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The Furniture Record

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Capturing Furniture in the Wild
Updated: 41 min 1 sec ago

There Are No Rules.

Sat, 04/22/2017 - 9:04pm

Let’s recap what we know about chairs. There are one-legged chairs:


One leg is enough.

Two-legged chairs:


Obidos, Portugal


Go with me here.

Three-legged chairs:


Obviously a Canadian chair.




Ancient in appearance.

And the conventional four-legged chairs:


Primitive chairs.


Modern chairs.


Abstract chairs.

Today, we were on the Eastern shore of Virginia tracking down the final resting place of my wife’s dead relatives. By 2:00 PM, we were out of places to look and relative to look for. As it happens, there was a large antiques mall just a few miles up the road. And it was raining. We went.

I wandered around a bit and thought I had found the elusive five-legged chair when I saw this one:


It looks like it has a spare leg out front.

Upon closer examination, I realized it only has four legs but the are incorrectly placed:


Mistakes were made, heads will roll.

These furniture makers have no respect for tradition. Furniture making is no place for original thinking. The furniture gods are surely angry.

One more look:


There are no rules!

Of course, it would be hard to rock back. Maybe lean side to side…

Yup, That’s My Mom…

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 10:20pm

I was looking through the family picture album and came across this one:


My Mother at a café near Florence in 1958.

We were there on vacation. We passed this café and stopped to look at the furniture. We could tell the chairs were Thonet. Turning them over we saw they were branded  Thonet and Made In Poland.

We couldn’t tell about the table. My Mother did the only reasonable thing and checked the table for markings. I could easily walk under the table but I couldn’t read so my use was limited.

Ever the lady, she even managed to keep her legs crossed at the ankles.

And, yes, she was wearing pearls.

(With apologies to Gianni Berengo Gardin and others)

The Missing Link

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 8:49am

As you all must realize, all our blogs go through extensive editing and quality contoll checks. The link for the flickr photo set accompanying today’s earlier blog, Primitives From Hickory Mountain,  was disabled shortly after posting. I believe we were hacked. I am going through the forensic evidence and now believe it was either the Russian FSB, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence, the North Korean Bureau 121 or, most likely, the dreaded Landespolizei, the Liechtenstein National Police Force. We have had issues going back many years.

There is a small chance I deleted it when I went back in to edit the link to make the link open in a new window, but I doubt it. Beginner’s mistake.

If you were unable to see the photo set (as opposed to not wanting to see the photo set), you can go back and reread the blog (it’s that good) or click on the link HERE.


Primitives From Hickory Mountain, NC

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 10:11pm

Last blog, I featured some of the workbenches from a local antiques shop renowned for their primitives.  Renowned might be a bit strong but it’s late and I want to get this done.

As I wrote, they have more than a few workbenches:


Perfect for an apartment woodworker. Or, now, the tiny house woodworker.

They are more than workbenches. They have lots of pie safes:


A very odd pie safe.

with a very odd latch:


I don’t believe this latch was made for this pie safe. Who knows.

And chairs. Lots of chairs:


Most of them have woven seats.

Lots of trunks and chests:


I believe this is considered to be a domed chest.

Chinas and cupboards:


What it is depends on who you ask.

No antiques store is complete without dressers:


A bit too fancy for a primitive.

And a smattering of painted pieces:


If I knew more (anything), I could describe and interpret the paintings on this piece.

To check out the full set, click  HERE.

Primitive Ways of Work.

Mon, 04/17/2017 - 10:42pm

A local antique shop specializes in primitive/vernacular furniture. Specialize is the wrong word to use. Specialize indicates a consciousness of thought. A strategy. I think these people just buy and sell stuff they like. It’s more of a that’s who they are than a marketing decision.

A few weekends back they had their annual open house. I knew it was an open house because they had printed and distributed flyers saying there would be an open house. There might have been free coffee but since I don’t drink coffee, I neither noticed nor cared. Next year I will be sure to take note for those of you out there that might be concerned.

Can you have an open house without free coffee?

The only difference I could discern was that there seemed to be more people there than typical. Probably because the owners printed and distributed flyers and customers assumed there would be free coffee.

They had a good assortment of primitive and vernacular furniture as well as the flyers and free coffee. As you would expect, a good percentage of this furniture is work related. As in that work in an foreign and abstract concept to me, I was fascinated by this furniture. I thought I might share some with y’all so we might all be enlightened.

This stool might be a work stool, no one can prove it’s not:


It certainly is primitive.


But is it vernacular?

