Several weeks ago, I received an email asking me to go and take a look at a chest that has served in both World Wars.
Both wars? Indeed, I immediately agreed to take a look at this treasure and we made the arrangements for me to travel to the customer’s home.
The chest is beautiful, made from pine and joined together by dovetails, but also has gone through some tough times. Well, I think that’s to be expected considering where it has been! With a broken lid stay, the lid had fallen backward all the way ripping out the top board which had since been repaired.
The top also has a split down the middle length-wise. This is because wood expands and contracts across the grain as humidity levels change. However, the sides of the lid is made from a board with the grain running in a perpendicular direction to the top.
On a bit of a tangent … At the beginning of WW I, production on everything jumped into high gear. There was no time to wait for the wood to dry out completely. The manufacturer had to turn out these chests as quickly as possible. So as the wood dried out over the years, it shrank and due to the cross grain conflict, the top couldn’t shrink as it wanted to and it pulled itself apart. Okay, the degree of freshness from cutting of the wood is a guess, but logical given the circumstances.
Okay, getting back on track. The history of a piece like this is simply fantastic Finally, the finish has been worn away in many places due to the many hands that have handled it and the stenciled name is wearing off. There are also some hardware issues. The draw catches are worn or broken and there was a hasp that had been installed and since removed.
The owner has since agreed to have me restore it with the goal of preserving the character and history of the piece. I’ve had possession of it in my shop for about a week now and progress is being made, but you’ll have to wait for the next post for the details.
Until then, here are a couple more pics of the chest for you to enjoy …