Bands of Feathers

The decoration of furniture in the late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-centuries falls into five categories; staining, painting, gilding, japanning and inlaying. Of the inlay techniques – parquetry, marquetry (floral and seaweed), stringing and banding – banding is surly the most prevalent.

In its simplest form, veneered carcase panels were bordered with crossbanding of the same variety of wood at 90° to the edges. More ornate effects might incorporate feather-banding made up from diagonally opposed strips of ash, fruitwood or walnut; or chevron or chequered banding made up from alternating strips of box and ebony or fruitwood; or a combination of feather, chevron or chequered banding with crossbanding.

A circa 1705 Queen Anne walnut bachelor’s chest, with 3/4″ (19mm) wide feather-banded drawers.

George II walnut chest of drawers, circa 1730, with 5/16″ (7.9mm) feather banding bordered by 3/4″ (19mm) crossbanding.

Feather banding can usually be purchased in various widths from veneer and inlay specialists, but it’s invariably too thin for antique restoration or authentic reproduction work as it’s normally in the 1/64″ – 1/32″ (0.4mm – 0.8mm) thickness range; seventeenth- and eighteenth-century veneer, by comparison, is typically 5/64″ – 3/32″ (2 – 2.4mm) thick.

Making feather banding

The process of making feather banding is not difficult, nor too time consuming. A walnut board is first planed square and then one end is cut at 45°. The skewed end is planed on a shooting board and then a slice, slightly wider than half the finished banding width, is cut off, again, at 45°. This sequence is repeated until sufficient pieces of walnut have been cut to accommodate the job in hand.

The diagonal slices of walnut are assembled in pairs, or ‘herringbones’.

The herringbones are glued, end to end, along the edge of a sacrificial board.

When the desired length of herringbones has been glued up, the whole is planed to the finished thickness, being careful not to create an imbalance by planing more off one side than the other.

Lengths of feather banding can now be sawn off the stock to the desired thickness.

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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.
This entry was posted in Techniques. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Bands of Feathers

  1. I always feel much more furniture-savvy after reading your posts! Also, it’s amazing what nearly 300 years can do to patinate walnut.

    Like

  2. Pingback: The Queen is Dead… uh… Long Live the Queen! | Pegs and 'Tails

  3. Pingback: A George II Walnut Serpentine Chest – Part Two | Pegs and 'Tails

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