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Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Heppelwhite/Federal Sideboard


QUESTION: We recently purchased this mahogany sideboard at a charity sale.  It is very heavy Mahogany with veneers and inlays around the drawers and doors and lower legs.  There are no marks or labels anywhere.  There are no markings on the half mortised locks or brasses excepting one lock marked LEVER.  The pulls are secured by hexagonal nuts (not round or square cut).  I am pretty sure it is 19th Century but not "Federal".  I am attaching images of the piece and close ups of one drawer showing the lock and keys.  One key opens the drawere, the other the doors.  I would appreciate your opinion about the age of the piece and whatever else you can tell us or we should look for.

ANSWER: use the followup function and post a picture of the outside of the side of a drawer where the side meets the front.  picture of the outside of the bottom of the drawer taken from the rear showing the back and bottom in one shot.

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drawer side
drawer side  
QUESTION: Hello,   Thanks for responding.  Attached are the drawer pictures as best I could get them.  They are dovetailed front and back.  The bottoms are heavy-as thick as the side boards-and nailed in to the rear board by a single cut or wrought nail in the center.  There are 'runners' on which the drawers rest (quite worn) right and left.
         Thanks Again for whatever you can tell us,  WK

ANSWER: i wish i could see this in person.  it has the hallmarks of being a mid 19thc piece.

feel for hand planing on the drawer bottoms, inside the sides of the case, under the bottom and the back.

what does the back look like?  one board, frame and panel?  what about the screw pockets, drilled or hand chiseled, there should be some inside and at the top of the back outside.
secondary wood looks to be southern yellow pine.

are the back of the doors veneered or do they show yellow pine also.  feel there for hand planing also

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QUESTION: Hello Again,    I got the piece away from the wall and attached is a picture of the back.  It is one piece-or more probably several pieces glued edge to edge.  Not paneled.  No feel of planing but no circular saw marks either.  No markings or stencils. No screws.
 It is held on by square cut hammer headed nails along the top and bottom and up and down the vertical dividers between the drawers.  I took a picture of one of the projecting nails.  They all seem to have this 4 sided head.
   Inside the cabinet doors is veneered I guess.  It looks like mahogany but not fancy.  All the wood is so dark it is hard to discern the grain.  The draw bottoms do not feel planed but are heavy and dovetailed and tacked in place.
         Thanks again and hope this helps,  W.K.

i will say more in an email  when i have more time but wanted to get some info to you now.  I believe the nail in pic 2 was done later to shore something up.  these rose head type nails can be bought from tremont company.  the scratch doesnt run across the head of the nail but if there is black staining where the nail enters the wood we can still assume it has been there a while.

I thought the back might look like the picture when you said it was very heavy.  i have one that two people will and have hurt themselves trying to lift it.

that wood is also southern yellow pine as were the drawer sides.  remember this doesnt make it a southern piece as there was a lot of lumber movement as far back as the mid 1700s.  not nearly as much as 50-75 years later but still significant.

that you cannot feel the hand planing means that a more advanced cabinetmaker did this and scraped the bottoms to level them after planing.

federal encompassed much styling and is not limited to the super high end items.  remember that sheraton, hepplewhite, phyfe and others did what would sell and make them
money.  even in the 1800-1830 slot there were factories that turned out large amounts of furniture using hand tools and machinery driven by water and even steam power later.

i would look over every square inch of this piece for a name or mark.  use flashlights and even use a uv light.  using uv will show old repairs, very interesting.  note that shellac will fluoresce orange but lacquers and some waxes will fluoresce blue white.

the book "Southern Furniture 1680-1830" by hurst and prown shows a sideboard on page 517 that shares many of the design characteristics.  it states this design was produced in britain, new york and charleston 1800-1830. I believe your piece is 1820-30 from what you have described and from what i can see.

i would think that where the horizontal elements meet the vertical elements the joinery will be mortice and tenon.  I am a bit baffled that there are no screws from the back to the top.  

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robert klein


In regards to American antique, vintage and collectible furniture I can help with wood identification, styles, age, periods, historical coatings, materials, techniques, repair, restoration, refinishing, and value. I do not study mid century and later furniture nor do I deal in lamps, and other smalls. You may ask for values and I will give you current market values, I will not give you 'feel good' values. Understand that there are many factors that contribute to market value. If you want a feel good, unrealistic number, please call a local inexperienced appraiser. It is my desire to help you and in doing so I increase my knowledge as well. For that I thank you.


I have been in the antiques furniture and restoration business and in the sales of antique furniture for 40+ years and have continued my education in the trade attending workshops and seminars by various organizations, institutions, and private collectors.

Professional Refinishers Groop, Int., AIC, Antiques Dealers Association

BA Florida State University BA University of West Florida 1971

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