Visting Brian Boggs Chair Maker

If your wife comes to you one day and tells you that she wants to go to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC to see how the Vanderbilt’s lived, tell her “sure, let’s go.” Then while strolling the Biltmore Village below the mansion, shopping at all the retail stores, head a block East and take a right on London St. There you will find the studio of chair maker Brian Boggs.

My wife and I visited his shop this past weekend while in Asheville. The building he operates out of is nothing fancy. In fact without noticing his sign out front, we almost passed it up. When we walked in, I looked at one of his chairs and sat down. His wife Melanie looked me up and down and asked “are you a woodworker?” I said I was and asked her how she knew. She said that most woodworkers will walk in and immediately sit in one of his chairs.

Melanie was nice enough to spend a few minutes with us and explain some of Brian’s furniture. She even took us into his shop area where we were able to sit in his new Sunniva outdoor swing. The thing was impressive and very comfortable. You can see the swing here on his website. http://www.brianboggschairmakers.com/product/sunniva-swing/

I don’t have any photos of his shop because I thought it would have been rude to do so. All I have to say is that it is worth the time to stop by and swing in for a visit if you’re in the area. The amount of 16/4 mahogany he has in stock was probably worth more than my house. However, if you do visit, don’t expect to have a long conversation with Brian about woodworking. He was extremely busy while we visited. One of the things that I noticed about his shop is that I didn’t see a table saw. He may have had one, but considering a lot of his work is curved, him not owning one doesn’t surprise me. He does have a sweet Old Iron band saw that looked like it was the staple of the shop.

After the tour, I asked Melanie if Brian would like some hemp oil to try out. She went into the shop and asked him if he did. It must have peaked his curiosity because he came out and asked me about it. I told him it’s made from hempseed, is solvent free, contains no VOC’s, is environmentally friendly, but is not readily available in the US. I gave him a small 4 oz container of the oil and wrote down the website where he could buy it. Whether or not he will use the oil on his furniture in the future remains uncertain, but being able to give him something he was unaware of was pretty cool.

Empire Dresser

The Empire dresser is officially done. My wife Anita found some nice oil rubbed bronze drawer pulls on the internet after looking locally for some with no luck. It originally had glass knobs on it, but a few of them were in rough shape and not all of them matched. I think the drawer pulls she picked out look really nice and add to the character of the piece. She applied four to five coats of hemp oil to the dresser. It gives it a warm aged look without making it look too glossy.

I put a few hours in this as well. I had to strip all the old stain off, patch a veneer job, re-band all the drawer fronts with sapele, replace a brass key escutcheon, and reinforce some of the drawer bottoms with pieces of poplar.

She plans on selling this in her booth with her painted furniture and antiques this Saturday at a local street fair in Milford, OH called the Longstone Festival. She was lucky enough to get a booth as there is usually a waiting list every year. Hopefully it will sell there. I will let you know if it does. http://www.longstonestreetfestival.com/

Empire Wine Bar

 A few months ago my wife bought a dresser from a local auction company. When we picked it up, we noticed that the bottom drawer was so badly damaged that is was not worth repairing. Plus the drawers were only 10″ deep which doesn’t really fit with today’s needs. So, we decided that we would turn it into a wine cabinet.

The first thing I needed to do was take out the drawers and remove the frame that held them. It was a pretty easy process as the drawer runners were simply screwed in place.

I knew the part that held the wine bottles would need a cabinet of some sort so I glued 1/4″ panels to the inside to create a box. I also had to add boards to the bottom of the cabinet to support the bottom of the interior.

After much thought about how many wine bottles I wanted the cabinet to hold, I drew numerous options of the interior. I wanted the grids to go at 45 degrees and hold the maximum amount of bottles yet fit the opening of the cabinet. At first I designed the cabinet opening to hold nothing but wine bottles but after several drawings, I finally decided to make one half hold wine bottles with 4 1/2″ openings and the other half a shelf.

I built a divider down the middle and attached it with pocket hole screws. I installed plugs in the pocket holes and sanded them flush.

