doing it as far as they are concerned. They tend to be much more flexible when it comes to style however, as the feet on this chest are chippendale.

The thing is though, this form of joinery would be very difficult to do with hand tools and considering the wedges are "driven" ( i see no evidence of a slot being sawn) theres a good chance one could split the dovetail pin if not done in a very careful, precise manner.

The only thing i can think of that one could gain by this form of joinery is, you would not have to use glue in the assembly of the dovetails. That seems such a small gain considering the risk theres just gotta be more to it than that.

I have been searching the why and how on this question ever since i acquired this chest over 20 years ago. I have probably read hundreds, maybe thousands of articles over the years and even good quality articles, like in Chipstone, all say the same thing, "traditional germanic cabinetmaking" or something similar.

Thanks for the link, i'll check it out.

james conrad said...

Good auction yesterday. I was a little surprised that lot #1 went for 7500, there seemed to be some issues with the feet but still, anything in Fabian's book under 5 figures is a bargain.

What i was really there for though was lot #213, the wall cupboard. The form was very Shaker-like and the paint looked great. There was a HUGE pause when it came up, (guesses a restroom break) and when bidding resumed, it appeared no one wanted it. For a couple seconds it seemed i would steal it for the min bid, WRONG, as it quickly went to its high estimate, DRAT!

One of the things i do prior to an auction is establish what my max bid will be which ensures against getting caught up in "auction fever". In the case of 213, my limit was only 300 below its high estimate however, as an online bidder i never actually saw the cupboard. This is one area where not being present at a sale to view the object in person is a hindrance. One only has a very few seconds to decide, do i go over my predetermined limit or not.In 213s case, i chose not to and am kicking myself this morning for missing that cupboard.

Hollie and Andrew said...

James, I wish I knew the why of the wedged dovetails...it's on our list of "things to find out" in our Midwestern German furniture project. We will be traveling to Europe in a couple of years to check the source material, and perhaps we'll find out!

Regarding the auction, it was good, thanks! Lot 1, the blanket chest is from a rare maker (that paint scheme is hard to find) and it has 3 drawers and ogee feet. Definitely had some condition issues...if it were in better condition, I'd have thought 20-30K. Here's a nifty bit of trivia...we have another blanket chest from the same shop...came in purely coincidentally after we had the one we just sold. Paint is pristine, but no drawers. Will be an interesting study to see what the market prefers: better form or better paint.

The bidders were a little sluggish to get going, but then they'd pick up and bid long and fast. That is why it's a good idea, like you, to have a set amount in mind when you go to an auction (or bid online). That way, you don't get caught up in the excitement and spend more than you want.

james conrad said...


Better paint will win almost every time, cant wait to see the chest.