Picture This CXIV

The fairly plain ash, elm and oak ‘country Chippendale’ chairs – with their silhouette vasiform back splats and wooden seats (fig. 1) – were popular during the last quarter of the eighteenth-century and were made in emulation of their more ornate urban mahogany cousins.

Fig. 1. Ash country Chippendale chair, circa 1780. (Allpress inc)

It should be no surprise then that a Windsor chairbler should also have had a go at one (fig. 2).

Fig. 2. Elm ‘Chippendale’ Windsor chair, circa 1780.

Jack Plane

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The Melbourne Fair 2017

The Melbourne Fair
Antique, 20th Century, Art Deco, Vintage
23rd to 26th November
Caulfield Racecourse
Indoor Concourse Space
Gate 23, Station Street
Caulfield East, Victoria

Opening Night 23rd November 6-9pm, 24th November 11am-6pm, 25th November 10am-6pm, 26th November 10am-5pm

If you think The Melbourne Fair is only for lovers of 18th Century Antiques, think again, over 60 of Australia’s best 20th Century, Art Deco, Vintage and Antique dealers will be at Caulfield Racecourse from the 23rd to 26th November with thousands of pieces. Each piece is individually selected by the exhibitor with so many items absolutely unique.

Buy an engagement ring, a dining suite for Christmas, a fabulous necklace from a Hollywood Costume designer from the 1950s, a poster or print, everything from Furniture, Art, Lighting, Bronzes, Porcelain and glass. Then there is the Vintage fashion from the 20s to Designer today, names like Dior, Ceil Chapman (Marilyn’s favourite designer), Chanel, – fashion, bags, jewellery. There is something here for everyone in every price range.

And for those Vintage Fashionistas, we have a great exhibition showcasing Decades of Vintage Evening gowns from the 20s onwards. It’s a selling exhibition so at the end of the fair you can take something home to wear. On the weekend we will be having some great fashion parades showcasing evening dresses and ballgowns from all eras, film of catwalk parades from houses like Dior in the 1950s. More events to come.

Tickets for The Melbourne Fair are now on sale, starting from $10 for concession, $15 general day admission to $30 for the opening night.

Buy your tickets at http://themelbournefair.com.au/buy-tickets/.

You can also follow the latest news on Facebook.

Jack Plane

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Significant Piece of Kentucky Furniture Shatters Records

The most significant piece of Kentucky furniture to ever come to market shattered the record for furniture made in the Bluegrass State when it sold for $498,750 at Cowan’s Auctions on Saturday, October 21.

Captain John Cowan’s “desk and bookcase”, circa 1796. (Cowan’s Auctions)

Wes Cowan, Cowan’s principal auctioneer and executive chairman (no relation to Captain John Cowan) said, “Importantly, the piece demonstrates conclusively that the market recognized this as an incomparable rarity. For scholars of Kentucky furniture it is validation for what some have said for years: that great high-style furniture was being made in the 18th century Bluegrass region.”

Captain John Cowan (1748 – 1823) was one of the first settlers of Kentucky in 1773 arriving with Thomas Bullit at the Falls of Ohio where he helped survey the land that is now Louisville. A year later, he was one of the founders of Harrod’s Town, the first permanent European settlement in Kentucky. By 1784, Cowan was a prominent enough citizen that his plantation was labeled on John Filson’s map of Kentucky, one of the first maps of the territory. At the top of that first map, Cowan, alongside Daniel Boone and four others, was acknowledged for his assistance in constructing what was said to be the most accurate Kentucky map of its time.

Jack Plane

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Picture This CXIII

What’s going on here?

George III mahogany chest, circa 1770. (Christian Davies)

Jack Plane

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Picture This CXII

Several readers have, at various times, enquired why some eighteenth-century drawers have escutcheons – and indeed, keyholes – when no locks are (or ever were) present.

Locks were expensive items and not all drawer contents necessitate such elaborate protection. In a time when the majority of furniture was commissioned, a full complement of locks (with their drill pins peering out of the escutcheons) would have been quite the status symbol; however, for the budget-conscious, keyholes and escutcheons alone would have at least, alluded to the same opulence.

The long drawers of chests and bureaux etc. were commonly fitted with locks whilst the short drawers often went without, however there was a simple option for a reasonable level of security without the expense of fitting locks to all drawers.

The central drawer of the low dresser in figure 1 bears a brass backplate-cum-escutcheon and there isn’t a keyhole in the drawer front, yet the drawer is lockable.

Fig. 1. Oak low dresser, circa 1750. (Walton House)

By unlocking the door, a wooden spring catch on the underside of the drawer can be depressed, allowing the drawer to be withdrawn (fig. 2).

