Picture This CVIII

I have previously mentioned cross-grained mouldings (here and here) which, though out-of-period, are authentic.

The walnut chest-on-chest below is from the second quarter of the eighteenth-century and displays customary cross-grain banding and vertical veneer on the drawer fronts.

Fig. 1. Walnut chest-on-chest, circa 1740. (Philip Colleck)

The original cornice, sadly, is long gone – perhaps removed to clear a low ceiling or beam. The replacement cornice (probably dating from the last quarter of the eighteenth-century), is however, of long-grain mahogany (fig. 2).

Fig. 2. Later mahogany cornice. (Philip Colleck)

Oddly, the cornice’s Greek key element has been meticulously assembled from numerous individual pieces of wood rather than having been sawn from the solid, as is the norm.

Jack Plane

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The Sydney Fair 2017

The Sydney Fair (25-28 May 2017) at the Royal Hall of Industries Moore Park will be the largest International quality event for 10 years.  Over 50 of Australia’s outstanding dealers will be exhibiting (and selling) Furniture, Decorative Arts, Jewellery, Art, Prints and Posters, Books, Vintage Fashion and Couture and Luxury Vintage goods from all eras, Antique through to Contemporary Art.  This event is not to be missed. The Event includes a Couture Exhibition showcasing Evening Dresses from 1920s to 1990s from Chanel, Dior and many designers from the Hollywood era Travilla and Chapman, runway parades of vintage couture, film of the Paris catwalk parades from the 1950s and more.

The Royal Hall of Industries
1 Driver Avenue,  Moore Park, Sydney N.S.W.
Opening night Thursday 25th May 6.00pm to 9.00pm
Friday 26th and Saturday 27th May 11.00am to 6.00pm
Sunday 28th May 11.00am to 5.00pm
www.thesydneyfair.com.au
F  thesydneyfair
Tickets for sale at the door or online
$30 Opening night
$15 everyday of the fair
$10 Concession (not opening night)

Jack Plane

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A Pair of Forest Chairs – Part One

I want four or five Windsor chairs that can remain permanently outdoors on the front veranda of the new house. As I have blathered on about forest chairs on numerous occasions, I thought I would make a pair of them to begin with.

This particular variety of Windsor elbow-chair with its vasiform back splat follows a more general type of comb-back chair popular during the second half of the eighteenth-century.

The seats are of solid elm, the legs and back sticks are of ash, the arms are single-piece steam-bent ash bows and the arm posts, splats and crest rails can either be of ash or a drupaceous fruitwood of one sort or another.

The seats can be bell-shaped with gently curved front edges or D-shaped and flat-fronted (fig. 1). The arm posts are flat blades and simply shaped rather than the more usual turned or steam-bent items, but the most notable deviation from the archetypal Windsor is the absence of any stretchers.

Fig. 1. Green-painted stretcherless forest chair, circa 1800. (James Graham-Stewart)

I opted for bell-shaped seats and began by cutting the 24″ x 17-1/2″ x 1-3/4″ seat boards roughly to shape, then planed them flat and shaved and chamfered their edges (fig. 2).

Fig. 2. Elm seat boards.

The turned ash legs adhere to a traditional pattern popular during the second half of the eighteenth-century (fig. 3).

Fig. 3. Subtly turned ash legs.

Jack Plane

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Picture This CVII

Harlequin tables initially enjoyed popularity from the second quarter of the eighteenth-century. Several examples are known to have been made by John Channon and Thomas Potter – both esteemed London cabinetmakers.

The tables’ tri-fold tops (fig. 1) successively open to reveal a tea table and games table. The (normally) leather-lined games tables also double as writing tables and to that end, a leaf-spring assisted (or occasionally weight-driven) writing compartment can be released to rise out of the tables’ typically deep carcases (figs. 2 & 3).

Fig. 1. George II mahogany harlequin table, circa 1735.

Fig. 2. George II japanned harlequin table, circa 1730.

