A Curious Irish Card Table

Amidst the 437 lots at de Veres Interiors Auction in The Pavilion at Leopardstown Racecourse, Foxrock, Dublin on October the 21st is lot 44; an Irish mahogany card table. The table is quintessentially Irish with its boldly shaped frieze, central shell motif and acanthus carving to the legs. “Not unusual at all” you might say, “A nice example of an Irish Georgian card table in fact”.

Mid-eighteenth-century Irish mahogany card table.

Stylistically, the legs are typical of what one would expect to see on such a table, however, on closer examination, the lower halves of all four legs are of lesser quality mahogany than the top of the legs and the rest of the table – they have all been scarfed mid-way up. Click on the image for a larger view.

In order to repair a broken chair or table leg, scarfing in a new piece of wood is all part and parcel of a restorer’s lot; however, these legs do not look like repairs. The scarfs are all at the same height and well above the level where typical damage to these types of legs would normally occur. The carving to the feet also appears to be contemporary.

Jack Plane

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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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16 Responses to A Curious Irish Card Table

  1. robert says:

    Must have been short on thick stock,

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  2. Joe M. says:

    Seems odd to have the knees carved the way they are and and the feet have that feather pattern. does not seen to be the same “feeling”. If you block out the feet you would not expect to see that design, maybe a ball/claw. I’m not extremly versed in all the possibilities and styles of the period but it does seem to not go together. It’s not a combonation I would have choosen. Would there have been embelishment on the side/rear of the foot?
    Joe ..

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    • Jack Plane says:

      Ball and claw feet were certainly another popular variation…

      Fig 2. Ball and claw feet.

      Irish furniture was inclined to be a bit more adventurous and fantastical. Lion paws were another common theme…

      Fig. 3. Lion paw feet.

      Drake feet (of which the feet on the table under discussion are a variation) were highly fashionable…

      Fig. 4. Drake feet.

      Fig. 5. Encore.

      Fig. 6. Encore.

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  3. Brian Eve says:

    Maybe the legs were repurposed from their intended original project?

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  4. robert says:

    The table you show with three tops is as pretty as I have seen. The lack of a carved knee doesn`t take away anything. Are the edged veneered with a ” D ” moulding? They all look alike.

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  5. Dave says:

    Pretty clean, high-angle scarfing, there; guess someone had a change of mind about what kind of feet they wanted? The legs have a bit more curve to them than I would expect to see, giving the table more of a bandy-leg look; some chinese cabriole type legs show this extra curvature, I wonder if there was some influence…

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  6. VALERIO D'ANGELO says:

    Hi Jack,
    How where held the table tops? With screws from the underside?
    The older ones nailed had held the proof of time or they had cracked or lifted, because of the movemente of the wood, corrosion of the nails and so on?
    Thanks, I love your works,
    Valerio D’angelo.

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    • Jack Plane says:

      At this date, tops were attached with screws inserted through pocket holes in the frame rails. Earlier table tops were pegged or nailed on. The nails did rust through on occasions, but the majority of nailed seventeenth-century tables remain intact.

      JP

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  7. VALERIO D'ANGELO says:

    Thanks very much. It’s because they used quarter-sawn wood, right?

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    • Jack Plane says:

      Prior to the utopian writings of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century woodworkers, the cut, orientation and grain direction of wood was seldom considered for table and cabinet tops: Figure was the overriding consideration.

      The only time the values coalesced was in the wainscot furniture of the late seventeenth-century.

      JP

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      • VALERIO D'ANGELO says:

        Thanks for your reply.
        I’m trying to figure out why they started to use screws, with the added work due to the pockets for nail in the inside of the aprons etc… if some simpe nailing or pegging would hold fine for long time.
        Are there some ahestetics reasons or a simple more security in the long term exchange of moisture, particularly in big table tops, because with screws from the underside of a table top can be allowed more space for wood movement?
        I see lot of photos of joined chest’s in very good conditions.

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        • Jack Plane says:

          During the Age of Oak, solid tops were pegged or nailed down however, with the advent of veneered carcases during the Age of Walnut, pegs or nails inserted through the veneers would have spoiled the appearance and if inserted beneath the veneers, would have telegraphed through the veneer.

          JP

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  8. VALERIO D'ANGELO says:

    Thanks,
    your answers are real brain opener for me.
    One last question if I can: would be drawer’s bottoms well blocked if nailed (at right angles)or screwed from the underside, instead of fitted in grooves? I mean, if blocked, and with well seasoned or dried wood, they would be secured, so can’t expand or contract much, like a table top or the rear panel of a case furniture, and less subjected of crackings. In fact I had some vintage (1939 circa) furniture, frame and panel construction, where the bottom of the big drawers are cracked, like the rear big framed panel of the wardrobe: would they had not cracked if nailed securly to the frame? (Sorry for my bad english). I want to understand why were developed systems like grooves etc… in parts where simple naiing or pegging would hold just well (rear panels, small drawer’s bottom, big case bottoms that don’t sustain weights.
    Thanks, Valerio.

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    • Jack Plane says:

      Wood that is ‘seasoned’ does not mean it will stop moving: Three hundred year old wood continues to expand and contract seasonally.

      Drawers with fixed bottoms distort with seasonal movement, though if made at the wetter time of the year, will tend to loosen as they dry and remain loose in the carcase. If made at the drier time of the year, they may expand in damper weather and tend to stick in the carcase.

      If you haven’t already read the post Drawer Front Dovetail Evolution, I recommend you do as it describes a change in drawer bottom orientation that greatly improved British furniture in the eighteenth-century.

      Grooved drawer fronts further accommodated drawer bottom expansion and contraction which virtually eliminated drawer distortion.

      JP

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