The fun part was making the grids. I made them from 3/4″ poplar and custom fitted each piece inside the box. The grids are attached together with dado’s and were painted brown before they were glued in.

I kept the girds shy of the face of the cabinet so that I could glue sapele on top of the poplar. Sapele is a poor mans mahogany which is what the dresser was made from. When stained, the sapele, mahogany and the painted poplar will blend together nicely.

After the interior was done, my wife painted the outside with chalk paint. She took the time to tape off the area that is stained and applied two coats of paint. After the paint dried, she rubbed some of it off to distress it, then added a dark brown glaze over the details of the piece to get in the cracks and appear old.

I applied four coats of General Finishes Arm-R-Seal oil & urathane topcoat to the top, the front of the drawers, and the grids to give the cabinet a nice sheen. We dragged it upstairs from the basement which was a big pain in the ass as it weighs nearly 200 lbs and decorated it in our dining room.

You can see how the distressing looks. The idea is to make the cabinet look old which is exactly what it is. After the glaze dries, Anita applied a light wax over the piece to protect the paint.

The design of the inside of the cabinet came out well. The grids hold eight bottles of wine and all of our various glasses. So far one of the drawers stores our wine bottle opener. Unfortunately, the other drawer will probably end up as a junk drawer.

The Empire dresser spent its first 150 years as a dresser. Now it will spend the next 150 years as a wine cabinet. Not a bad 300 year life if you ask me.

Empire Dresser

My wife won this Empire style dresser this week at an online estate auction site for a mere $50.00. When we went to pick it up the guy who ran the auction was telling us it was probably built around the early 1800’s and was a cross between Empire and Federal styles. The dresser was beautiful with its carved columns, mahogany veneer and old brass hardware.

The dresser was in pretty good shape with the only major damage being the bottom drawer was broken off. Fixing the veneer and making it match with the rest of the piece would be a challenge so my wife and I are thinking of taking out all three bottom drawers and turning the dresser into a wine bar with storage for wine glasses and bottles.

While taking the drawers out I was looking for a makers mark just in case this is some rare piece made by famous cabinetmaker. The last thing I want to do is to retrofit some dresser that if left alone and restored could be worth $20,000. Unfortunately I found no makers mark but I did notice that the piece was made by hand.

The drawers were made with hand cut dovetails and the bottoms were chamfered into grooves in the drawers side. No plywood was used which gave me a clue that the dresser was pretty old. Plywood wasn’t being used in furniture until around the 1920’s.

I also noticed that not that much care was taken in cutting the drawer bottoms. One of the bottom’s edge was wavy and looked like it was cut with a bow saw. Why the cabinetmaker didn’t use a hand saw to rip down the bottom is baffling. Maybe he was in a hurry or didn’t have a hand saw around at the time but, it looks like crap and wouldn’t be considered top-notch craftsmanship by todays standards. However, it was perfectly acceptable back then. Maybe there wasn’t as much scrutiny about how things were built as there is today. If I did something like that, all my woodworking friends would call me a hack.

  

I also could see where the cabinetmaker reused boards that he first cut dovetails for as the drawers backs. The back and the sides are simply nailed together with some finish nails. It’s possible he was planing on dovetailing the back of the drawers but changed his mind for some reason. But nevertheless, apparently back then if the part was not being shown and was hidden from the customers view, then nobody cared what it looked like inside.

The back of the piece gave me another clue as to its age. There were two pockets drilled to accept screws to hold down the top. As I unscrewed one of them, I saw that the screw had a point at the tip. Due to increased machinery technology, manufacturers didn’t start making screws with points until the 1840’s. Before that they were simply blunt and craftsmen would have to pre-drill the hole.

So my guess is this piece was probably built between 1840-1920 by a local cabinet shop who didn’t bother signing their pieces. With no makers mark, there is no way for me to determine who actually built it. I searched the internet for “Empire dresser” in Images to see if a similar dresser appeared with no luck. So in the end, with its major damage to the bottom drawer, I think it’s safe to retrofit this into something new.