Fig. 2. Drawer with spring catch. (Walton House)

The wooden catch is nailed into a sloping mortise in the underside of the drawer bottom (fig. 3).

Fig. 3. Protruding spring catch. (Christopher Storb)

When the drawer is fully inserted into the carcase, the front edge of the catch springs down through an opening in the subjacent dustboard (where fitted) and engages the rear of the drawer divider (fig. 4).

Fig. 4. Apertures for accessing spring catches. (Christopher Storb)

I employed a similar catch to secure the tabernacle in an ash bureau (fig. 5).

Fig. 5. Sloped recess and access hole for spring catch.

Jack Plane

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Starry, Starry Drite

This cupboard was described by a dealer as “astral glazed”.

George III painted corner cupboard, circa 1790.

Jack Plane

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William Kent Chair Conservation

The Wallace Collection recently completed conservation of an eighteenth-century English chair, which has not been able to be on display for some time because of its condition.

The chair is believed to be part of a set, designed by William Kent in c.1730, and made for the 3rd Earl of Burlington at Chiswick House. William Kent was a decorative painter, architect and celebrated designer whose work was inspired by his travels to Italy.

The extensive work would not have been possible without the help of the Friends, Benefactors and members of the public who generously supported the conservation appeal.

An English Armchair in Kentian Style, c. 1730.

Jack Plane

Posted in Antiques, Furniture Restoration | Tagged | 5 Comments

Picture This CXI

A dealer is currently offering this walnut chest for sale and describes it as Queen Anne with original brasses.

What do the sleuths say?

Fig. 1.

Fig. 2.

Fig. 3.

Fig. 4.

Jack Plane

Posted in Antiques, Picture This | 22 Comments

A Trio of Lath-Back Windsor Chairs – Part Three

The chairs were washed down with hot soapy water and then stained. When dry, I (spirit) varnished the chairs, during which, I gave them a little additional colour before finally waxing them (figs. 1-12).

Fig. 1.

Fig. 2. The pegs were intentionally made proud of the crest rail to emulate 250 years of natural shrinkage of the rail.

Fig. 3. Likewise, I simulated the build-up of grime in appropriate places.

Fig. 4.

Fig. 5.

Fig. 6. Baluster turnings on front legs only.

Fig. 7.

Fig. 8.

Fig. 9. Rear of crest rail.

Fig. 10. Bob tail and bracing sticks.

Fig. 11. Three chairs for the new house! Hip hip…

Jack Plane

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In Favour of a Bigger Hammer

My recent production of Windsor chairs prompted a reader – himself, a Windsor chair-maker – to contact me concerning the moisture content of various chair parts.

We exchanged several emails, the content of which I have précised and edited together with a couple of similar emails from other chair-makers into the following dialogue.

Chairbler: I made a small kiln with a light globe in it. I put the ends of my turned legs and stretchers in there overnight to really bring the moisture down before I turn my tenons. What method do you use to dry your tenons?

JP: I don’t go to such lengths to dry them: In the damper months, I may leave partially-turned legs and stretchers in the shop for a while before completing the tenons.

Chairbler: It’s essential to have dry tenons to avoid your joints working loose. I dry all my tenons and haven’t had a single failure. Do you use kiln dried lumber for your chairs?

JP: Obviously sound joints are a prerequisite of any furniture. I use air-dried wood for the chairs I make and bring it into the shop as and when required. I haven’t experienced any chairs falling apart either.

Out of interest, does it require much effort to assemble one of your chairs?

Chairbler: After I have dried my legs and stretchers I accurately turn my tenons so they are a snug fit. This makes the chairs easy to assemble and when the tenons get back to equilibrium they swell and tighten.

JP: With only a “snug fit” during assembly, are you concerned at all about any effects that might arise from the mortises becoming ovoid as they dry out? Do you artificially dry seats and crest rails too prior to boring the mortises in them?

Chairbler: I don’t think it’s necessary and I haven’t tried it. I am amazed you get good joints using air dried lumber.

JP: All my learning is based on observation of traditional methods. The majority of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Windsor chairs were made from – at best – air-dried wood and many were made using green wood (or something between green and air-dried). I too turn tenons fairly precisely however, I turn them to be a pretty tight fit which require a big hammer to assemble (as does all the other joinery and dovetailing I produce – I’m not fond of “snug”).

Fig. 1. A big hammer being employed to knock stretchers into legs.

Fig. 2. Thumping an undercarriage into a seat.

During examination of period Windsor chair joints, this method is evident where the rough-turned tenons have dragged the fibres in the mortise sides in the direction of entry and which are locked for perpetuity by the glue.

The survival of many thousands of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Windsor chairs endorses the efficacy of this simple technology.

Jack Plane

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