A few months ago I purchased an old hardware cabinet at an antique store a few miles north of Wilmington, NC. It is not really a very large cabinet considering it contains 55 drawers – 37″ tall x 31-1/2″ wide x 8″ deep.
The story that the antique shop owner told was that it had once been in a hardware store in Warsaw, NC. The cabinet was behind the cash register for easy access by the store owner for some of the smaller items the store carried. I have been to the town of Warsaw a couple of times since and tried to trace the cabinet’s trail but have hit dead ends on every lead. So, its origin is a mystery.
The construction of the cabinet is pretty simple, other than the shear quantity of joints involved. The case and drawers are all held together with nails, not a dovetail to be found (sorry Mr. Firley).
There are several interesting things about it though, joinery aside. Most of the cabinet and the drawers came from recycled crating and cigar boxes. There is something interesting to see every time you pull out a drawer: old labels of all kinds, tax stamps and writing.
Of course, there are also the hand-painted labels on each drawer front. This to me is the coolest part of the cabinet. Whoever painted them obviously was skilled, but there are subtle differences in style of the numbers and letters between drawers and sometimes on the same drawer.
As far as when it was made, my guess is around 1900 from the cigar box labels and tax stamps that I have been able to date.
I just recently finished up a three-part article at WK Fine Tools building a copy of this cabinet (yes, I am still mostly sane after 113 dados). It is available here.
You can view hi resolution images here.
— Will Myers