The Accidental Mannerist
One thing about being a furniture maker these days is that you tend to get commissions that are all over the place stylistically. Nineteenth Century rustic followed by mid Twentieth Century Modern, a built-in piece and then back to the Seventeenth Century. It’s hard to specialize in a particular style. Recently though, I have had back to back to back pieces in the Mannerist style. The style came to England in the late Sixteenth Century through Continental (European) artisans and pattern books. It was based on Northern European renaissance ideas of classical design which gives the pieces a naive quality. Roughly speaking there are two groups of Mannerist-style furniture in Colonial America ; a low relief carved strap-work variety and an applied ornament variety with deep moldings and architectural elements. I’ve got both types here, starting with this valuables cabinet based on the one the Symonds shop made for Joseph and Bathsheba Pope in 1679. It has the applied elements and the strap-work carving and is at once both crude and remarkably refined. The applied turnings and moldings really throw light around to dramatic effect, especially in low or raking light. Inside is an arrangement of drawers which I have dovetailed though the original has butted and nailed drawers.The center medallion was typically carved with the owners initials. (this one is available, and can be carved to suit).The next piece is a desk box I designed based on the Mannerist carved Hadley chest tradition of the Connecticut River Valley. Interestingly the Valuables Cabinet above could have been made by John Pease who later moved to the Hadley area and may have helped to start that school of carved furniture.In all, I’ve made five Mannerist style pieces this year and it has been great to soak in the period and try to get into the heads of these early masters.The awesome hasp-lock on the desk was made by Matthew Stein. Below is another Hadley style trunk which is also available.Lastly, I rarely post things on this “blog” but you can see more recent, up to the minute, or week, posts on Instagram at davidsantickdavid
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 to … my tool chest.
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.
A full size, Chippendale, four poster with tester.
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!