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Southern Cellarette

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Project by Carey Mitchell posted 02-13-2021 01:52 AM 2349 views 4 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a reproduction of a Southern style cellarette used for storage of bottles of fine beverages. Around 1760, the Dutch began importing gin into the American colonies, and other high quality spirits came from elsewhere. This style cellarette evolved to store the square bottles containing the Dutch gin; however, the bottles were prized and were reused for brandy and other spirits. These cellarettes were very similar to sugar boxes in the colonial period, except for the partitions. Similar cellarettes were in use in the UK at the time.

The original of this piece was made around 1780 by Micajah Wilkes in North Carolina, and is on display in the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts. Wilkes is known for several exceptional pieces. Wilkes’ original cellarette sold at auction for $165,200 before being donated to the museum in the mid-1900s. The original is shown in the last photo. https://mesda.org/item/collections/cellaret/116/

The piece measures 34 X 19 X 14” and accommodates 12 bottles. Inside compartments separate the bottles and prevent banging together. The wood is 7/8” walnut, with curly maple bead accents and inlays. The compartments are 3 5/8” square and accommodate most modern bottles. The hardware is from Horton Brass and is authentic in size and style.

My goal was to build something using the vintage hand tools that I have accumulated over the years. This piece lent itself well to that goal. The only operations done by machine were crosscutting the panels on the table saw sled for perfect squareness, routing the profile around the top, and routing for the inlay in the top. The through dovetails on the case are hand cut, as are the mortise and tenon joints. I realized the Porter-Cable dovetail jig hanging on the wall has not been used in 10 years, so its time for it to find another home.

The 16” x 1” board making up the sides and top was thicknessed to 7/8” and smoothed using the #606 Bedrock and #7 foreplane. The final smoothing was done with a restored Stanley #12 scraper plane with an owner’s name and date of 1905 – it worked beautifully, but slowly. There was a learning curve for sharpening the #12 blade, but once mastered, it was great, although it required resharpening about every 15 minutes; after practice, this took about 3 minutes.

The 3/16” thick moldings were mostly rounded over with the #45 combination plane. As I discarded pieces of curly maple that chipped with the 45, I finally had to finish the rounding over with files, as I ran short of curly maple. The #45 was probably a poor choice here, but I wanted to use it. Some antique chisels were used in cutting the dovetails. The dovetails were laid out using a divider owned by my great-grandfather.

The other structural pieces were dimensioned using the Bedrock and guides of the correct thickness on each side of the workpiece, with the plane angled at 30-45 degrees and the toe and heel riding on the guides (Fine Woodworking Jan-Feb 2021). I was amazed at the precision of the thickness measurements that can be achieved using this method (about +- 0.002”).

To replicate the original, I used forged nails to attach the top, the drawer slides and kickers, as well as the bottom. Hide glue, naturally.

I was not satisfied with the finish, and removed it and started over – twice ! Not unusual for me. The finish is 5 coats of Bartley’s Gel Varnish.

The bottle shown is hand blown glass and was made about 200 years ago in Holland, between 1800-1830. In researching to learn what the bottles actually looked like, I found it on eBay!

So, a reproduction reproduced mostly with vintage tools. I intended to keep track of the time involved in this but lost track at about 20 hours, and that was about halfway.





19 comments so far

View theoldfart's profile

theoldfart

13128 posts in 3901 days


#1 posted 02-13-2021 01:56 AM

Absolutely gorgeous build and the wood selection is spot on. Your workmanship is an example I’d like to follow. Thanks for sharing.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View pottz's profile

pottz

25608 posts in 2434 days


#2 posted 02-13-2021 02:05 AM

wow carey what the hell can i say man,over the top gore-gessss! this is first class craftsmanship all the way.love your story of the history too,makes the appreciation much more.the fact that youve got a bottle with that history makes it over the top.i dont what else too say but you blew my mind my friend.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View grovemadman's profile

grovemadman

963 posts in 5221 days


#3 posted 02-13-2021 02:54 AM

Daily top three for sure and I’m going to say it right now that this piece should get a highly coveted “Editor’s Choice”! The level of skill required to make something like this is known only by a few. The level of detail, fit and finish is amazing to say the least. I strive to make stuff like this but fall short. Excellent workmanship!!!

-- "It is the job of the woodworker to hide his mistakes and keep a tight set of lips about them!"--Chuck

View pottz's profile

pottz

25608 posts in 2434 days


#4 posted 02-13-2021 02:55 AM



Daily top three for sure and I m going to say it right now that this piece should get a highly coveted “Editor s Choice”! The level of skill required to make something like this is known only by a few. The level of detail, fit and finish is amazing to say the least. I strive to make stuff like this but fall short. Excellent workmanship!!!

- grovemadman


+1 what say you cricket,the jocks have spoken?

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View oldrivers's profile

oldrivers

3102 posts in 3016 days


#5 posted 02-13-2021 04:03 AM

Beautiful wood and workmanship

-- Soli Deo gloria!

View pottz's profile

pottz

25608 posts in 2434 days


#6 posted 02-13-2021 04:05 AM

ok top3 down will there be an editors choice?

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View BurlyBob's profile

BurlyBob

10403 posts in 3715 days


#7 posted 02-13-2021 04:28 AM

Absolutely Beautiful.

View Dark_Lightning's profile

Dark_Lightning

5093 posts in 4559 days


#8 posted 02-13-2021 04:44 AM

That’s really nice! Walnut is always a welcome choice for wood. Not much of a fan of gin, but to each their own. I have also had occasion to hide some of my liquid comestibles from certain parties. 8^D Mostly spendy cognac, though.

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

View wildwoodbybrianjohns's profile (online now)

wildwoodbybrianjohns

3204 posts in 997 days


#9 posted 02-13-2021 07:27 AM

Thanks for a most excellent write-up. You taught me something new, always grateful for that! Now I will research sugar-boxes, sounds interesting.

The Piece looks fantastic from here, I even zoomed; and that you redid the finish several times speaks to my heart.

One Very Serious, Very Important question: where will you hide the key? Lol.

-- WWBBJ: the first to compare a woman´s cheek to a rose was a poet. The second, an idiot. Dali

View Brice1's profile

Brice1

113 posts in 3798 days


#10 posted 02-13-2021 10:18 AM

Excellent execution in every detail. Very well done sir – very well done.

-- Brice, Philadelphia

View Peteybadboy's profile

Peteybadboy

4816 posts in 3399 days


#11 posted 02-13-2021 11:33 AM

Cary,

Great story and history. That is beautiful!

-- Petey

View Eric's profile

Eric

4904 posts in 1323 days


#12 posted 02-13-2021 11:43 AM

Beautiful craftsmanship, very nicely done. Great story of the history, and your process of the build.

-- Eric, building the dream

View controlfreak's profile

controlfreak

3697 posts in 1051 days


#13 posted 02-13-2021 01:21 PM

I couldn’t stop reading and looking, incredible skill there.

View 987Ron's profile

987Ron

3676 posts in 766 days


#14 posted 02-13-2021 01:52 PM

Read the story twice. Wonderful. The piece deserves all the accolades it get and more. Yes on top 3 and editiors choice. Great workmanship and result.
Ron

-- Ron

View awsum55's profile

awsum55

1285 posts in 1958 days


#15 posted 02-13-2021 06:47 PM

Cool project and story. You really kicked butt on this piece, it might even fool a collector.

-- "The Answer Is Blowin'n In The Wind" John D, OP, KS

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