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. Towering 7 or 8 feet high, the imposing highboy was ideally suit­ed to the elegant, lofty ceilings of the manor houses of the time, and its numerous drawers were the perfect solution for storing the articles needed for entertaining. Highboys became the hallmark of fashionable living rooms and their prices rose dramatically. The trend has continued unabated. Today, the highboys produced by the renowned Philadelphia cabi­netmakers of the 1700s are among the most sought-after pieces of antique furniture.

The modem reproduction shown in the photograph on page 106 dis­plays many traditional elements of the 18th Century design: the grace­ful cabriole legs, the scrolled pedi­ment or crown molding, the flame- and-urn finials, the fluted quarter columns, and the shell carving and applied molding adorning the scal­loped apron on the lower chest.

This chapter will show you how to design and construct this classic piece of furniture, from building the upper chest (page 110) to sawing and shaping the cabriole legs (page 112) and then assembling the low­er chest (page 116). Attention is also devoted to the finer details, like installing cockbeading around the drawers (page 118), routing crown molding (page 124), carving the finials (page 130), and shaping the quarter columns (page 134).

The following two pages illustrate the highboy’s upper and lower chests. The major features of the piece are identified; refer to the pages indicated to find out how to make and install each element.

Building a highboy is a challenging task, but with care and diligence you can create a piece of furniture with the grace and timeless appeal of its 200-year-old ancestors.

The highboy at left exemplifies the harmony between straight lines and fluid curves typi­cal of Queen Anne-style furniture.

Updated: March 15, 2016 — 10:13 pm