Fig. 3. George II mahogany harlequin table, circa 1730. (Solomon Bly)

Harlequin tables are not uncommon, however, the harlequin chest below may well be unique.

Fig. 4. George II mahogany harlequin chest, circa 1750. (Christopher Buck Antiques)

Fig. 5. In tea table mode… (Christopher Buck Antiques)

Fig. 6. … in games table mode… (Christopher Buck Antiques)

Fig. 7. … and in writing table mode. (Christopher Buck Antiques)

Jack Plane

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Easter Fare

Although they have been on sale in most of the major supermarkets since Boxing Day, cross buns were traditionally eaten on Good Friday.

In the eighteenth-century, cross buns were sold hot, door-to-door (fig. 1).

Fig. 1. Thomas Rowlandson, Cries of London, Hot Cross Bunns two a Penny Bunns, circa 1799.

Happy Easter to one and all.

Jack Plane

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A George II Walnut Serpentine Chest – Part Seven

The external surfaces of the chest were washed down with hot soapy water to remove any wayward glue, grime and fingerprints. The chest was then stained and the first lick of spirit varnish applied to seal it (fig. 1). The colour and polish were gradually built up over several days.

Fig. 1. Initial colour.

I next applied a red lead-based wash to the chest’s underside (fig. 2).

Fig. 2. Lateritious wash protects pine surfaces.

The handles’ pommels didn’t protrude quite far enough through the 7/8″ thick drawer fronts, so I recessed the backs of the pommel holes and cut slots in the nuts (fig. 3) – a not uncommon practice.

Fig. 3. Slotted pommel nuts are tightened with a forked screwdriver.

I continued polishing the chest, being particularly careful to prevent any polish build-up in the blind frets (fig. 4).

Fig. 4. Shiny frets with dull edges.

I cut a piece of pure wool baize to size and stuck it into the shallow recess in the slide with traditional flour paste (fig. 5).

Fig. 5. Baize-lined slide.

A pair of pine stops was screwed onto the top rear of the slide, which come to a halt against the back of the top packer at the front of the chest, thus preventing the slide from being entirely withdrawn (fig. 6).

Fig. 6. Slide-mounted stop and slide cutout.

A section at each side of the slide is cut out (fig. 6) to accommodate the carcase-mounted stops which prevent the slide being pushed too far into the chest (fig. 7).

Fig. 7. Slide stops screwed to dustboard support.

With the stops all screwed in place, the panelled back could finally be attached (figs. 8 & 9).

Fig. 8. Washed pine back.

Fig. 9. Shaped rear pine brackets.

When the polish had had sufficient drying time, I mounted the brasses to the slide and drawers and waxed the whole thing (figs. 10 – 16).

Fig. 10.

Fig. 11.

Fig. 12.

Fig. 13.

Fig. 14.

Fig. 15.

Fig. 16. The completed chest of drawers.

The hours involved in the work in this post come to 30-1/4.
The total hours involved amount to 280-3/4.

Jack Plane

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The Vagaries of Mounting Ladies

Whilst viewing an estate clearance sale recently, a few old tack room fittings and stable accessories reminded me of some of the esoteric accoutrements so beloved of wealthy eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century equestrians.

Fig. 1. Extravagant mahogany boot jack by Gillow, circa 1820.

When, myself, a lithe young horserider, I would grasp the reins and a handful of mane in my left hand, raise my left foot into the stirrup and hoist myself into the saddle in the time honoured fashion (fig. 2).

Fig. 2. Jacques Swebach, Man Mounting Horse, circa 1800.

Nowadays however, to assist this old wooden Plane mount the dapple-grey mare betimes, an up-turned bucket must suffice.

Traditionally, stableyards, inns and other busy hubs were equipped with substantial mounting steps (fig. 3), which enabled corpulent gentlemen to mount their horses with relative ease.

Fig. 3. Permanent stone mounting steps.