This is a broom maker’s bench:


I know this because the tag says so.

I can’t remember the vocation associated with this bench:


I hope it wasn’t a cabinetmaker.


Or at least not a drawer specialist.

This is the token conventional workbench:


Well, kinda, sorta conventional.


It does have a tool tray.


And an end vise.


One square bench dog.

Only small work done here:


Only a little ugly.

A bench with storage:


Great natural patina.

A larger bench with storage:


Big drawer below, seems like it would be hard to open.

Big bench, different configuration:


A mercantile bench, perhaps?

Some storage stacked up:


Stacked here but not in real life.

I’m sure this is not a salad spinner.


But it is a mixer of some sort.

There is a tool chest:


A typical chest.


Only one till left.

Leaving their shop, I headed to nearby dealer located in a strip mall. From well-worn wooden flooring to fading linoleum No benches or tool chests but there were leg vises:


It looks complete. It just needs a new home.


I really like the aftermarket plumbing hindle…

I can’t wait for next year’s open house with the implication/inference of free coffee.

In The Beginning It Was Simple…

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 11:05pm

In the beginning it was simple, like this tilt-top table/bench contraption:


The simple tilt-top table.


Looks simple.

It’s a convertible table/bench. The top pivots around the rear pins and is locked in down position by the front pins. It should be symmetrical and the top should be able to hinge around the front pins.

Typically, there is storage in the base.

Let’s make it more complicated.


No pins in the rear, hinges.


No indication there ever were any pins in the rear of the table/bench. This is the design and not a repair.

The hinges look seriously undersized yet it exists.

Now let’s engineer it and make it more complicated and harder to produce.


Same basic idea but the folding top sits lower.


The table top pivots and tracks about a bolt and slots in the battens.


The table is locked in the down position by the engagement of another slot in the batten around a pin.

This base also has storage.

Another difference is that this unit has 2X4 legs and not sides made from boards.

The only advantage of this construction I can see is that the table top sits lower in the bench position. This could be useful if you need the wall space for your art collection:


Margaret Keane’s classic No Dogs Allowed. Art like no other.

Finally, the Arts & Crafts/Mission variation of this idea:


Everything’s better in oak.

Here, the top pivots around bolts with vertical movement provided by slots on the supports. For added stability, the “feet” on the supports rest in cups on the seat.

Many ways to achieve the same goal.

On The Creative Process…

Sun, 04/09/2017 - 10:46pm

Saturday night we went to an auction where we got to leave stuff. Let me rephrase that. Saturday night we were honored to donate various hand-crafted items to an auction benefitting our friends’ church camp. This is at least the sixth year we have been so honored. At least.

This year we donated four lots from the shop and one item given by my wife that did not functionally or aesthetically meet her expectation when received. Perfect for someone, just not her.

First lot was these wheeled wooden toys, subdivided into four lots:


Meet the truck, hippo, tanker and bulldozer.

Regular readers may think this looks an awful lot like our Toys For Tots offerings. Nothing could be further from the truth. These are entirely different. Just look:


There was a pig/bear in the Toys for Tots collection. Totally different.

Next was this dovetailed and painted nail carrier:


Any dovetail shortcomings are covered by paint.

It started life as the dovetailed nail carrier designed by Chuck Bender, late of 360 Woodworking. I showed the unfinished project to the camp director and his wife for approval. They suggested milk paint. I used General Finishes milk paint which really isn’t but that’s a story for another day.


My first prototype as Mr. Bender intended.

Keeping with the spirit of the church camp benefit auction, I donated a wine carrier based on a dynamite box:


Remember this one?


It is built to carry stuff. Usually just not California sparkling wine. I can’t call it Champagne.

Lest you worry that I might run out of dynamite boxes and various sized reproductions, be assured, I have more.


How do you spell OCD?

More on these later.

I, on occasion, build things as a proof of concept, or to see hows it’s done or because I want to. These items don’t always have a place to be and languish in the shop. This auction does give a forever home to some of these forgotten projects. Won’t you help?

There was one purpose built item, this unique pizza peel:


It’s called a pizza peel and I don’t know why.

It was my wife’s idea. I made her one a few years back. I didn’t love it. It was meant to be a prototype but it worked and she liked the look. I always knew I could do better.

Below is the sausage making. If you wish to continue believing I am brilliant and a design genius, stop reading now. Otherwise, prepare to be disillusioned.

