I haven’t got to much photography lately, thus not many entries on current work. I did snap a quick view of a recent box, almost completed here.
It’s red oak and white pine, and all that remains is a base molding that will run around the front and sides of the bottom. The carving on the front is based on a photograph I saw in Victor Chinnery’s Oak Furniture: the British Tradition, still a great book, now almost 30 years after publication. The carvings on the sides I made up, based on some work I saw years ago while touring parts of England with Chinnery. I’ve been very fortunate to have Vic take me under his wing and show me around bits and pieces of England to view oak furniture in some amazing settings…thanks Vic.
A reader commented on one of my recent posts and mentioned that he liked the chair behind me in one of the photos. I think we’re talking about this joined & carved example. It’s oak, carved and painted. The paint is made from linseed oil with iron oxide & lampblack pigments. The chair is copied from two examples surviving from Ispwich Massachusetts…I copied the proportions and construction details, and mixed the carving patterns from various related examples of chests & the two chairs. It should have three turned finials on the upper rear section of the chair…I just have never bothered to make them and install them. One day…
My favorite wainscot chair is this three-legged example that I copied from one in the Chipstone collection in Milwaukee, WI. It’s large, and most important of all, it’s comfortable. It was too big for our house though so I gave it to a friend of mine for his 50th birthday…but I was just thinking about making another one recently, and keeping it in the shop…in my spare time.
Both of these chairs are based on originals that probably date from the mid-to-late seventeenth-century. I did an article years ago about the three-legged one, it’s in American Furniture 1998. You can view it online at www.chipstone.org go to publications – american furniture – 1998 – then scroll down to the article “A Seventeenth-Century Carpenter’s Conceit”
Here’s some more steps in the turned chairs I’m making. I assembled a front section for one of the four-legged chairs, which will have a woven seat. To bore the holes for the front rungs I fix the post on my workbench with a holdfast. The post is cradled in two Vee-blocks, what Joseph Moxon called a “joiner’s saddle” in the seventeenth century. There’s many ways to hold these things for boring, but I have taken to this one – I find it comfortable. Then I use a brace and bit, in this case a 3/4″ reproduction spoon bit. The square is to help align the bit; I line it up, bore a little, then squat down to sight the square & bit again…then make any necessary adjustments, and keep boring. The only complaint I have with these repro spoon bits is that the shaft is too short. Seems they are made for Windsor chairmakers, and the rest of us are stuck with them…I’d like it longer.
Once the holes are bored, I drive the rungs in place. The seat rung is not turned on the lathe, it’s just shaved with a drawknife. Then I start driving them in place. Usually I work without glue; this chair I glued, it’s going to Arizona, so I figured the glue won’t hurt.
This reproduction chair I made last year is based on an original in Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth, Massachusetts. That chair belonged to Governor William Bradford of Plymouth. In his probate inventory, dated 1657, there are several chairs listed along with other pieces of furniture. Most seventeenth-century documents just list “chair(s)” – yet Bradford’s inventory has several descriptive adjectives. Still, these are not terribly enlightening. Here’s most of the furniture in his inventory:
“a Court Cubbard £1-05, winescot bedsteed and settle £1-10, 4 lether Chaires £1-12, 1 great lether Chaire 10s, 2 great wooden Chaires 8s, a winscott Chist & Cubburd £1-05, 2 great Carved Chaires£1-04, a smale carved Chaire6s, 1 great Chaire and 2 wrought stooles£1, a Carved Chist £1″
So, the Pilgrim Hall chair is clearly not a leather chair, nor is it a carved chair, either great (large) or small. It could be the “great Chaire” listed along with 2 wrought (upholstered with textiles) stools; but it is most likely one of the “two great wooden Chaires.” It’s the “wooden” that gives it away, it refers to the material the seat is made from, much like the “leather” chairs.
The finish on mine is conjectural, and is something of a comprimise…there is next to nothing known about what color period turned chairs were finished, but iron oxide was a common pigment used in joined work. There are some nice turned chairs that show up in Dutch paintings of the period with leopard-skin paint schemes, or blotchy polka-dots…I hope to give this a try, but perhaps on a simpler chair first.
This chair has 40 of the decorative turned spindles. The version I’m working on now, based on a Boston example, only has 24. In both cases, the turned work is ash, the seating boards are oak.