Williamsburg, Day 3: Three projects in one day
On Day 3 of “Working Wood in the 18th Century,” the presenters worked on three separate pieces, each showing the influence of Oriental imports on native furniture makers of the time. Click here for highlights of Day 1 and Day 2, which featured an incredible demo on a three-way miter joint.
And once again, the conference was at its best when the experts were cutting wood. That’s when the good, practical tips flow.
Williamsburg’s own Brian Weldy, apprentice in the Hay Cabinetmaking Shop, continued work on a tea table originally made in Williamsburg, using a variety of tools–from spokeshaves to gouges–to carve a cabriole leg, working mostly by eye and feel, which is a great feeling of freedom for the us modern woodworkers, who tend to work more like engineers. By the way, the cabriole form can be traced to the Orient, and from there, back to ancient Egypt.
Then Williamsburg’s master cabinetmaker, and frequent contributor to FWW, Mack Headley, took over, drilling and sawing out the Oriental-style piercings in the back of an iconic Chippendale style chair, named for its original owner, Governor Wentworth of New Hampshire. Mack showed how it was helpful to drill as close as possible to the outline, so the saw blade could start as close as possible to the line. He used a spoon bit, a forerunner of modern bits, getting it very close to the line. The bit’s sharpness and Mack’s skill were evident.
Mack then used a frame saw to cut out the pieces, having to attach and detach the blade to get into each new piercing, but he mentioned that a keyhole-style saw might also have been used, which wouldn’t have that problem. And after the break a curator came back with a couple of examples of keyhole saws from the time, and Mack pointed out some cool features of the blades, handles, and teeth. That’s the cool thing about having a conference at Williamsburg–their collection of furniture and tools is an amazing asset.
In the afternoon, FWW legend Phil Lowe took over, and he was so amazing I’ve got to give him his own blog.
This tea table, from Williamsburg's collection, was made by local cabinetmaker Peter Scott in the 1700s.
Williamsburg's Brian Weldy uses a gouge to shape the foot on a cabriole leg for the tea table.
This is the Orient-inspired Wentworth chair. The Chippendale style showed a lot of Eastern influence.
After carving out the front edges of the pierced back splat, to define the edges cleanly, Headley began to drill into the pierced areas, using a bit and brace and spoon bit, to make room for a saw blade.
He followed with a frame saw, and then reached in with a scraper to clean up the saw marks. Nothing to it:-)
Phil Lowe worked on his interpretation of this Queen Anne chair. See my next blog for more on his amazing skills.