An Oak Chest

This chest stylistically appears to be from the first half of 17th century. On the inside of the lid (behind some 20th-century battens) were the remains of a lining made up from a deed dated 1625.

The chest seems to have been remade from an earlier one, as the insides of the rails are moulded, but differently to the outside. The chest is not high-class enough for there to be any thought of decoration on the inside (the mouldings on the outside have been made using a scratch stock, and some ripping of the wood has occurred). Various of the timbers  (e.g. the bottom front rail) have warped considerably, owing to their knotty grain, but whether this is any evidence of the class of the chest is difficult to prove. The carving style suggests west rather than east, perhaps Somerset/ Dorset, although, again, that’s hard to prove.

The chest’s condition was quite good, in that it has its original hinges and there was no sign of rot and very little sign of beetle. However, the joints were loose, especially the back bottom left, whose tenon had disappeared and which was held together by a deletarious iron bracket. Some corners of some of the panels were missing; shrinkage had also caused various gaps – not least in the lid, whose two planks had come apart and left a gap of 3/8″.

I took the bracket off (and all the nails and pegs) and replaced the missing tenon, plugging holes, too. I made a fillet for the lid with some old oak (which I had to cut up and scarf-joint because there were mortise holes in the wrong place!). Colour-matching this has been a nightmare, and I’ve still plenty of room for improvement.

Easier to match was the colour on the bottom right rail, where I glued a piece on to replace the missing back end, and carved it to the shape of the moulding, trying to get the rough and worn feel of the wood (a rasp went some way to imitating the ripping of the original scratch stock).

The till I have constructed with three separate pieces, two slotting into the grooves, and then a lid, which is lap-jointed so that it will fit into the peg-holes to make the lid open and close.


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