An Early Dutch Walnut Chair

A number of years ago I restored a unique seventeenth century Dutch chair belonging to the late Victor Chinnery (past President of the Regional Furniture Society, consultant to Christie’s, London and author of several publications and books including the standard reference work on early Oak furniture, Oak Furniture – The British Tradition). The chair was of a standard form but somewhat of a gilded lily in as much as it was made of European Walnut, but painted to simulate the very finest figured walnut.

The chair so captivated me, that while it was in my care, I took detailed drawings and measurements with an idea of one day making a copy of it.

The seat was caned with some of the finest caning I have seen. Traditional caning hasn’t changed much over the centuries except for the fineness of the individual strands of cane and the proximity of the cane holes. Later caning became somewhat coarser to the point where nowadays it is often clumsy looking with poorly prepared, ‘hairy’ cane (more frequently, machine made sheets of caning are now seen wedged into furniture).

Some years later I was thumbing through my drawings and decided to make a copy of the walnut chair as an exercise in fine caning. The chair frame would present nothing challenging to the average woodworker (there being only minimal carving in the form of a cushion moulding between two beads. The beads and cushion troughs were cut with a scratchstock and the intersections of the back legs and crest rail were achieved with masons’ mitres. Sourcing 1/16″ prepared cane proved impossible. I eventually split some 4mm cane down to the required width with a home made plane-like tool, gaining two strips in the process!

I didn’t want to paint my chair as the original had been, but I did pick out some pleasantly figured walnut for the job.

The walnut chair in-the-white.

Cushion moulding was a popular feature of the 17th and early 18th centuries.

Simple turned front legs and unadorned back legs.

The finished chair, aged and caned.

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About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
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