Queen Ann Bonnet Top Highboys
by Roger Landry 2008
I was inspired when I first saw this magazine in early 1996 and the highboy project they layed out over 3 issues. (Fine Woodworking issies #117, #118 and #119. The crafstman is Randall O'Donnell at http://www.randallodonnell.com.
The level of detail and challenge of such an intricate piece was forever stuck in my mind as a future project to someday take on.
After looking at these 3 magazines off and on for 14 years now, I have studied antique furniture and the particulars of the highboy. I am finally in a position in my life where I can and have stepped up to the plate.
I knew it would take a lot of time and material to make one of these so I decided it would be a big time savings to simple make 2 at the same time. Besides, a his and hers set of highboys would look great together in the same room.
This bonnet-top highboy representative of the Queen Anne style, the original dates about 1765 and is attributed to the prominent Massachusetts cabinetmaker, Major Benjamin Frothingham, who worked in Charlestown from 1756 to 1809. The unique shell and acanthus leaf motif on the carved drawer fronts, a virtual Frothingham trademark, is recreated by the nearly lost art of hand carving.
Veneer Solid Bonnet Top.
Width: 39 1/2" Depth: 20" Height: 79"
Center Finial Height: 84".
Width: 38" Depth: 19 1/4"
This is a youtube video of the cutting out of the highboy legs.
I’ll be adding new content and information. If you have any suggestions send them along. Thank you for your support and emails. Happy Woodworking,,,,Roger
1 Oct 2010. Finishing the carcase of the bottom bases of the highboys. The final step will be to make the 26 drawers. Aeromatic cedar lined scarfed bottoms, full dovetailed as original pieces had, to include the 4 drawers with intricate fan carvings. More updates to follow.
24 Oct. Starting the top casework. It's been awhile since I did dovetailwork so I made a small dovetail box to get me back in the grove before I wasted any big pieces of expensive wood. (See inside case for small box). It all went very well. Nice tight dovetails per original design. It's a shame all this work will be hidden by trim pieces. Many people would have simply bisqueted the pieces together but I wanted to stay true and authentic to the original design.
Continuing to make progress. Lots of dovetail work. Making jigs for lots of test cuts on test peices, adjustments made, then actual cuts on the real pieces.
Before I can glue up and secure the scroll boards on the highboys, I have to do the small sun carving in the center of the main finnel posts.
This shouldn't be difficult with very sharp chisels and should get me ready for the serious carving in the four drawers that have full size fan carvings in them. The most intimidating phase of the intire project is coming near and that is the top bonnet crown molding.
I have seen many ways inwhich to do this. I have researched how it was performed 200 years ago when these type of peices were made. None are easy. with modern routers, custom bits, jigs and practice, I should be able to accomplish this. My goal is when I finished that it is perfect. So I'll need some practice and experimenting.
November 14th, 2010.
Ok. I have finished the sun carvings at the top of the highboys and have now began to setup a jig to be used to make the gooseneck molding that crowns the top of the scroll boards.
Many builders of these peices say that this is the hardest part. I think that with a good jig setup it should be manageable.
December 26th. Making good progress on the gooseneck scrolling. I knew it would be a tough portion and it is. I'd rather in the house eating Christmas leftovers.
January 23rd. Working now on the 28 drawers for these two cases.
All 28 drawers dovetailed. Working on the aeromatic cedar drawer bottoms and then on to the fan carvings. 1 Feb.
Finishing up the 4 fan carving on the top and bottom drawers. Feb 28.
Next will be to make the 3 top flame finials and 2 small finials for each highboy, then route and install the center waist trim pieces that divide the top and bottom cases, then sanding - sanding and sanding. Then the dye process, polishing phase and finially the 4 coats of hand rubbed shellac finish, and then final fit and waxing of the drawer rails and guides. Estimated completion, April 15th.
Finials and flame finials completed.
All 26 drawers completed
2 more hand rubbed coats of shellac and this project is finished.
Very enjoyable project. I am glad to be finished. It was a great number of pieces to make one at a time. Which is why I wanted to make two at the same time. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Thanks for stopping by. Roger Landry, 2008.