The use of spirit and oil varnishes is documented well before the second quarter of the eighteenth-century whence this chair hails from. However, despite the protection and gloss that varnish affords furniture, chairs of this period often received nothing more than simple wax which, over time (and with periodic reapplications), develops into an attractive, thin, dry lustre.
Various mineral and vegetable waxes were readily available, relatively cheap and easily applied and maintained; moreover, no special equipment was necessary for their application. Unlike varnishes that necessitated expensive badger-, sable- or squirrel-hair brushes to apply them, this method of wax polishing could be carried out with a coarse rag and a soft cloth for final buffing.
I coloured and aged the chair to represent faded walnut furniture of the period and then gave it a couple of applications of wax polish (figures 1-4).
The seat squab was made up from oak off-cuts (as were many originals – I wasn’t being cheap) with walnut added to the corners. The walnut corners were similarly coloured and waxed (fig. 5).
I haven’t laid my hands on any rushes to complete the seat squab, so I’ll have it done by a professional bottomer whose services I used when I had the shop.