Picture This CXIX

I previously mentioned the propensity for common elm to warp in connection with Windsor seats in Picture This CX – Redux. It is no doubt due to the same tendency that elm wasn’t more broadly employed (in the solid) for the construction of fine eighteenth-century furniture.

However elm’s workability, resistance to splitting and wild, attractive grain found favour in Britain’s provinces for all manner of bucolic utensils, seating and case furniture (figures 1 & 2).

Fig. 1. An utterly charming George III elm dresser, circa 1780…

Fig. 2. … though there’s not a straight or flat stick in the whole thing.

Jack Plane

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 Furniture Timbers, Picture This and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Picture This CXIX

  1. Elm is wonderful wood, I’m coming to the end of a stash I bought 20+ years ago. It will be missed the it’s gone. Shame there is no more available.


  2. Sylvain says:

    I feel sorry for the owner/maker.
    How does it work in veneer form?


    • Jack Plane says:

      To be honest, this is about as bad as it gets; I haven’t previously seen anything made of elm so comprehensively distorted.

      Despite my highlighting the worst of common elm (other varieties don’t move as severely), when properly seasoned, it is a delightful timber. I have seen plenty of straight and stable elm furniture and I have personally made quite a number of solid elm pieces that have remained straight – well, as straight as they were made.

      Elm as veneer is fairly rare and then, usually only in burr figure. It works very easily as veneer.



  3. Tom Bristowe says:

    Yes; that really is charming. Matter of interest, how would the “pilaster effect” on the front edges be done? Scratched on, maybe? Or is “reeding” the word?


  4. Gav says:

    I would be interested in the percentage of still workable drawers… or doors for that matter. Have you had much to do with furniture made of elm which has moving parts? The grain is attractive though.


    • Jack Plane says:

      I’m sure all the doors and drawers are fully operational.

      The drawer linings of this mahogany chest were of elm, which took a soaking and subsequently warped. Elm can react severely when wetted and dried again – even after careful initial seasoning. I suspect this is the cause of many a warped Windsor garden chair seat.



  5. M.Dobbs Antiques says:

    How would you go about straightening the central drawer (if you wanted to)….I have a plan…!
    Very nice dresser Jack, the swirling grain is a nice feature.


    • Jack Plane says:

      Without inspecting the drawer first hand, I suspect it may be virtually impossible to straighten the drawer front. A flat, straight drawer would stick out like the dog’s proverbials, but if a one-off and the owner were insistent, I would saw (by hand) the front off as veneer and then lay it down on a new stable drawer front.



  6. M.Dobbs Antiques says:

    An alternative method might be to thin the drawer front, and then make comb type saw-cuts behind,
    laying the front onto a ‘not completely flat’ newly made backing, (or using wooden wedge type feathers glued in the saw cuts), making up the true thickness of the original front. The additional work with this would be adding new top & bottom edges, em veneer across the back, and finally colouring/ageing. Sounds like a big job has broken out!
    I always look forward to your posts Jack, very interesting & great fun – keep up the good work!


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