Building a Chippendale Broken Bonnet Highboy

I’m working on a miniature Chippendale Broken Bonnet Highboy, which in real life was popular in the early 1700’s in America.

The broken bonnet designation is descriptive of the pediment capping the main chest.  The highboy is basically a chest of drawers on top of a lowboy, which is a smaller chest of drawers usually with one long shallow drawer at the top and three drawers below it, one with ornate carving, and featuring cabriole legs.

This piece with a continuous straight or hooded top piece became popular during the William and Mary period.  The broken bonnet style became popular much later in the period, toward the Queen Anne period.

Chippendale embellished the pediments with finials and pieces like this one were built from solid mahogany.

I did some basic assembly of the lowboy portion and the highboy portion leaving the backing boards off each so that staining would be easier because I can get to both sides of the inner drawer casings with a brush and cloth.

The original design called for just gluing the finials on the top of the bonnet.  This makes for a fragile design susceptible to breaking these delicate parts off the bonnet when I’m staining the piece.  So I came up with a way to secure them on much more strongly using miniature medium rail spikes with the flat end snipped off.

I predrilled small holes matching the diameter of the rail spikes in the bonnet surface.  The rail spike in each finial serves to secure it to the top with much more strength than just a glue joint.  I will also finish the finials separate from the top and later glue them on with 2-part epoxy.

Likewise, I use 1/16″ dowels with predrilled holes in the lowboy underside where the cabriole legs are to be attached.  I’ll finish the lowboy and the legs separately, then glue them on the dowels in the lowboy later with 2-part epoxy.  The dowels will reinforce them so they will be less fragile.

I also use predrilled holes and dowels to join the lowboy to the highboy and the bonnet to the top of the highboy section, for added stability.

After a final sanding, I applied the sealer on all the end grains of the wood pieces, then I applied the base mahogany stain evenly over all the wood.  All the pieces are now drying overnight and tomorrow I should be able to work on applying the first coat of lacquer and glaze stain.


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