In Defense of Sledge Feet


The first campaign chest I built I used sledge feet – simple square blocks that raised the lower case off the ground.

Soon after, I received a pleasant note stating that I had made an amateur mistake. Campaign chests with sledge feet were merely missing their turned feet.

I felt like a fool at first. It was like sculpting a female torso and leaving off the naughty bits. After recovering from my shame, I started looking around at original source material.

First I checked my copies of the Army & Navy Co-Operative Society catalogs. Sure enough, all the chests shown in my copies had turned feet that screwed into blocks in the bottom of the lower chest unit.

But something else nagged at me.

As you know, we love old paintings and drawings here at Lost Art Press. Thanks to Jeff Burks, Suzanne Ellison and our own efforts, we have amassed many hundreds of images relating to woodworking from Roman times to the present. These are important, if sometimes flawed, documents that are as important as written, if sometimes flawed, accounts.

An Officer's Quarters at Newry, Northern Ireland, C. 1870

An Officer’s Quarters at Newry, Northern Ireland, C. 1870

So I began scanning my library of paintings and drawings relating to campaign furniture. Sure enough, I immediately found several that showed campaign chests in use on their sledge feet – no turned feet.

There are several explanations: The turned feet were still in the lower drawer or had been destroyed by bugs or water. Or perhaps the owner of the chest was lazy or didn’t care for the feet. Or perhaps that chest was made without the turned feet.

No matter what the explanation, don’t feel like you are wrong if you don’t include them on your chest. Personally, I really like the feet, but some people are turned off by turning.

Campaign Furniture” is now available in our store (with free domestic shipping until April 5) and from Lee Valley Tools.

— Christopher Schwarz

H.E. Malet, "Interior of my Tent..." (detail) 1865.

H.E. Malet, “Interior of my Tent…” (detail) 1865.

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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11 Responses to In Defense of Sledge Feet

  1. Chris, do the turned feet screw in place? Maybe putting them on was too much of a headache. I used to have a heavy sofa that didn’t have feet until I could get some help hefting it up.

  2. paul6000000 says:

    I haven’t been able to figure out a way of justifying the expense of the hardware to my wife, so don’t expect to build a campaign secretaire any time soon but I’m happy that the book has lots of construction tips that apply to general casework. Glad I got it!

  3. Bob Jones says:

    When the feet are the only round surface I say it looks out of place.

  4. jstrom75 says:

    I have to agree with the above – the square feet look better to my eye with the square styling than the round ones do. A round foot just feels out of place.

  5. Still interested in having a conversation about American Empire. The entire piece has 4 handmade screws, not a lot of flash hardware.

    • lostartpress says:

      If you love it, then you have to make the case for it. Research it. Write the book.

      It’s not my thing, I’m afraid.

      • Sorry, I misunderstood. I thought you were a publisher.

        • lostartpress says:

          We are not a traditional publisher. We do not survey for subjects, assign topics to writers and try to hit a market.

          We run into people who are crazy and enthused enough about a topic to write a book. And then we publish it.

          My reply has no snark whatsoever. If you want something like that, you have to want it enough to do it yourself.

          • Chris, I understand that you are busy with your own interests. So am I, and I’m not trying to add to your workload.
            There’s very little published about AE furniture. Arkansas Made has quite a bit of information about cabinetmakers in ante-bellum Arkansas, competent widespread and prolific. Also photos of pieces from around the state, the Sagers in particular. Nutting shows ONE AE chest, most likely Philadelphia.
            Meanwhile, the antecedents are clearly English, and the joinery is always competent. I’m guessing that there were well-trained cabinetmakers in other states as well, and that all changed massively with the Civil War.

            So, to be clear, if I’m enthused enough to research and write a book, are you interested, or are you saying I should self-publish as well?
            Thanks for the reply, M

            • lostartpress says:

              If you write it, it will find a market and a publisher, whether that is us, another publisher or doing it yourself via “print on demand.” What I tell every potential author is to start doing the research and share it on a blog. Find people who are interested in the topic and can help you assemble an accurate picture of the topic.

              Once you have a handle on the style, the next step is to figure out how to introduce it to woodworkers. What are the classic and inspiring pieces? What is do-able for yourself and others in home workshops?

              The research/blogging is also the marketing mechanism for your book and creates the audience.

              There are other ways to write a book, but this is how we do it. Hope this helps.

              • Thanks, that’s what I’m doing. When I started to get questions about AE because my single blog post comes up on Google search, it’s apparent that very little has been published, digitally or print. Nutting, for instance…
                I’ll be re-sawing some walnut this summer, that should become a nice chest of drawers.
                Once again, not interested in wasting your time or mine. chisels are calling M

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