An Aumbry for ‘The Furniture of Necessity’

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I am finally – finally – getting my butt in gear on “The Furniture of Necessity,” building the projects for my next book.

The most recent project has been this aumbry. What’s an aumbry? If you don’t follow my blog at Popular Woodworking Magazine, here’s the shorthand. An aumbry is an early case piece used to store food, books or anything of value.

You might argue that aumbries are only for holding the sacrament in a church, but you’ll have to talk to Victor Chinnery about that. (See also: Misnomers, Bible Boxes.) My interest in the aumbry stems from the fact that the form evolved into many pieces that we use today: bookcases, cupboards, armoires and the lowly kitchen cabinet.

Oh, and aumbries are dang fun to build.

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In essence, an aumbry is nailed together and features some gothic tracery on the front. The tracery is not merely decorative. It allows air to circulate inside the carcase.

The piercings were covered with cloth on the inside of the case to keep the bugs away. My guess (and the guess of others) is that the cloth would have been undyed linen, which is made from flax.

This aumbry was made from off-the-rack quartered and rift oak. The finish is boiled linseed oil, a wee bit of varnish and brown wax. The hardware is from blacksmith Peter Ross. If you are going to build one of these for yourself, you might want to drop Peter a line now to get in line for the lock, H-hinges and nails needed to build the piece.

All the hardware is secured by clenched wrought nails. It’s a fun way to install hardware (if you like driving while blindfolded).

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I haven’t installed the linen yet; I’m waiting until after a photo shoot next week. While I wait, I’ve been sketching up the drawings for the plate for this project and other plates in “The Furniture of Necessity.” The engraver is going to make these look very nice. So ignore my pixels.

The next project for “The Furniture of Necessity:” Welsh chairs. I can’t wait.

— Christopher Schwarz

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About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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9 Responses to An Aumbry for ‘The Furniture of Necessity’

  1. Quartered oak, scratch moldings, carvings, wrought nails, linseed oil… you better watch out or Follansbee might come to get you.

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  2. Sergeant82d says:

    I’ve been reading your various postings on this Aumbry with kind of a “Ho-Hum. Another neat thing that I’m not really interested in building” attitude. But just now, my wife saw the photo at the top of this posting and said she really liked it, even if she didn’t know what it was.

    So, now I have yet another project on the list! Thanks, Chris….

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  3. tsstahl says:

    Love the hardware. Will reserve judgment on the form as it is new to me.

    I do like casework that hides my messes. 🙂

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  4. riversjoinery says:

    Good luck with talking to Victor Chinnery. He passed on three years ago.

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  5. As soon as I saw the in-progress pictures on your Popular Woodworking blog I knew I was going to have to build one of these for myself. I showed it to the medieval scholar in our household (http://menysnoweballes.wordpress.com/) and she really likes it, so I know it’s a winner!

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  6. cmhawkins says:

    I’m excited to see that you’ve been working on the “Furniture of Necessity” book. This is going to be a great addition to the literature.

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  7. oldbaleine says:

    Hmm… I figured an ‘aumbry’ to be a dude who’s a little light in the loafers. As in, “Keep an eye on that aumbry over there; I think he’s about to make a dash into the opera house.”

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