PRESSED INTO SERVICE
This traditional linen press can grace a dining room to store table linens, house a TV and stereo components, or reside in the bedroom to organize clothing.
SHOP OWNER: Andy Rae
LOCATION: Lenhartsville, Pennsylvania
After researching several 18th-century presses, including one notable cabinet that resides in the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, I designed this modern linen press. The cabinet is made from cherry and cherry veneer, with poplar as a secondary wood for the interior fitments. Overall size is 20 in. deep x 42 in. wide x 81 in. high.
Instead of building one tall cabinet, I made the upper and lower sections as separate constructions, allowing the owner to more easily move the press from room to room if necessary. Incidentally, this two-piece design also allowed me to get the thing out of my small, cramped basement shop once it was built. Large crown molding wraps around the three show faces of the upper case, and waist molding attached to the top of the lower case conceals the joint where the upper and lower cases meet. Mitered and splined ogee bracket feet- dovetailed at the rear- complete the lower case. The drawer and door panels are framed in mitered satinwood crossbanding. All the hardware is solid brass that's been chemicaly etched to convey age.
The real story is inside the upper case: Once you open the doors, you see tall drawers with scooped sides typical of fine linen presses. Each high-sided drawer has a narrow front that allows you to stack many linens on top of each other while still being able to view the entire contents of the drawer. The drawers in the lower case are joined with hand-cut dovetails- front and back.
I didn't want to mention this, but Ellis twisted my arm...
Underneath the bottom drawer is a hidden compartment that houses two drawers for valuables, inside one of which there is a spare key should the owner ever lose the original. There are three panels across the top of the compartment. Accessing the drawers is a trick. There's a removable center panel flanked by two fixed panels. To remove the center panel, you press down on its front to activate three touch latches. The side walls of the cavity are actually the fronts of two small drawers, which you open by pressing them inward to release more touch latches. Then you pull them out and remove them through the center opening. I have to give credit to my woodworking buddy, Frank Klausz, for describing this arrangement to me.
I finished the cabinet by wiping one coat of oil on the exterior to bring out the depth of the cherry's natural color and curly figure. No oil goes on the inside- I learned the hard way that oil inside a cabinet will impart an unpleasant smell for many years to come. After oiling, I finished the interior and exterior surfaces with several coats of very thin blonde shellac. A vigorous rubbing of paste wax completed the job....Andy Rae
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