The Union Village Shaker community is about an hour north of my home in Fort Mitchell, Ky., but it doesn’t figure large in the world of Shaker furniture like the eastern Shaker communities do.
Union Village was the first and largest Shaker community west of the Allegheny Mountains, and it was the parent community for the western Shaker communities in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Georgia.
Founded in 1805, more than 4,000 Shakers lived at Union Village during its peak and they were known for selling herbal medicines, seeds and brooms. The community declined until it was sold in 1912. The site is now a retirement community in Warren County, Ohio.
One of the artifacts remaining from the village is a walnut blanket box with fine lines and tight dovetails. The box is similar in form to many Shaker chests that are extant, but this one has always been a favorite.
I chose to adapt this design because it highlights the advantages of my preferred chest-building method. The fine bit of transition moulding around the plinth is easy to accomplish with this traditional construction technique.
While I retained the proportions and lines of the Union Village original, I used finger joints instead of dovetails. And I used figured maple instead of walnut. These two alterations give the box a contemporary feel.
Dimensions: 21-3/8” high x 38-1/2” long x 18-1/4” deep
Materials: Tiger maple exterior; poplar interior parts
Finish: Custom blend of oil, varnish and linseed oil.
Construction Details: All surfaces are handplaned using traditional techniques. Plinth and box are joined using entirely traditional joinery methods. All the hardware is iron with traditional pyramid-head screws.
— Christopher Schwarz