I thought about it for a long time but didn’t start until I realized on Friday that it was due to be delivered on Monday. I raced to the shop and started looking through the wood pile. I found some 5/4 by 7.5″ wide maple long enough for the body. Then I found some 32″ long 6/4 walnut for the handle. My thought was that I would inlay an 8″, 10″, 12″ and 14″ circle for proper pizza dimensioning. The peel need to be at least 16″ wide. After four squaring the stock, I was short of design goals. I dug around and found some 1/4″ cherry, laid it out and still came out a bit narrow. More digging came up with the last of the thin walnut for the ears.

Off to the band saw to resaw the stock. The walnut was no problem. The wider maple was a problem. Either a dull blade or overly aggressive feed rate through the saw lead to the blade deflecting changing 1/2″ design goal to a 3/8″ design concession.

After the glue-up, a few passes though the drum sander, the 3/8″ design concession was almost met. You would never know if you didn’t have calipers. It sanded out well.

I used the previous peel as a template and the band saw made quick work of the dimensioning and shaping. An assortment of sanders made it pretty. Time with a spoke shave tapered the lip and contoured the edges.

At just under 3/8″, the handle was too thin. Back to the wood pile to retrieve the thin walnut and cherry and more glue and clamps. More time with the spoke shave and integration was complete.

On to stringing. A plunge trim router with a 1/16″ bit and home made circle jig made quick work of defining the circles. I had holly of the appropriate dimensions. Looking through my thin stock, I found some mahogany of the proper size. I used my table saw and a fine toothed 7.25 ” blade to rip off some 1/16″ stringing. Mahogany is a bit brittle but manageable.

More sanding and the peel was ready for a finish. Salad bowl finish went on and enhanced the colors. The maple went darker than I hoped and the holly popped more than anticipated. That is my only disappointment with the peel.

I think it turned out well in spite of my best efforts. The more woodworking one does, the more one is rewarded with accidental successes.

The peel went to good friends of ours, both turners. Last year he won this platter I turned:


The glued up platter from last year. I was trying to replicate the look of a Native American painted plate. Another example of the dominate culture appropriating indigenous artistic achievements.

(More on this platter later.)

At this rate, they will shortly have more of my finished pieces than I have.

This peel will never see the inside of an oven they claim. It will be mounted on the wall as art. I wish I knew that before I spent all that time tapering and thinning the leading edge.

My wife won this nice little bench:


By local woodworker Jeff Chelf.

This is a bench I could have built. The problem is I haven’t.

Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Injection Molded…

Sat, 04/08/2017 - 10:55pm

While doing some research recently I stumbled across a relatively new iconic chair in the making. The research facility I wandered into was a local retailer that specializes in Danish and Modern furniture. A chair caught my eye and seeing a likely sale, the owner excitedly started telling me about what she called the trio or Masters chair:


The Kartell Masters chair. Around $300 Made of modified batch-dyed polypropylene.

The description of this chair is as follows:

Philippe Starck and Eugeni Quitllet pay homage to three different midcentury-modern masters in one sleek, versatile indoor-outdoor seat. The Masters Chair (2010) weaves together the back silhouettes of Jacobsen’s Series 7™ Chair:

oak-series-7-chair-front-arne-jacobsen-fritz-hansen_1024x1024 (1)

The Arne Jacobson 3107/Series 7 chair, from around $200 up.

The Model 3107 chair is a chair designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1955 that uses the previously invented technique through which plywood can be bent in three dimensions. Over 5 million units have been produced exclusively by Fritz Hansen.

There is a scandalous history to this chair from 1963 available HERE. Not click bait, honest.

The next chair honored is the Eameses’ Molded Shell Chair:


Charles Eames 1950 molded fiberglass chair  from around $550.

Arguably one of the 20th century’s most beloved designs, the Eames Shell chairs remain a sought after design classic nearly 55 years later. The molded fiberglass chairs are the result of Charles and Ray’s 6 years of experimenting with molded plywood to create a single shell form. Unable to successfully create the single shell with molded plywood at the time, Charles & Ray saw an opportunity to fulfill their vision using a new material: fiberglass.

There is a history of the Eames chair HERE.

And the third honoree is Eero Saarinen’s Tulip™ Armchair:


Eero Saarinen 1957 Tulip Arm Chair from around $1,100.

Eero Saarinen developed the Tulip Armchair as part of the pedestal series in the 1950’s. The Saarinen Tulip Chair, the corresponding pedestal table, and other furniture he developed, represent the peak of Eero Saarinen’s career in which these lasting icons of modern classic furniture were brought to the forefront. 

