Page 1 of 7 12345 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 103

Thread: Secondary surfaces in 18th century work

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    The Netherlands
    Posts
    2,405

    Secondary surfaces in 18th century work

    We have had this discussion before, did the grand masters of the golden age of furniture making (18th century) pay a lot of attention to no-show surfaces or not? Well, it seems that even Thomas Chippendale didn't really care. Just like we don't care much about the quality of the timber or the surface of the studs behind drywall panneling, they didn't seem to care at all about undersides, insides behind drawers or back panels. As long as it keeps the piece together and doesn't interfere with the function, it is good enough. No smoothing, tear out all over the place, planks full of knots and cracks, glue squeeze out, splinters and what not.

    These pictures I lifted from an auction site about a special Chippendale sale. Have a look, very nice pictures. https://www.christies.com/salelandin...347&saletitle=

    Chippendale2.jpg

    Chippendale1.jpg

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Kees Heiden View Post
    We have had this discussion before, did the grand masters of the golden age of furniture making (18th century) pay a lot of attention to no-show surfaces or not? Well, it seems that even Thomas Chippendale didn't really care.
    Chippendale was struggling, wasn't he. Paint it pack it ship it is not entirely a modern concept. Not to mention that good help is hard to find, then as now.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    The Netherlands
    Posts
    2,405
    Yeah, really struggling

    It was also the frame of reference of that time. When nobody polishes the bottoms of a carcasse, nobody will expect it either. Wide belt sanders hadn't been invented yet (probably), and paying too much attention to secundairy surfaces just hurted the bottom line without gaining any extra respect.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Kees Heiden View Post
    Yeah, really struggling

    It was also the frame of reference of that time. When nobody polishes the bottoms of a carcasse, nobody will expect it either. Wide belt sanders hadn't been invented yet (probably), and paying too much attention to secundairy surfaces just hurted the bottom line without gaining any extra respect.
    It's amazing how shoddy these things were. You could pull them apart with your bare hands.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Princeton, NJ
    Posts
    4,825
    Blog Entries
    7
    By process of making reference surfaces, I rarely end up with a surface that isn’t passable. Occasionally if one area doesn’t clean up when it gets done to thickness then they side goes to the inside and is hidden away. This is quite rare.

    Chippendale was practically a factory, IIRC 450~ workers, they were processing an incredible volume of work and I can’t imagine they were particularly concerned with hidden surfaces. I’m certain they wanted a high quality finished product, that functioned accurately. Royalty aren’t going to inspect the bottom of the table, that’s the cabinermaker’s business.
    Bumbling forward into the unknown.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    The Netherlands
    Posts
    2,405
    Of course there are always degrees of rough. How about this one?

    back-of-mulliner-chest.jpg

  7. #7
    This is an interesting topic. Thanks for raising it! George Wilson or Warren Mickley could certainly educate all of us on this.

    I used to say "good enough" on parts that wouldnt show, and still do when I make throw-together stuff like shop furniture. But Krenov's books changed my view on that. His idea that ALL of it should be of highest quality just resonated with me. BUT I'm a mere hobbyist. I can spend as much time as I like on each and every piece I make. Different story when every day is a race to make enough to feed your family.

    Fred
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  8. #8
    Kees, thanks for those pics.

    Quote Originally Posted by Frederick Skelly View Post
    George Wilson...
    Ok, anyone know what happened to George? Haven't seen him around in a while.
    "The reward of a thing well done is having done it." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Missouri
    Posts
    1,169
    I'm always interested in these threads. I have my own opinions on this subject. I think it is easy to criticize the work of past years. I believe that if we actually had to work with the tools that were available we may have a different take on what was done. I tend to look at it just like machines. Do you expect your table saw table to be fully machined on the underside? When Brian said about using a surface for reference that's different. Workers of the past were capable of thicknessing very accurately when needed. If not necessary why do it? If it didn't add value it just wasn't done. The same to me as your table saw table bottom side. No quality added no additional usability. Where the table bolts down to the base or trunnions that's important. Look under your vehicle for reference.
    Jim

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Location
    United Kingdom - Devon
    Posts
    386
    Thanks, Kees. Always good to see work from this period. In terms of shoddy, it might be worth considering that when instructed to produce work of the highest order, they did just that. I hate to link to videos, but the following is superb https://youtu.be/DE7BbpzWdik?t=5m15s. Get to 6:50 ish for the now coined "piston fit drawer".

    Expanding on the point, there were not that many super wealthy patrons who could have the absolute best. I think it likely that Chippendale, and many more anonymous cabinet makers would still make pieces of the time, but they would be more budget friendly, to suit the middles classes. These are often described as "country furniture".

    Chippendale's contribution was unique, innovative and a superb part of furniture making history. If I was ever able to design and make work to the standard shown in Kee's photos, all by hand (no "I use machines for the grunt"), I would be delighted.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Princeton, NJ
    Posts
    4,825
    Blog Entries
    7
    There is another point to add with respect to period pieces. It’s difficult to know, without taking it apart, which parts are original and which are repairs. Period work of note is repaired and restored very often. Chippendale’s workshop may be taking the blame for something done 100 years later.
    Bumbling forward into the unknown.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by James Pallas View Post
    I think it is easy to criticize the work of past years. I believe that if we actually had to work with the tools that were available we may have a different take on what was done.
    You're apologizing for them. :^) It amuses me when people say "ooooh, look at what primitive tools they had, it must have taken them so long to do that!" Well no, they took the same amount of time to do stuff, they just did it crappier. Doing stuff like that, if hand tools are all you know and you're good at it, can be a very efficient process. The tools weren't all that primitive, they just didn't use electrons.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    The Netherlands
    Posts
    2,405
    Brian, I think you would be hard pressed to find a picture of s period cabinet or chest with bottom boards that have seen a smooting plane on the underside.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Virginia
    Posts
    3,173
    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Dawson View Post
    It's amazing how shoddy these things were. You could pull them apart with your bare hands.
    And yet museums and mansions across the world are filled with countless examples of these "shoddy" pieces of furniture.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Princeton, NJ
    Posts
    4,825
    Blog Entries
    7
    Quote Originally Posted by Kees Heiden View Post
    Brian, I think you would be hard pressed to find a picture of s period cabinet or chest with bottom boards that have seen a smooting plane on the underside.
    Yeah, I’m not making an argument against that.
    Bumbling forward into the unknown.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •