Pennsylvania Spice Chest

Pennsylvania Spice Chest

Spice chests of this type and general design were a popular status item throughout the 18th century in rural Pennsylvania.  First appearing in England in the 17th century spice boxes were not kept in the kitchen, but the parlor of a prosperous and well furnished home.  All sorts of valuables: jewelry, gold buttons, silverware – as well as spices were kept in the numerous drawers.  Chester County, Pennsylvania craftsmen from the 1740’s on use this drawer arrangement and included secret drawers and hidden compartments.

There are 11 dovetailed drawers plus 3 secret drawers and hidden compartments.  The case is made of walnut, with poplar and maple as secondary woods. The door panel veneers are ribbon mahogany, maple banding and burl walnut on the front, with birds eye maple on the interior.  For the finish, I first wiped on two coats of pure tung oil to bring out the grain and then padded on 6 coats of shellac.

Steve Latta’s design from Fine Woodworking magazine (January/February 2008) was a real help in making this possible.  I also was inspired by spice box articles from Glen Huey’s Popular Woodworking article (August 2011). The hardware was from Horton Brasses


Wood: Walnut, Poplar, Maple

Finish: Tung Oil and Shellac


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