Eero Saarinen called himself a “form giver,” and everything he designed – from the Gateway Arch in St. Louis to his Womb™ Chair to his Pedestal Table – had a strong sculptural quality. “The underside of typical tables and chairs makes a confusing, unrestful world,” said Saarinen. In a 1956 cover story in Time magazine, he announced that he was designing a collection to “clear up the slum of legs in the U.S. home.” Later that year, he completed his Pedestal Table and Tulip Chair Collection (1956) with its cast aluminum base inspired by a drop of high-viscosity liquid.

Eero Saariens was talented architect and designer and you should read more about him HERE.

I know that this is a plastic chair and not to everyone’s liking. Not of wood and not built using traditional methods. Still, it is interesting to understand the history, the present and future of furniture. Furniture does not exist in a vacuum. It is influenced by what has come before and will influence what comes after.

They can’t all be Windsor chairs. Well, they can be but what fun would that be?

I Knew It.

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 9:48pm

Yesterday’s blog was all about a folding Chinese that keeps showing up live and in print. I showed a picture from Ole Wancher’s 1966 book The Art of Furniture. (Ole Wanscher (1903 to 1983)  to repeat, was a renowned Danish furniture designer and author of several books on furniture and design.) This be that picture:


Another look.

My Danish language copy of Møbeltyper (Furniture Types  – 1932) arrived. Also by Ole Wanscher. On page 15 you find the 1932 version of the chair:


Folding chair of varnished wood with fittings of enamel inlaid silver. China. Qing Dynasty (1735-99) . Maurice Dupont: The Furniture of China.

The Chinese chair has been iconic for quite a while.

An Inspirational Chair?

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 10:45pm

This chair really gets around. As seen at a recent, local auction:

A Set of Chinese Huanghuali Folding Horseshoe Chairs and Table


The right chair. This lot has sold for $21,000.


And the left chair.

Description:   Late 20th century, very finely crafted set in the Ming dynasty style, made with huanghuali wood and brass mountings, round top rail continuing in a curve to the arms terminating in out swept ends, each arm supported by the hooked upper extension of the front leg suspending a long shaped spandrel, the back carved splat with qilin and clouds, a soft mat seat with a front stretcher, the hinged round section legs terminating in rectangular base stretchers, the footrest mounted with a central brass plaque of three conjoined lozenges, raised on a shaped apron and small feet, with brass strap fittings and joint pins, includes a folding side table in the same style, a very handsome set.

Folded, it looks like this:


Smaller but not what I would call small.

The chair looked vaguely familiar but Chinese furniture is not an area of primary interest of mine at this point in history. I took my pictures and moved on.

Looking back through the library, I found this chair in my pictures from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO:


The chair with friends.

Close-up of the same:


A finer weave on the seat than its auction cousin.

I am now slightly more interested.

I just received my copy of Christian Holmsted Olesen’s 2014 book, Wegner: Just one Good Chair. On page 123, I found:


There it is again.

(Hans Jørgensen Wegner was a world-renowned Danish furniture designer as was Ole Wanscher.)

Looking for a copy of Ole Wanscher’s book Furniture Types, I found (and could afford this book instead:


More affordable than Furniture Types.

One page 247, I found this:


Yet another example.

Apparently, this is an iconic chair and I didn’t know it.  Why didn’t anyone tell me?

It is interesting that this 18th century Chinese chair is an inspiration for Danish Modern furniture.


I guess I can see a family resemblance.

And I’m not done looking at books.

I found a Danish copy of Furniture Types (Mobeltyper) that should be arriving shortly.

I just received my second copy of The Art of Furniture by Ole Wanscher. Seems I forgot to cancel one on Abe Books when I decided to go with the ex-library copy. I like ex-library copies in that they not only generally have a dust jacket but the dust jacket has a protective mylar sleeve.

It is fortunate that the second copy was only $15. Anybody out there interested in my spare?

The Numbers Spiked Again.

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 10:59pm

From time to time, the views for this blog spike. I would like to think that the brilliance of my writing has finally been discovered by the masses. Then I examine the stats and realize that one of the cool kids with the popular blogs has thrown me a mercy link. As expected, my numbers return to normal within a few days. My brilliance has not swayed them. They abandon me.

I’m OK with this. I have my 47 loyal followers/readers. If you include my family and friends I have 42. (It doesn’t make sense to either but I’ve checked the math. Numbers still don’t lie.) I’m OK with this in that if I had thousands of followers I might feel the pressure to write informed and well-reasoned blogs instead whatever it is I’m writing now.

