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.
We all need a place to work. A place where you can keep all those things you need to get the work done. It’s great if you have a room for the purpose, but you may have to be more versatile. In this case the workspace is combined with the entertainment center.
The left half of this unit is for work. There are file drawers, large and small storage drawers and a pull-out work surface for a keyboard and mouse. Cables run behind the back of the cabinet to reduce clutter. The right half holds a TV, DVD player and video game systems, as well as shelves for books and discs.
The idea is to have a sliding door that covers one half of this unit depending on which side is in use. The door would have another door in it to allow access to the covered side.
Most of the grain on these walnut cabinets is vertical so I made the drawer fronts run the same way, which makes it feel more modern. I also think its symmetry makes it calming. The work surface also has space inside for the keyboard and more.
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!
It is a small detail, but I think it makes this simple little box something special. This piece is based on a early Queen Anne box but I’ve pushed it a little further back to William & Mary. An interesting time for cabinet makers. In fact it was when cabinet makers started to come into their own. Before then they were called joiners and would have also been building houses and using the same “joinery” for both.
So here we have a box that is nailed together with a dovetailed drawer inside. The top is covered with walnut crotch veneer and edged with walnut cross banding. The drawer front and sides are solid, highly figured walnut. The drawer sides are made of sassafras, a local aromatic hardwood.
Oh, so the detail. It’s the hand cast brass hardware. They help give an interesting rhythm,with the feet, to the facade.