Scallop shells, stylized sunbursts and fans were popular carvings applied to Queen Anne, Georgian, and Chippendale furniture throughout the 18th Century. Carved by hand, decorative motifs like the one at right were commonly found on the aprons of highboys. They were also used to adorn the knees of cabriole legs and the fronts of central drawers.




Sculpting the shell surface

Draw the shell pattern full-size on a sheet of paper, then transfer your design to a hardwood blank of the desired thickness. Cut the edges of the blank on the band saw and fasten it to a backup board. Secure the backup board to a work surface. Start sculpting the surface of the shell using a flat gouge (above, left),

working in the direction...




1 Making the columns

Cut a blank several inches longer than the finished length of the columns, and wide and thick enough for the number of quarter columns you need. Rip the blank into quarters, joint the inside surfaces of the pieces, then glue and clamp them back together with newspaper in between (inset, top). This will enable you to pull the columns apart easily. Once the glue is dry, mount the blank on a lathe. Mark two lines on the blank for the length of the column and indicate the waste with Xs (inset, bottom). Drive screws through the waste sections to hold the quarters togeth­er. Adjust a set of outside calipers to the desired diameter of the column, then turn the blank into a cylinder as you did for the finials (page 131)...



Cutting the flutes

Make a blank for each finial that is slightly larger than the finished dimensions. Mark the top and bottom of the pommel on the blank and use Xs to indicate the waste section below the pommel. Use the dado head in a table saw to reduce the blank’s thickness between the two marks. Set the cutting depth at % inch. Feed the blank with the miter gauge, cutting away the waste with overlapping passes on each face (inset). The flutes are cut with a core box bit in a table-mounted router. Set the cut­ting depth at it inch. Align the pommel over the bit for the first set of outside flutes and lock the fence against the blank. To ensure that all the flutes will be the same length, clamp a stop block to the fence at each end of the blank...



The crown molding—or pediment—on each side of the highboy front is actually built up from four separate pieces of wood. The broken swan-neck face molding that curves upwards from the front cor­ner to the rosette is made from two pieces of molding glued together. With the help of a template cut on the band saw, the molding pieces are shaped on a pin router (page 125). The moldings on both sides of the highboy, called the returns, also consist of two pieces glued together. They are installed with dovetailed slides that fit into matching grooves in the upper chest (page 127).



Shaping the second piece of molding

The piece of molding that is glued to the first one to build up the face molding is shaped by the same process used in step 1...




Cutting the dovetail joints

Size the drawer parts to fit the openings in the chests, then rout the dovetails, cutting the pins in the front and back pieces and the tails in the sides. A set of commercial templates like the one shown on this page makes the job simple and ensures accurate results. Attach the pin and tail templates to backup boards following the manufacturer’s instructions. Secure one of the drawer sides end-up in a vise. Clamp the backup board to the stock, making sure there are half-tails at either end; the template and backup board should be flush against the work­piece. Protecting the stock with a wood pad, butt a stop block against the drawer side and clamp it to the support board to help you align subsequent cuts...



1 Preparing the drawer openings

Use a router fitted with a й-inch pilot­ed rabbeting bit to cut the rabbets around the drawer openings. Set the depth of cut at ‘A inch, then attach a square piece of /- inch clear acrylic to the tool’s base plate (inset). Make this auxiliary sub-base large enough to keep the tool flat and stable during the operation. Set the chest on its back on a work surface. Starting at the corner of one drawer opening, rest the router on the chest with the bit just clear of the workpiece. Grip the tool firmly with both hands and turn it on, guiding the bit into the wood. Once the pilot bearing butts against the stock, feed the router toward the adjacent corner, keeping the sub-base flat (right). Continue around the opening until you reach your starting point...




Designing the leg

Make a template from a piece of й-inch plywood or hardboard cut to the same length and width as your leg blanks. The design shown above at top will yield an attractive, stable, and well-proportioned leg, but you can alter the pattern to suit your project or copy the design of an existing leg that appeals to you. Begin drawing the leg by outlining the post block. Make its length equal to the width of the lower rail that will be attached to it, plus the height of the lower chest’s side panels. The width of the post block should be adequate to accept the rail tenon. Later, it will be notched (page 116) to accept the quarter columns of the lower chest...



The highboy’s upper chest has two major components: a large carcase and an elaborate face frame that fits within it. As shown below, the carcase consists of a top and bottom, two side panels, and two back panels separated by a stile—or muntin. The carcase cor­ners are joined with through dovetail joints (page 26), and the back panels sit in rabbets cut around the inside edges of the carcase and muntin (page 31). The muntin is attached to the top and bot­tom of the carcase with mortise-and – tenon joints.

The face frame, shown face-up below and face-down on page 111, is built from a top rail, two L-shaped front posts, and
a drawer frame for each tier of drawers. The top rail is shaped to accept the crown molding (page 124) and rosettes (page 128), both of which are added later...



Shell carving

(page 137)

Bottom rail

(page 116)

Knee block

(page 117)

Cabriole leg

(page 112)



The highboy originated in 17th Century Europe and was in­spired by the ornate Chinese lac­quered cabinets imported for the English nobility. Because of its size, the highboy—or high chest of drawers—was constructed in two sections: a lower chest that sup­ported a taller chest with four or more tiers. The top level was fre­quently divided into three smaller drawers set side by side.

As the Queen Anne style evolved into the more ornamental and clas­sical Chippendale style during the latter part of the 18th Century, the highboy found favor with afflu­ent society in colonial cities like Philadelphia, Boston, and New York...