The Next Project

I’ve been thinking about the next project for quite a while.  About two years ago a local woodworker, Keith Neer, gave a class on inlay and marquetry.  I really enjoyed it.  There were two sample projects in that class, one was a door panel for a Pennsylvania Spice Box and the other a Federal style leg.  After we remodeled the kitchen (a marathon project) I decided to do the Spice Box because it was nice and detailed.  It was one Steve Latta had written about in FWW a few years ago.

Pennsylvania Spice BoxI don’t often build from other’s plans, but I followed the plan for this one.  It was great fun and I learned a lot.  I cheaped out on the hardware a bit – the stuff Latta used was too rich for my blood.  The walnut lumber came from WV and was stock my grandfather left behind when he died.

Now, the next project.  I don’t know why I’m fascinated with Federal furniture.  Maybe it’s because it looks easier to me than those carved Chippendale pieces that are just so fabulous (and my wife tells me are a PITA to dust).   In one respect there’s a clean, crisp form to the Federal pieces.  They are usually very well proportioned, and on top of that some are decorated to the hilt.  I’m told that the amount of decoration was directly proportional to the wealth of the buyer.  Nowadays people would just bling out their car or buy a bigger TV.  Stringing and inlay on a piece of furniture were a status symbol back at the beginning of the 19th century.  I guess the only think that’s changed is the medium.

In that class Keith had us make a leg for a Federal table.  Kind of silly I’ve not made the other three.

That’s a sort of Baltimore bellflower design that I really think is attractive.  The paterae (oval) on the leg is not one I’ve seen in any research so far – but it was pretty easy to do in our class.  The larger oval in the photo above was a recent experiment to make another style of oval fan.  I don’t think that’s what I’m going to use, but it was good practice.  And Maryanne was very forgiving when it came time to do the sand shading.

It turns out my neighbor owns an authentic Charleston SC square card table with ovolo corners.  I really like the form and shape.  It will be a good model for construction.  I spent a good hour there with a camera and tape measure, making lots of notes.  It’s not very ostentatious (nor is Bill) but it seems to be well executed.

Card tables – not the crappy fold-up things you buy at Costco – were very popular around 1800.  No TV, no interwebs and no i-Thingys.  It seems of all the forms found during the Federal (Neo-Classical era), card tables were among the most popular.

So here’s the brief (as the Brits would say):  A square card table with ovolo corners, double fly legs, built of mahogany.  Stringing and inlay on top, apron and the legs.  Heavily influenced by Baltimore pieces, but not rigidly.  I’ll make all the inlay and paterae from scratch.  And I have to get it done before November for Woodworking in America.

We might need to learn to play whist next…

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