In this case, it seems to be John Hoffman’s partner, Chris Schwarz of Lost Art Press, etc. what threw me link. I’ve known him for years (You can check out our history HERE.)  He doesn’t owe me anything. He’s really just that nice.

I have seen a few minor spikes that come from one Rude Mechanic on Instagram. Odd name.

Defying conventional thinking, I will just write a normal blog and not try some stunt blog to try to snag new readers. Eventually you would just be disappointed and leave.

In the referring blog, mention was made of settles. According to the wildly popular Wikipedia: A settle is a wooden bench, usually with arms and a high back, long enough to accommodate three or four sitters. I don’t always agree with them but in this case I think they are right enough.

I have photographed enough settles to know that there doesn’t seem to be any one predominant type of settle.

There are some really formal ones:


Fancy settle with storage.

A settle for loners and thinkers.


Room for one settler, maybe two. No more.

Settles that followed my wife home.


Front view. It makes a great sail on the porch.


The front is well made but


the back is fascinating. Or is this the front?

Click HERE to see album

And do come back.


Chairs Both Woven and Caned

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 8:18pm

Last week I had the opportunity to attend an informal meeting of the professional refinishers’ group at the shop of Martin O’Brien, well-known Winston Salem conservator and cabinetmaker. One of the presenters was Brandy Clements of the Silver River Center for Chair Caning in Asheville, NC.  She is the first person named Brandy I’ve ever met, male of female, Thankfully it was Brandy and not Brandi or Brandee. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


A picture of Ms. Clements that allows her to maintain her anonymity. She’s the one in black.

Ms. Clements demonstrated both caning and weaving techniques and gave background information on different materials and the history of each. Good stuff all.

Needing to make this blog about me, I went into the archives to see if I had and pictures of chairs with caned or woven seats. Turns out I found 110 pictures without raising a blister. Pointing and clicking can be painful.

I’ve largely avoided becoming too involved in chairs because, to paraphrase a popular poet/philosopher, “Who knew chairs would be hard?” There’s so many different types of them. Casework is comparatively simple by comparison.

What I found were some fancy seats:


From Lisbon which they tell me is in Portugal.

Elegant seats:


Lisbon has several historic buildings with amazing furniture.

Some very nice chairs:


More from the auction house.

Some better than nice chairs:


From Hart’s Square near Hickory, NC.

Some utilitarian chairs:


From the LSU Rural Life Museum in Baton Rouge, LA.

Some chairs with stretched leather seats:


Also from the Rural Life Museum.

Chairs of all sizes:


A small rocker from a Greensbooro antiques dealer.

And finally no collection would be complete without a chair from the Far East:


A Chinese Huanghuali Folding Horseshoe Chair.

The whole set is available for your viewing pleasure HERE.

More Fun and Games!

Sun, 03/26/2017 - 9:14pm

Just when you think we know everything about gaming tables, more information surfaces. I was at the preview of a local auction house when I came across this rather chunky example:

Georgian Game Table 

DSC_6185 - Version 2

This lot has sold for $260.

Description:  19th century, mahogany, mahogany veneer, oak secondary, unusual dual hinged top with storage compartment, gate leg, cabriole legs with pad foot.

Most game tables have some style or elegance, not this one.The heavy apron and the graceless pad feet lack a pleasing aesthetic.

But that’s not why I called you here.

It is a four-legged table with the fourth leg being a traditional gate leg:


The hinged fourth/gate leg.

Note the sprung hinge on the right side. This is important.


The gate leg deployed.

The hinge is still sprung. Also note the screws on the lower table surface.


When you open the table, it’s round. Closed, it’s a thicker semi-circle. Geometry works.

DSC_6193 - Version 2

And here you can almost see the crack running 2/3 of the way across the table.

What caused the crack? The lower table section is hinged to the frame covering the storage below:


The storage below. This explains the chunky apron.


And here you see the crack and the hinge placement that keeps the opened table top from lying flat. Failure is always an option.

This isn’t the only design challenge. If one tries to access the storage area with the table closed, the sections stacked, when the sections are opened beyond around 30°, the table falls over. Empirically determined. The table is not very deep and when the weight is shifted too far to the back, bad things happen. If I recalled my vector analysis, I could calculate the tipping point.

I did not bid on this table.

On a more positive note, I found two examples of another method of table support. I reveal to you the extension gaming table:


A small extension table.


And here are the extension rails. Note the dowel pins.

I found the above at the Raleigh Antiques Extravaganza.

