Make This Your First Lowboy

CT LowboyFor the past couple weeks, I’ve been working on SketchUp drawings for a Connecticut Lowboy discovered at the Connecticut Historical Society. The class happens at The Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking in September, immediately following the holiday weekend – the class runs from Tuesday through Saturday. (There are a few class spots left, so now would be a great time to contact Bob Van Dyke at the school to sign up.)

When I built The “Queen Anne Dressing Table” for the June 2010 cover of Popular Woodworking Magazine, I thought I had discovered the easiest-to-build lowboy ever. I was wrong. This project is easier, if you can believe that. And best of all, easy does not translate into ugly. IMG_0634In fact, when I wrote about my 2013 classes in January this year (read it here), I mentioned how this lowboy stopped both Van Dyke and me in our tracks.

What made the dressing table easy was that all the interior parts were nailed in place. What makes this piece easy is that there are few interior parts. Take a look at its inside. There is no top rail on the piece (the case top is the kicker to keep the drawers from tipping when extended), the two interior drawer dividers are solid pieces that run from front to back, drawer guides are nailed between the legs and the only runners are single pieces dovetailed into the front rail and centered in each opening.

Where a piece such as this picks up is pizazz is with details. One feature that makes this lowboy stand out is the cock-bead work at each of the cutouts in the front rail and at the sides. IMG_0623That work takes time to get right. But it adds a real punch to the finished piece. If you click to open the photo above, you can better see this detail. A second interesting detail, and one that makes me scratch my head and search for a connection, is the construction on the drawers. It’s not the fact that the bottoms are applied. That, along with the beaded moulding that wraps the drawer openings, indicates that this piece has an early origin. What I find interesting are the tapered drawer sides. This is nearly identical to the work found on the Shaker counter originally built by Grove Wright that I built for the June 2012 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. Is there a connection, or is this a construction method used in the region. Grove Wright spent time working at the Enfield, CT Shaker village.


Above is another photo of the interior of the Connecticut lowboy. In this photo you can see a drawer divider. Check out how the divider is angled as it stretches from front to back. Was this a way to save on material? Also notice how oxidation affects the coloration on the divider. What you see is not two pieces of lumber with different colors joined together. It’s the fact that the upper section has, for more than a hundred years, been protected by the drawer with the lower section constantly exposed to the elements.

You really should take the time to join us at CVSW as we build a great looking, simply constructed and high in detail Connecticut Lowboy. Register here.

Build Something Great!




Filed under Antique Pieces, Joinery

11 responses to “Make This Your First Lowboy

  1. How do you make those tight curves with the cock-beading under the apron?

    • There are a couple ways to get those bent. As you work with thin woods – I think these pieces are less than an 1/8″ thick – you can sometimes bend the smaller radii. If you look at an enlarged image, you can see where the builder used short pieces and cut and fit the crucial corners and super-tight turns. Also, there were plenty of brads or tacks used on the underside. A second method is to steam and bend the thin strips. A third method is to cut to a matching profile then finesse the fit.

  2. Mitch Wilson

    In the second photo, is that really a metal angle in the back of the left hand drawer holding the top in place? Somebody did a non-traditional repair, eh.

  3. JeremyLP

    This is really interesting. And the pictures are bringing more questions to my mind than they are answering.

    Can you break down the woods used in the original? It looks like the legs are curly (tiger) maple, the carcass cherry or mohag, and the two side drawer fronts look like QS sycamore.

    I am really interested in the raised lip the goes all around the bottom carcass as well, that is really cool. This is truly something that I would love to see in person.

    • No need to breakdown the woods, Jeremy. You nailed it. The legs are tiger maple and the case is cherry. What appears to be quartersawn sycamore – good eye – is also cherry, very quartersawn cherry.

  4. Joe

    My schedule refuses to cooperate with me and I see no way to attend the class. Will the plans for this piece be availible?

    • Joe,

      As a matter of fact, I am preparing this project for an upcoming article in Popular Woodworking Magazine. It will probably be in an issue later this year or early next year. Keep an eye out. It is a great piece to build.

  5. Joe

    The secondary wood/dividers/runners seem to be poplar? Is the back/rear panel also poplar?

    • In information I received from a fellow CT lowboy devotee, who got his information fro the Connecticut Historical Society, the secondary wood, including the back, is poplar. That raises an interesting question because most often pine is found as a secondary wood in piece built in and around New England.

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