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5 Chests - how things change

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Just4Fun

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I was at a museum today and what I found most interesting was not actually an exhibit. In an office there were 5 plan chests, for holding engineering drawings. It was obvious that they had one chest made and when that got full they made another, the same size & design. Then when that got full they made another. Rinse & repeat. Only one of the chests was dated, by a brass plaque on the front. This was clearly the oldest and was dated 1829. I would estimate that the newest one was made in the 1950s to 1970s era.

All 5 chests were the same size (I estimate 1000 wide, 800 deep and 700 high), but they differed considerably. The 2 oldest were made from a dark-coloured hardwood; I cannot say what. Not a local species anyway. The others were made from what I guess was a local wood, possibly birch, stained to look more exotic, but not as dark as the oldest 2 chests.

All 5 chests had 7 drawers each. On the oldest 2 chests the front of the drawers had hand-cut half-blind dovetails. The other chests had machine-cut half-blind box joints. The box joints were a tighter fit than the dovetails but looked awful in comparison when the drawers were open. When such a drawer was closed though it looked much the same as the drawers on the older chests.

All the drawers that I opened, on older and newer chests, had a strange flap inside. This was about 100mm wide. It normally lay flat, at the top front of the drawer and hinged to the drawer front. When the drawer was opened more than 100mm the flap could be swung "open" about 150 degrees, so it slanted outwards and upward from the top of the drawer front at about 30 degrees to the horizontal. It was not strong enough to take any weight. What purpose did these flaps serve? I have never seen anything like it before.

The chests had a sort of face frame with butt joints at the bottom corners and mitres at the top corners. The mitres on the oldest chests were faultless, completely tight. The mitres on the newer chests had opened nearest the inside of the joint. I am pretty sure the older originals would have been cut by hand whilst the newer ones were machine cut and they have not lasted as well.

Unfortunately photography was not allowed in the museum or I would have posted some pics. It was an interesting set of items to study though, with the same piece being made by different people using different materials and different techniques over a period of perhaps 100 to 150 years.
 

Beanwood

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Would the flap not be to prevent papers (Plans) crumpling on the front if the drawer were to be overfilled?
 

Jacob

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Would the flap not be to prevent papers (Plans) crumpling on the front if the drawer were to be overfilled?
Yes that's it. Also commonly had a fixed flap at the back to prevent papers being lost over the back edge when the drawer was full and being pulled out.
Always interesting to look at how stuff was put together - even better if you get a chance to pull it apart as there will be all sorts of surprises - e.g. the number of DTs holding carcasses together which you wouldn't know about as they are out of sight, or the unglued drawer runners going across the grain and allowing for movement - they get glued in by over enthusiastic restorers and the sides eventually split.
 
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MikeJhn

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I was expecting something totally different from the title, yes I have a strange mind.

But back on subject, all plan chests where made that way and mostly in Imperial to match Antiquarian paper size just a bit bigger than 31" x 53" or 787 x 1346, yes I am that old, my drawing board was an Antiquarian, but used with a double elephant T square to have space on one side for instruments, that is going back to the 60's, Oh and they where all left hand drive.

Smaller plan chests where made in Double Elephant as well at just over 26.5" x 40" or 673 x 1016, these in fact where more common.

Now who remembers the Arc light printer and yellow print paper?
 
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Adam W.

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I was expecting something totally different from the title, yes I have a strange mind.

But back on subject, all plan chests where made that way and mostly in Imperial to match Antiquarian paper size just a bit bigger than 31" x 53" or 787 x 1346, yes I am that old, my drawing board was an Antiquarian, but used with a double elephant T square to have space on one side for instruments, that is going back to the 60's, Oh and they where all left hand drive.

Smaller plan chests where made in Double Elephant as well at just over 26.5" x 40" or 673 x 1016, these in fact where more common.

Now who remembers the Arc light printer and yellow print paper?

My first proper job as the buyers office boy at John Laing Construction was to run up the plans for the quotes on an ammonia dyeline printer which used yellow paper on a roll.

I was the only one who could use the extremely fussy thing without it jamming. Obviously this magic touch meant that I came to the attention of all the departments in that office who needed plans and I became permanently attached to the damn thing.

I did a lot of printing and a lot of plan folding.
 

Jacob

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...

Now who remembers the Arc light printer and yellow print paper?
Dye line printing! I remember it well - and the smell of ammonia. Still in use I think. Last time I used one was probably 30 years ago when I took my tracing paper drawings into an architects office and used their machine.
 

Jamesc

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Wow this takes me back, my first job was in a drawing office. As the junior I always got the dyeline printing jobs, spent all day with the amonia. Still I never got a cold.
 

Jameshow

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Would they bit be similar to maritime chart chests?

Just a thought?

Cheers James
 

MikeJhn

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I am sure they are, the ones I have seen where much better built mostly in Mahogany and had fold over flaps on the outer edge from each side to keep the drawers closed in a swell, now days as with drawings its all CAD or Global positioning systems, I think the charts still exist in case of power failure, its handy to know what you going to crash into. 😎
 

Just4Fun

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Would they bit be similar to maritime chart chests?
I don't know. I had not considered that. I just now searched for maritime chart chest without finding anything similar, but that means nothing. The location is nowhere near the coast so if they are maritime chests they have travelled inland a fair way. Their current location is clearly not where they originated though, so it remains a possibility.
 
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