A few hours later I found this one at a Raleigh consignment shop:


Another extension game table. Two in on day after never seeing one before.


A view from above. The leg is not one piece but a glue-up.


The obligatory front view.

On the back rail was this label:


I always enjoy finding labels.

The dealer believes that these tables are from the 1930’s. A search for the patent shows that Patent 2,153,262 was granted April 4, 1939. There were simple practical and novel improvements in extension tables in Patent 2,316,448 on April 14, 1943.

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 10.58.31 PM

Patent art for the extension table.

I couldn’t find much on the Big Rapid Furniture Mfg. Co. of Big Rapids, Michigan other than by their own admission they are Manufacturers of Medium Priced Furniture. They obviously survived beyond 1939.

Shells and Shell-Like Carvings

Fri, 03/24/2017 - 10:42pm

Given the right tools, expert instruction and hours of practice I believe I stand a good chance of becoming a mediocre carver. It’s something to which I aspire. Eventually. Aim for the stars…

I was watching the famous and talented Mary May do another carving demonstration today. Not for the first time and not, I hope, for the last. We are at a furniture seminar at MESDA (Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts) in Winston Salem, NC.

I have a special relationship with MESDA, I give them money and they let me into the museum. I give them more money and they let me come to seminars. With food. All very civilized.

Knowing that it will be a while before I create my own most excellent carvings, I choose to honor them with the only way I know, take pictures and share skilled people’s work.

This is a set of pictures of carved shells and shell-like objects I have dcoumented between January of 2016 and now.

Shell-like carved objects come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and styles. There is:


The realistic.


The abstract.


Ones that just suggest the form.


Innies (Concave)


Outies (Convex) Usually applied.


Overhead shells.


And shells on which you sit.

You can see the entire flickr set HERE.

It Followed My Wife Home.

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 9:15pm

I can hear the derisive snickers out there. You’re all thinking:

“It followed his wife home? Sure!”

As Roy as my witness, I promise you the story I am about to tell is true. I can’t make this stuff up.

I can embellish…

It is a closely guarded secret that I spend my spare time visiting auctions and antiques shops, recording and documenting the rare treasures I find there. It is our past. It is our legacy. It defines who we are as a species. It’s a bunch of old stuff people don’t want anymore yet has some perceived value.

On occasion, my wife will accompany me to an auction preview. It is usually my second visit. I know she has no interest in spending two hours admiring and photographing every item that was made before McKinley was president. It is one of the things that makes our marriage work. I don’t insist she spends hours staring at old wood objects and she doesn’t insist I accompany her to the beach. Exceptions have been made in certain extreme situations. We must all be flexible.

A recent auction caught my wife’s attention. It was the quarterly catalog auction and it included wine. One cannot actually preview the wine but one can read the list and do research. My wife is very organized and likes to read lists and do research. She found a lot of three bottles of Napa wines that she managed to get significantly below current North Carolina retail, if she could find it.

Buoyed by this success, she decided she wanted to hit the auction preview with me. The evening before the auction, I made my second visit and she made her first. She was better prepared. She has studied the online descriptions and had a list of items she wanted to see. I had a vague notion of what I needed more pictures of.

She quickly dismissed most of her list. The rugs were the wrong size or color. The decorative accessories were in worse shape than the casual collector could tolerate. There was one item on the list she really liked, an English settle.

English Style Settle


This lot has sold.

Description:   Early 20th century, oak and pine, barrel form with shaped arms, curved seat.

About settles. We have had a front porch in need of a settle since we moved in. I know just the settle I want to build. The problem is that I have not delivered said settle. The wood is not even in the shop. Nothing on the calendar. I was slightly hurt that she wanted to buy one but I got over it.

The morning of the auction, I attempted to enter our carefully considered maximum bid, saw that we were already $80 below the current bid, talked and bumped it $100.  Then when my wife wasn’t looking, I added another $40.

That night she asked what it went for. I told her that it closed above our second bid. I waited ten minutes to tell her of the third bid that was successful. She forgave me my subterfuge.

And here it is:


Front view.

We had to place it flat against the wall. Being relatively lightweight pine, it makes a great sail. I was going to build mine from whire oak.

Here you see the barrel form:


I bet when new, the boards overlapped.


A nice bent molding.

A relatively shallow settle:


Shallow and not very deep.

Relatively simple construction:


No dovetails. And yet I bought it.

Nothing fancy on the sides:


A simple bridle on the armrest.


Joinery so simple, I could make it.


All I need to do is learn to turn spindles.


An interesting square patch. I wonder what the wound was.

