Popular Woodworking 2009-11 № 179, страница 46

Popular Woodworking 2009-11 № 179, страница 46



Put secrets where you can. A drawer divider on a blanket chest is a great spot for a secret compartment. So-called "wasted" space becomes fun, useful and intriguing.

You have to look closely. Many early high chests have secret drawers behind the cornice moulding. Lace and other highly revered items were kept there.

The secret's out. One of the most common areas for secret drawers in antique desks, and an area that's often copied in reproductions, is the pigeonhole valances.

a simple spring lock, also called a Quaker lock. This mechanism can be used in combination with other spring locks to provide an infinitely variable series of locks that keep a compartment closed.

Another common locking mechanism was the sliding dovetailed key. This amounts to a small piece of wood set into a dovetailed groove that slides into a mortise, which locks the hidden drawer or secret compartment.

These two simple locking mechanisms account for the majority of locks on secret drawers in 18th-century furniture. They were popular because they could easily be made in the shop, and, more important, they were easy to use. Creatively applying them in combination allows the furniture maker to create a secret compartment that is not easily opened.

Both locks start out using the same basic dovetailed key. They were usually made from a hard, springy wood. I used white oak in my examples. The spring lock would usually be a bit thinner and longer than the sliding key. This allows the spring lock to be flexed enough to allow it to be unlocked. The sliding key was usually a bit thicker and shorter in length. It relied solely on its ability to be completely removed from a mortise, thereby allowing the compartment to be revealed.

Lock Mechanisms Made Easy

Let's examine, step by step, how to make these two very common locks. First is the spring, or Quaker, lock. This lock has many applications but is particularly good to use in conjunction with hidden compartments. The photograph to the near right shows all of the tools necessary to make this lock. Although only hand tools are pictured, a router can also be used.

56 ■ Popular Woodworking November 2009

The most common place to find this lock is on the bottom of drawers in chests. In antique furniture, iron or brass drawer locks were expensive and took a lengthy period of time to acquire. A furniture maker might use a few metal locks for the lower drawers of a chest and a couple Quaker locks on the smaller, upper drawers. The spring mechanism is little more than a piece of hardwood attached to the bottom of the drawer using a sliding dovetail set at an angle. This allowed the front of the spring to catch a drawer blade (also known as a drawer divider) just below the drawer; that kept the drawer closed and locked. One would need to open the drawer below in order to access the spring on the upper drawer.

I usually start with a piece of oak about 1/8" thick (depending on the application) and a few inches long. Use a handplane to bevel the edges of the oak so it tapers toward the top. Make sure to keep the sides of the oak key parallel as you work. Check the angles to make sure they are planed to similar angles.

Check your tool chest. Eighteenth century furniture makers would have used tools such as these to create and install a Quaker lock or a sliding dovetail key.

Once you have the oak key cut, it's time to transfer the dimensions of the key to the piece in which the key gets installed. Set a bevel square to the angles of your key, then saw into the drawer bottom. The idea is to create a dovetailed channel that slopes upward from its back and reaches a vanishing point about half the length of the key.

Once you have the channel sawn, use a chisel to remove the waste. If you find it difficult to saw the sides of the channel, chopping the side angles with a chisel is acceptable. Use your handplane to adjust the key; make the key fit into the channel snugly. As you can see in the picture at the top right of the next page, the oak key now protrudes from the surface of the drawer bottom.

I f you want to use this Quaker lock with a secret compartment, say the prospectus of a fall-front desk, the spring is mounted in the desk interior with a corresponding catch in the prospectus bottom. To free the unit from the desk, remove the lower drawer ofthe prospectus to gain access, then through a small hole placed in the bottom panel, use a pin or

No fastener is required. The edges of the spring mechanism are planed to a dovetail shape to hold the spring in position as it's depressed. As pressure is applied to release the lock, the dovetailed sides push against the channel.

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