Mounting steps were not always to hand, so eighteenth-century gentlemen would often call “leg up!” – indicating to a nearby groom or rustic that he was ready for them to clasp their hands beneath his proffered riding boot and heave him up into the saddle. However, it would have been unthinkable for a lady to be manhandled by a groom in the same undignified manner with the abiding possibility of his head and shoulders disappearing beneath the voluminous skirts of her riding habit.

At any rate, it was improper for a lady to throw her leg over a horse’s back and ride astride it (fig. 4), instead, demure ladies rode sidesaddles to protect their virtue (figs. 5 & 6).

Fig. 4. Abounding eighteenth-century innuendo.

Fig. 5. George Stubbs, Lady Laetitia Lade, circa 1793. (The Royal Collection)

Fig. 6. Charles Hancock, Lady Portarlington on a Grey Horse, circa 1845. (National Trust, Mount Stewart)

Exertion of any sort was deemed unladylike, so other means of mounting ladies in a courtly manner was preferable.

In 1739 a London gunsmith, Henry Marsh patented a portable spring-loaded contrivance for elevating ladies into their sidesaddles. The device met universal approval and was  produced by such makers as Bainbridge, Gillow and Fowler (figs. 7, 8 & 9).

Fig. 7. Bainbridge mahogany ‘lady’s elevator’, circa 1790.

Fig. 8. Gillow mahogany elevator, circa 1810.

To operate a lady’s elevator, a brace of hefty serfs would sit on the seat in order to compress the two enormous internal coil springs whereupon the operative would insert two chocks through apertures in the rear of the base, engaging the springs and securing them in a ‘loaded’ state. The serfs would then retire.

With the aid of a pullout step in the front of the elevator, a lady would take a seat on the contraption and an attending groom would position her horse, side-on, in front of her. When composed, the lady would call out “chocks away!”[1] whereupon the operative would reef the chock ropes, releasing the springs and her ladyship would be propelled aloft and onto the back of the waiting horse.

Predictably, things didn’t always go so swimmingly.

Prior to Rotherham spring-maker, Richard Tredwell’s patent of 1763, coil spring manufacture wasn’t an exact science – in spite of Robert Hooke’s much earlier Law of Elasticity. Elevators’ substantial coil springs made no allowance for the variable weight of individual female projectiles and as a result, the outcomes were many and irregular.

Some ponderous women were merely ejected, quite gently, onto their feet and other, petite women frequently attained frightening heights and occasionally overshot their mark. Further, the release of the elevator could startle inexperienced horses, causing them to bolt, leaving the rider to indecorously impact the ground.

Spring elevators remained largely unaltered throughout the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries with the exception of a few notable modifications to their release mechanisms. In 1770 Fowler introduced a convenient release knob atop the right rear leg of their ‘self ejecting elevator’ (fig. 9).

Fig. 9. Fowler mahogany elevator with release knob, circa 1770. (Christie’s)

However, Fowler’s self-ejecting model only enjoyed brief popularity: The mechanisms wore rapidly and frequently misfired, releasing only the right hand spring and inelegantly discharging its human missile some distance off to the left.

U.S. manufacturer, Hammer McCavity produced an adjustable gas-powered elevator with self-contained cylinder and a rider-operated release lever (fig. 10).

Fig. 10. Early gas-powered mahogany elevator, circa 1845.

The attraction of gas elevators was that they could be finely tuned to suit the weight of an individual by adjusting the in-built pressure regulator. However unreliable gauges and misuse of the device resulted in numerous accidents and some horrendous injuries.

Although occasionally unpredictable and somewhat perilous, elevators were broadly welcomed by both ladies and gentlemen. The wealthy Yorkshire wool merchant and Parliamentarian, Thomas Goode famously attributed his wife’s elevator (and several heavy landings on her sidesaddle) to her eventual success in bearing him an heir.[2]

Fig. 11. John Sergeant, Fanny Goode, circa 1774.

Jack Plane

[1] The cry later made famous by World War I pilots when preparing for take-off.