Looking at the bottom, I could see that it has been stripped. It had gone through most of its life covered with mustard colored paint:


Or is it flax, Naples yellow, arylide yellow, or citrine?

I suggested to my wife that for the sake of authenticity, we restore the mustard paint. She was not impressed by this notion.

I expressed my concern that this pine bench might not survive long outside, even on a covered porch. Her response was, “Well, if it only lasts two or three years, it gives us time to find something else.”

I thought, “I have shared a bed with this woman for 26 years and right now, she is a stranger to me. I don’t know this person.”

Fortunately, as an adult, I have a filter and what came out was, “Well, OK.”

This brings up two questions. Firstly, is this a historic and significant piece of furniture or just old? On some level I believe that every piece of furniture ever built needs to be lovingly preserved until we run out of PODS and U-Haul storage units. This is not realistic. Some furniture must die so others can live.

Second question, what is the best non-opaque finish to use on this settle? It will require a fairly high level of UV resistance. My first thought was a good marine spar varnish.

I am willing to entertain other suggestions.



Antoni Gaudí – Day One of Many: The Furniture

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 10:37pm

It is impossible to spend any significant time in Barcelona without feeling the influence of Antoni Gaudí. Being easily influence, I couldn’t get enough of his work and am truly fascinated by him and his works.

For those not so influenced (or aware), I offer the following paragraph copied and pasted from a Wikipedia article:

Antoni Gaudí i Cornet; (25 June 1852 – 10 June 1926) was a Spanish Catalan architect from Reus and the best known practitioner of Catalan Modernism. Gaudí’s works reflect an individualized and distinctive style. Most are located in Barcelona, including his magnum opus, the Sagrada Família.

Between 1984 and 2005, seven of his works were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

As an introduction to Mr. Gaudí, we will explore some of his furniture then. In time, several of his buildingswill be explored.

Much of this furniture was designed for specific buildings. It is firmly in the Art Nouveau style with its organic fluid lines with direct references to nature.


The Casa Calvet Flower Bench – 1901


The Casa Calvet Corner Stool – 1901


The Casa Calvet Flower Chair – 1901


The Casa Calvet Arm Chair-1901


The Casa Batlló Chair – 1907


The Casa Batlló Double Bench – 1907

Reproductions of these and other Gaudi pieces are still available.

I am not sure if the following furniture is designed by Gaudi but it does exist within Casa Milà, popularly known as La Pedrera. This was the last civil work designed by Antoni Gaudí and was built from 1906 to 1912.

The furniture may not be Gaudi but it is era and style appropriate and in Barcelona.


The dining room.


The dining table.


And the dining chair.


The bar.


The server.


The office.


More from the office. Boat not included.


The bedroom.


The headboard.


The footboard.


The headboard.

Shortly, we will examine some  of Gaudi’s s iconic buildings.

Mistakes Were Made…

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 10:44pm

There is a fairly common type furniture, many variations with the word setback almost always being in the name. Usually made in two pieces, stacked with the upper section being shallower than the lower. They often look as if they could exist as two pieces of furniture. The base of the upper section is the same as or reflects the base of the lower section as in the following examples:


China on server?


Just a setback cupboard.


The same only primitive.

I ran across this piece in a Raleigh antique/consignment shop. I believe mistakes were made in stacking:


Just don’t look right…

(Although this style is fairly common, I still had to go through 8,000 picture to come up with these the three exemplars. I really need to get an intern.)

Auction of Exploration, Auction of Discovery.

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 10:36pm

I go to all these auctions so you don’t have to. As our fearless leader says, “Believe me”. It’s not always enjoyable but it is necessary. I do what must be done.

Take an auction from the fourth quarter of 2016. The weather was miserable and I didn’t want to go. But I knew I must. And how was I rewarded? I walked in and this is the first thing I saw:


I thought things like this were always converted into lamps.

An end view provides you with important construction details should you want to make one of your own:


It looks just as good from this perspective.

I did see one of the nicest gout stools I’ve seen in a while:


Enough to make you want to go out and eat high purine meats and drink excessive amounts of alcohol

I will be saving the examination of this book for a time in the future whenI will compare it to the original 1917 volume as to form and content:


There just isn’t enough written on the romance of cookery and housekeeping.


Table Games

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 10:51pm

The genesis of this blog was a visit to Atlanta in February of 2012. I attended the Cathedral Antiques Show, which I think is the finest antiques show I have ever attended. Nothing but the best with prices and hors d’oeuvres to match.

