This picture sums up where I am these days. Looking backward and forward, old and new. The Hadley trunk, based on examples from 1695-1725, I made of sassafras and finished with paint and shellac. It rests upon a minimalist and modern white oak breakfast table. The trunk is festooned with an ancient carving pattern complemented by an escutcheon cast from original 17th Century brasses. The corners are nailed like the original.
The table is restrained, it is all about the form., the only decorations are the figure of the boards with which it is made. The finish is “dry” with a low shine that suits it perfectly. It’s modern and clean but approachable and warm, usable.
I’ve been bouncing back and forth between styles for the last 13 years, making custom furniture here at Antick in Lambertville, New Jersey. It’s never a straight line, but sometimes things relate to each other in style or species of wood. This year I’ve been making 17th Century case pieces or farm tables. Here are some of them.
This cabinet is based on a piece at Winterthur in Delaware. It is made of walnut with excellent hardware from Londonderry. I really like the turnings and, though it’s hard to see, the x-stretcher between them.
This is a farm table I designed in white oak with a plank top.
This valuables cabinet was particularly interesting. It is made of walnut with two figured tombstone paneled doors. Lots of great hardware and moldings.
Lastly we have another farm table. This one in walnut with a one and a half inch thick top. At nearly 7 feet by 4 feet it is truly a great table.
I decided to make another version of the Girder Fork table. This one has solid “forks” which simplify the joinery and offer new design opportunities. I left a void at the top of the leg to lighten the mass and to give a subtle outside “curve.” It is interesting how the shape changes as you walk around the table or spy it from different parts of the room.
I also changed the apron for this table, that is, it runs the full length of the table. It gives the piece a timeless more familiar feeling.
Lastly I made a new top for the original Girder Fork table, with an asymmetrical arrangement of the boards.
So, I had an idea for a leg design inspired by motorcycle girder-forks (yeah, I know this bike doesn’t have them). I was also thinking about the work of Carlo Mollino, a 20th century furniture designer. The leg could be used on tables, case pieces and chairs. The idea wasn’t to mimic the forks exactly but more to subtly tap into the industrial strength of the shapes.
I liked the simplicity and efficiency of the design, but couldn’t resist the temptation to use more traditional joinery. This made for some tricky mitered mortise and tenon joints. I made full scale model of the leg in poplar first to see how to it would work, and look.
I had some large planks of sepele which would yield a 3 foot by 9 foot table. The planks were 18 inches wide and I wanted to show that so I joined them together with bread-board ends. I used the space between the boards as a design feature and aligned the aprons to allow light through. Placing the aprons in the center also keeps them from hitting your knees.
I hand planed the top and left the faceted marks from the planes for a more lively hewn surface. It just seems warmer and friendlier. The finish is linseed oil and shellac.
It’s hard to photograph this table in our little gallery. I really like the stance and angles down bellow.
I don’t mind mixing styles, good design is good design.
I start each piece by cutting parts out of boards, or some times one board. It’s a stressful time in the process of making furniture. I have a limited amount of material and have to make the best decisions regarding grain and figure. I’ll be working on these parts for a while and when it’s finished the parts will be that way forever.
Then there is a point where the parts start to take shape. The goal is to make each part like it was made of the same piece of wood. The grain should do the same thing in the same place on every leg, post or crest rail. It’s hard to do. You have to be sure the growth rings are facing the same way when cutting out the shapes. Things start to happen quickly at this stage.
This is my favorite time at the shop. Joints have already been cut and can be assembled. The board starts to come back together again and look as if it is completely natural. I’m no longer making smaller boards, I’m making arms, legs, feet!
Happy Birthday tool chest happy birthday to you. I just realized it’s 14 years old! I made it at The North Bennet Street School in Boston as the first requirement of the Cabinet and Furniture Making program. It is the first case piece I ever made.
All North Bennet Street tool chests have some common features among them. They have a maximum size, maximum number of drawers (6) and a way to lock it up. It is remarkable how many combinations of drawers, doors, woods, locks, and hardware there are. Each one is as individual as its maker.
It holds my marking and measuring tools and card scrapers in the top row of drawers, next level is chisels/gouges and files/rasps followed by odd tools, thread cutters & etc. and draw knives, scorps, hammers, bit braces at the bottom. The frame that my chest is attached to (the feet that is) I made for its first birthday.
The bottom drawer of the tool chest was carefully designed to hold my hand planes, they now reside in a cabinet on the wall.
The year started off with the completion of this carved oak vanity. The hardest part might have been photographing it! It just doesn’t fit in a frame.
From oaken vanity Welsh Dresser, here in curly maple. Probably my favorite for the year.
An architectural model.
Two copies of an early Queen Anne chair, with rush seats.
And a compass seat frame. The chair was made by someone else.
The key to Stockton!
Take your kids to work day!
A child’s size rocker in walnut.
Two Hadley trunks made of sassafras.
Wainscoting in my house.
My son found a child size windsor rocker, so we fixed it up, it fits him perfectly.
A walnut vitrine that I never got to photograph properly.
A set of Red cedar Campeche chairs.
And finally a New York Chippendale serpentine gaming table! I hereby resolve to post more this year!
This is the shop and warehouse of Duncan Phyfe, on Fulton Street in New York City c.1816. I think that must be his home on the right, otherwise why have it in the painting? Duncan Phyfe was a very successful cabinet maker in the early 19th Century and the first American to have a furniture style named after him, though not in his time. I’d love to have seen the City in this time period–look at all that sky! I also love the person peering out of the attic window.
This is the house, shop, and warehouse of David Alling on Broad Street in Newark, New Jersey c.1835 (attributed to Johann Jenny). David Alling was a tremendously prolific “fancy chair” maker (yeah,that’s a thing) and exporter who made tens of thousands of chairs and shipped them all over the south and mid-west. I love the bare trees in this painting, and all of the details.
And guess what, here’s my house and showroom in Lambertville, New Jersey c.2013. The sign is hidden by the still-leafy tree. It makes me happy to share something with these craftsmen and shop keeps of the past, who lived and worked and made furniture right there in the same place. It’s a rare thing these days for furniture to be designed, made, and sold by the same person in one place.