[2] Hilary Legges-Askew, The Lady’s World, Cassell, London, October 1886, p. 18.

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Picture This CVI

When preparing another post recently, I noticed something a little peculiar about this rather glorious chest of drawers (fig. 1). Study figures 1, 2 & 3 for the foible before scrolling down to figure 4.

Fig. 1. “George II mahogany serpentine commode with fine original rococo handles, circa 1755”. (James Graham-Stewart)

Fig. 2. Rococo escutcheon. (James Graham-Stewart)

Fig. 3. Lovely rococo handle. (James Graham-Stewart).

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Fig. 4. That’s better! (James Graham-Stewart)

The top of the escutcheons are too tall for the offset of the chosen locks’ drill pins, necessitating them being rotated 180° in order to clear the cockbeading.

Jack Plane

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Patches II

Having read the earlier post Patches, Pablo Bronstein sent me a few pictures of a walnut escritoire in his possession with an unusual patch in its lower left side (figs. 1 & 2).

Fig. 1. Inlaid quadrant ebony stringing. (Pablo Bronstein)

Fig. 2. Measure twice, inlay once. (Pablo Bronstein)

I assume the inlay was added post 21st October 1805.

Jack Plane

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A George II Walnut Serpentine Chest – Part Six

Eighteenth-century bow and serpentine drawer fronts were constructed in one of two ways: The most basic method was to simply saw the sweeping shape out of the solid (fig. 1). The other technique (to minimise distortion and ultimately, poor fit) was to laminate the drawer fronts using either short blocks of wood (akin to brickwork), or with continuous lengths of wood.

Fig. 1. Solid oak serpentine drawer front, circa 1770.

Not having many details of this chest, I based the drawers on a similar, mahogany chest and sawed a series of shaped lengths of pine (fig. 2) which were then glued-up into the respective drawer fronts (fig. 3).

Fig. 2. Partially shaped drawer front laminations.

Fig. 3. Glued-up drawer fronts.

Once the drawer front interiors were faired, I used the flat outer face of each drawer front as a register from which the dovetails were laid out. That done, the dovetails were cut and the drawer fronts’ outer faces were then sawn to shape. The drawer linings were prepared, the dovetails all cut and the drawer shells assembled.

The main veneers were glued to the drawer fronts (fig. 4) and trimmed, after which the feather- and cross-banding were added to the peripheries (fig. 5).

Fig. 4. Book-matched veneers glued onto drawer front.

Fig. 5. Top edge of veneered and banded drawer front.

The drawer edges were cleaned up and the partially finished cockbeads were glued in place (fig. 6).

Fig. 6. Rough-sawn interior edge of cockbead.

When dry, the cockbeads were also cleaned up (fig. 7)

Fig. 7. Finished drawer front interior.

The drawer bottoms comprise a couple of boards, rubbed together and cleaned up, with their front edges sawn to fit the grooves in the drawer fronts. The bottoms were nailed into rebates planed in the drawer sides’ lower edges (fig. 8).

Fig. 8. A few nails secure the drawer bottoms to the sides.

The drawer runners were prepared and rubbed into the angles created by the drawer bottoms and side rebates. Once dry, the runners were carefully planed down to provide sufficient clearance for the drawers to glide freely and smoothly within the carcase (fig. 9).

Fig. 9. Runner rubbed in place and cleaned up.

The dressing slide consists of a free-floating pine panel retained within a simple walnut framework. The slide is also cock-beaded in a similar fashion to the drawer fronts.

A pair of drawer stops was rubbed onto each drawer divider (fig. 10).

Fig. 10. Simple pine drawer stop.

The slide however, requires two pairs of stops; one pair (screwed to the rear of the carcase sides) prevents the slide disappearing inside the carcase and a second pair (screwed to the rear of the slide) stops it being completely withdrawn.

Fig. 11. The serpentine chest in-the-white.

The hours involved in the work in this post come to 89-3/4.
The total hours involved to-date come to 250-1/2.

Jack Plane

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