Inlay Banding and Buffard Freres
Inlay banding can have a dramatic affect on the design of a piece of furniture. With some work an unlimited number of custom designs are possible.
A nicely inlaid band around the perimeter of a table top, the lid of a box, or down a table leg if carefully integrated into the design attracts attention and adds complexity to a piece. It is first apparent from across the room where it is visible as a defining line breaking up a larger surface into components making virtual shadow-lines adding architectural complexity.
As you approach the piece the eye resolves the inner detail of the banding itself, following the line of repeating elements. The band becomes, for a moment, the focus of interest. How is that made? What are those component woods? A finger discretely, or not, tests how perfectly it is inlaid into the background.
Making a custom one-off band is labor intensive, but a fun exercise in precision and puzzle making as I learned in a workshop by Garrett Hack at the Inside Passage School of Woodworking. It is not as difficult as one imagines if members of a class can make one in an afternoon and quickly inlay at the end of the day.Embellish a Federal card table in the traditional style
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The workshop piqued my interest in banding as I find the “puzzle” like aspect of figuring out how they are put together challenging for some of the more complex patterns. Some of the complex patterns with curved internal components must take very specialized equipment and considerable skill. Garrett told us about the firm Buffard Frères from Paris working in the late 19th early 20th century that made thousands of bands and sold them to furniture shops around the world though mostly in Europe. The company went through bankruptcy in the 1930s. “In 1973, the remaining members of the Buffard family scrapped the special machinery used to make the banding so that it would not fall into the hands of imitators.” (Lee Valley Web site). It would be difficult to reproduce many of these bands with today’s materials and methods.
In following up on this topic I tried to learn more about the Buffard Frères. I managed to find at an Antwerp Antiquariat a mint 1926 trade catalogue by Buffard Frères printed not long before their bankruptcy.
The things you find on the internet. This Art Deco catalogue has spectacular color lithographs of hundreds of bands of their 1920’s offerings. For added historical interest it came with the original covering letter and price list (marked with a 20% discount!). Besides its inherent aesthetic value, I believe this is an interesting reference document and as such should be preserved, shared and promoted.
I have started writing a series of posts on my Web site that covers this catalogue in detail. What I want to put up on the web is an on-line catalogue or resource where one can freely browse through pages of Buffard Frères inlay bandings just for enjoyment or for inspiration for a piece one is working on. What is nice about the lithographs in this respect is that pages have subtle variations on particular bands so you can imagine how different bands might look. Also if you inspect various higher resolution images there are hints on how they are constructed as many seem to have “glue Lines” visible in the lithographs. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.