John McAlister

Member of the Charlotte Woodworkers,
 Wins 2001 The 
Society of American Period Furniture Makers annual award for lifetime achievement

From the SAPFM website at

"Cartouche" Award: A highlight of our meeting is the recognition of an exceptional period furniture maker with the awarding of the Cartouche, the SAP FM's annual award for lifetime achievement. The Cartouche is a bronze casting off a carving by SAPFM member Gene Landon of an 18th century Philadelphia cartouche of a Joseph Ellicott clock. This year the Executive Council is excited to announce that John McAlister of Charlotte, North Carolina will receive the award. John has been working wood as an amateur for almost 35 years, most of it satisfying his passion for building 18th century American period furniture. He is a self-taught, consummate craftsperson whose introduction to furniture making was Marlow's Fine Furniture for the Amateur Cabinetmaker. John made all the pieces in the book. In fact, no period piece has ever intimidated John, but that is to be expected from this former fighter pilot who flew P-51's during WW II. His home is filled with his work including his masterpiece Goddard-Townsend secretary. This piece was featured on the back cover of the April 1998 Fine Woodworking. Like many period furniture makers who started before woodworking magazines appeared, John has visited countless museums inspecting and measuring pieces of furniture that he later recreated in his basement workshop.

John embodies a special dedication to our craft and has always been willing to share his plans, research, and knowledge with fellow woodworkers. Jeffrey Greene thanked John on the title page of his book American Furniture of the 18th Century for his suggestions and encouragement. Numerous testimonials were received during the Cartouche selection process on John's behalf thanking him for his help.

The Society of American Period Furniture Makers is honored to award gentleman and cabinetmaker, John McAlister with this year's Cartouche Award.


John has made available plans for several of the pieces he built.

Memo to: Whoever might look at these plans, notes or photographs

From: John W. McAlister, Jr.

Subject: Explanation of what you have!

Please know that these plans were never intended to be anything other than a guide to help me build a piece of furniture to reasonably resemble the picture of whatever original 18th century American piece I was looking at. They were scaled from photographs so certainly are not exact in any form or dimension. I am not a draftsman, by any stretch of the imagination, and did not draw in many (if any) construction details. You should not try to enlarge the drawings to create patterns of the various components. I would take the dimensions of the component I needed a pattern for and make the full size pattern. During construction, I might change some dimension that didn't seem right; sometimes noting the change on the drawing; often not doing so.

In other words; when I drew these plans it never crossed my mind that anyone else would ever lay eyes on them. I am not a purist, and on some pieces I mixed regional differences; much frowned upon by the purist. I dumbed down some carvings to something I could carve. Again, frowned on by the purist. (Purist frown a lot!) But my hope then was to make everything that showed look authentic to the period.

Note that with some of the pieces I identify them with a Williamsburg number. This number is from the catalog of the pieces Kittinger Furniture Co. built as official Williamsburg Reproductions.

To enable the plans to be viewed online, some of them have been split into multiple PDF documents. The files will open into a new window and can be view or downloaded. You will need a PDF reader to access these plans.

Image Project

Blockfront Chest

Chippendale Desk


Connecticut Lowboy

Corner Chair

Dressing Table

Drop Leaf Table

Hepplewhite Sideboard

Horning Desk

Newport Chest

Newport Style Tall Clock

Pembroke Table

Queen Anne Dining Table

Townsend Goddard

William And Mary Dressing Table

Williamsburg Chest