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Q & A: Cock-Beading on Drawer Fronts

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Q & A: Cock-Beading on Drawer Fronts


Q:

I have plans for a Queen Anne highboy in which the drawer beads are applied as separate strips to the edges of the drawer front. How is this done without creating a problem with cross grain movement?



A:

Some techniques common to the 18th century, like cock-beading on drawer fronts, seem daring or even reckless to us today. But keep in mind that 18th-century furniture wasn’t built with 20th-century central heating in mind. The dry air created by central heating has ruined many a fine antique. But take heart, if they could do it, you can do it too!

Here are some things you can do to minimize problems and still remain true to the construction techniques of the period: Select straight-grained wood for the front, back and sides of your drawers (look for rift to quartersawn boards). The deepest drawers in your highboy (7 in.) will exhibit negligible shrinkage in quarter- or rift sawn boards. Finally, if possible, add some humidity to the air where the piece will be displayed during dry months.

Here’s how cock-beading was made and applied in the 18th century, according to Gene Landon who builds authentic reproduction furniture in Motoursville, Penn.: The bead itself would have been made with a 3⁄16-in. side-bead plane and then cut away to yield a 1⁄8-in. bead. The rabbet in the drawer front was cut with a plow plane and finished with a shoulder-side rabbet plane.

The bead was then mitered to fit and glued onto the drawer. The bead on the sides of the drawer (where the end grain to long grain problem arises) was also fastened with toothpick- size wooden pegs. The pegs help to reinforce what would otherwise be a weak glue joint while allowing the drawer side to be planed for final fitting.



This story originally appeared in American Woodworker October 1999, issue #75.

October 1999, issue #75

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