Wainscot chair: two liberties

wainscot chair progress

I mentioned in some previous posts that I am making a copy of a wainscot chair from Hingham, Massachusetts, c. 1630-1680 or so. This chair, and another I had copied a year or two ago both descended in branches of the Lincoln family in Hingham, yet appear to be by different makers. Yet, both have similarities. I think I mentioned the use of two vertical panels, the crest rails have similar shapes, as do the arms.

The one I am working on now has very distinctive carved panels  that took me a few tries to get them “right.”  Here’s the proper left panel in the original chair:

 

 

 

proper left panel, original chair

It is a very simple carving, all executed with just a V-tool…but what was the layout? When I went to see the original chair, I didn’t get great pictures of it. By the time I got to carving these panels, I had printed this picture and it was the source I used to try and suss out how this carving was laid out & cut.  There are a few scant traces of some compass-work layout – the many arcs seem to emenate from a pair of scribed compass arcs. But these don’t seem to follow any rhyme or reason. So I winged it, and ruined two panels of oak. (one’s a total loser, the other can be planed down to become a plain panel somewhere)

 THEN I looked at the other panel in the original chair! It retains all its compass-layout, and now the design at least, make sense.

Lincoln chair back panels

So I went ahead and carved them like this.

PF carving of Lincoln chair panel

The liberties I took were these. The original panels, much like the crest rail, are essentially two different patterns, as a result of the execution of the carving. On the first panel I was following, the carver obliterated the layout. On the other panel, his arcs stem from the compass work… I chose to make two panels that retain the compass work, and make a more coherent design. As a single panel it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but once you put both panels side-by-side, the pair of them forms a composition that makes more sense.

both panels together

The other liberty I took (and this is a big one) is I used a pencil to mark out the arcs! I haven’t resorted to a pencil in five years. I found it helpful to draw these arcs, that way I could see how they would flow from the compass lines.

 Now, one other question comes up. In a previous post https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/wainscot-chair-notes/ I had shown and discussed the crest rail, and how the carver made an asymmetrical pattern, by blowing through a compass-derived layout. Now he’s done it again on the panels. Is it sloppy carving, or intentional? Ahh, he’s dead, so we’ll never know what he intended. some will speculate, but not me.

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4 thoughts on “Wainscot chair: two liberties

  1. I had shown and discussed the crest rail, and how the carver made an asymmetrical pattern, by blowing through a compass-derived layout. Now he’s done it again on the panels. Is it sloppy carving, or intentional?

    Hmmmmmmm, As I am always up to speculate about something i know very little to nothing about, i say the carver of this chair was left handed, YES, THATS IT!!!lol, and had difficulty in carving the opposite panel/crest.

    I like your version better as the panel carving makes more sense to me plus the inlay on the crest stands out more.

  2. That is one of the more dynamic and pleasing patterns I have seen. There is a strong sense of depth and motion, almost a trick of the eye, as if it were three or four inches deep!

  3. Why not sketch out with a pencil?

    We know that charcoal pencils existed in period, stretching back to at least the 16th century if not earlier.

    I have a 17th century charcoal pencil found in Holland. Seems to me a pencil isnt cheating…though I admit there was a time I would have thought that. Not anymore.

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