A dealer there had a game table I had read about but never seen. It has a mechanism for table support that is unique. It was a gorgeous table with a high level of appropriate decoration. The dealer was anxious to show me the table and explain in great detail the history and construction of the table. It was amazing.

Only problem was that the show had a rather strict “no photography” policy. The dealer was sympathetic but was more concerned about his status as a dealer than my blog. That I wasn’t writing yet.

I finally found another table of this design at an auction a few weeks back. I can finally share this different table with you, my loyal reader.

But first, a prime on game table technology. The game table or card table for the purposes of this blog refers to a relatively small table with a folded top that opens to reveal a flat surface that is meant for playing cards or other games. There are many forms and variations of this table including:

The one-legged table:


The tabletop is mounted with a pivot off-center. To open the table, one rotates the top 90° and unfolds the top. There is usually a storage compartment beneath the top.

I have not seen a two-legged table. It could be that there is a trestle table with a folding top, but I’ve not seen it.

A three-legged table might be possible but, again, I’ve not seen one.

What comes close is actually a four-legged table:


There is a fourth leg but not where you expect.

In this implementation, the fourth leg pulls straight out of the rear apron to support the top.


A straight pull back, no hinges required.

A variation of this table:


has a drawer to support the fourth leg and the tabletop.

Then we advance to the four-legged table. This variation has a hinged or gate leg that swings out to support the top:

IMG_5468 - Version 2

One leg swings back to make magic.

This table needs two legs to make it happen:


All legs in.


Both legs are hinged and swing out to support the top.

(I was looking for through my library for a picture of this type table without luck. Then I went over to an auction Wednesday to preview on online auction and found this one being readied for the next auction.)

Let’s not forget the five-legged table:


Really a four-legged table with a plus one. I assume the fifth is hinged and swings back and catches the top. The museum wouldn’t let me play.

This is an example of the table for which I have been searching for these five long years:

English Queen Anne Card Table


This lot has sold for $400.

Description:   Mid 18th century, mahogany, mahogany veneer, shaped top with molded edge, opening to reveal felt lined interior, skirt with herringbone line inlay, cabriole legs featuring acanthus carved knee, raised on pad feet.

The side view led me to believe that I had found it:


An odd little gap at the back was a clue.

Using my spiffy camera with live view and rotating/swinging back I was able to shoot up and see what lay beneath:


There be folded parts.

There was a mechanism that unfolds and allows the back apron to fall back well over 18″ to support the top:


The apron unfolds to support the unfolded top.


(Almost) Fully deployed.


The view from below shows some structural details.

This view shows the board that slides in the groove to lock the back legs into place.


The horizontal board is pulled through the groove to lock the legs in place.

This blog has been five years in the making. Was it worth it? We’ll know when awards season arrives.

Holier Than Thou (or Me)

Fri, 03/10/2017 - 11:24pm

The two better local auction houses each had an 18th century Bible box in the same week’s auctions. As best I can recollect, neither has had a Bible box before. Both of them having one in the same week is really unusual.

The first one up is this:

Eighteenth Century English Bible Box Desk


This lot has sold for $230.

Description: Mid 18th Century; 10.75 inches height, 23.5 inches width, 16 inches depth; made of old English oak, has fully carved front panel of interlocking scrolls, interior has two upper fitted drawers, has original hand forged butterfly hinges, and locking clasp, constructed with hand forged rose head nails, overall condition is outstanding and original.

This one could be used as a writing desk. The lid is plain and it has a pencil ledge.

And the other auction house had:

English Relief Carved Bible Box


This lot has sold for $550.

Description:   Mid-18th century, oak, top and hinged lid with chip carved edge, wrought iron hinges, the lid is relief carved and dated 1740, open interior with three upper horizontal divisions, front with relief carved stylized dragons.

This one has a carved lid:


Must have been made in 1740 unless it’s a stock number.

Not useful as a writing desk unless you just plan on writing Post-Its.

The first one has two drawers in the gallery:


Two drawers but no tills.

Oddly, the drawers are not dovetailed:


You don’t need dovetails when you have nails.


The second box has a divided gallery:


Shallower but is it too shallow for drawers?


The first one has a single board back with some interesting bead details:


No fancy joinery, just nailed.

The second has a single board back without decoration:


Nothing to see here but a crack. Also nailed.


Front edge has decoration on the first:


Tastefully scalloped.

Plain edges on the second:


Here, the lid is scalloped. Base molding is a nice touch…

One of them followed me home.

Actually, I had to go back and get it.