Metal

Metals have been used since antiquity for making and ornamenting furniture. Splendid Egyptian pieces, such as the thrones and stool that were found in the tomb of the youthful Tutankhamen (14th century BCE), were rich in gold mounts (decorative details). In ancient Greece, bronze, iron, and silver were used for making furniture. Finds that were buried in the ashes of Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy included tables with folding underframes and beds made partly or entirely of metal.

Throughout the Middle Ages the metal chair—for example, the 7th-century throne belonging to Dagobert I, king of the Franks—was used for special ceremonies.

Various examples of silver furniture have been preserved; not solid metal, they consist of embossed (decorated with relief) or chased (hammered) plates of silver fastened to a wooden core. Silver furniture was made for palaces in the days when monarchs amassed enormous wealth. In times of war, the silver mountings were melted down and turned into silver coins; it was thus that all the silver furniture disappeared from the royal palaces of France.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, iron furniture became a typical industrial product. Iron beds in particular became popular. Because they could be easily folded up, they were much in demand as camp beds; one used by Napoleon at St. Helena is a famous example. As ordinary beds in private homes or hotels, they could be decorated with brass ornaments such as big knobs screwed onto their posts. Iron has also been used for chairs; for instance, rocking chairs or, perhaps more frequently, garden chairs that can stand out in the rain, protected only by a coat of paint.

The possibilities of steel for furniture were explored in Germany during the 1920s, notably by architects associated with the Bauhaus, where architects, designers, and artists experimented with modern materials. Experiments were made with steel springs and chromium plated steel tubing. The genre was soon imitated, and tubular steel furniture became a symbol of functionalism. Since then, thinner tubing and plaited wire, with a resiliency similar to that found in wickerwork chairs have been used. Because of its lightness, aluminium became a furniture material.

Metal, however, is still employed primarily for locks, mounts, and hinges used on furniture or for purely ornamental purposes. In the Middle Ages, simply constructed chests demanded extensive use of iron bands to provide extra strength, and the ends of these bands were cut to form decorative shapes. Cabinets of the Renaissance and Baroque periods were decorated with mounts of pewter or bronze. Inlaid objects, decorated with material such as wood or ivory, set into the surface of the veneer furniture made at royal furniture workshops in France, especially so-called boulle furniture, were marked by an elaborate style of marquetry (patterns formed by the insertion of pieces of wood, shell, ivory, or metal into a wood veneer); they were influenced by Asian traditions, in which blue-tempered steel, brass, and copper were customarily used.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, especially in England and the American colonies, a refined style for furniture mounts, keyhole escutcheons (an ornamental shield around a keyhole), hinges, and the like, all based largely on Chinese models, was developed. The design of these mounts was dictated by a clear functional purpose, in contrast to contemporary French Rococo mounts, the majority of which were ornamental, often at the expense of utility. French bronze founders displayed great skill in making purely decorative mounts for the bodies of chests of drawers and protective mounts for corners and legs.

I Snapped My Saw Vice

I never thought it possible, but I snapped my Antique Disston saw vice from over tightening it. Cast iron is real crap. I don’t know if I was over tightening it to be honest but it snapped like a dry twig. I tell you what, I won’t be buying another antique saw vice and I caution you not too either. It hurts but as not as much as I thought it would. Yeah it was a good vice for small saws, but 24″ and above, no not so good. I’ll be making myself first a temp vice to finish off my sharpening then I’ll be on the hunt for some good ideas. All this hand work must’ve have given me super human strength. I can now break iron with my bare hands. I’ve seen many hand planes lately on FB that are cracked from being dropped. Drop a Lie Nielsen plane and nothing will happen to it. Oh maybe you’ll dent the corner or side but it will not break. This is why I say I’ll take a reproduction of a vintage or antique any day of the week. Yes they made quality tools once upon a time but the iron they used if dropped will break. It’s a shame a bit of history has broken but I will get it welded and put it aside for safe keeping.

The Most Effective and Safest Tarnish Remover

This is a souvenir copper plate that my father bought back in 1975 when we last went on vacation to Bosnia and Hercegovina. I plucked it out of his shed and thought I’d give my wife’s recipe a go that she uses to clean the kitchen sink, to unblock pipes, to clean the oven. Kettle, you name it, comes up new like again.

I mixed some amount of vinegar and bicarbonate soda in a tray and popped the souvenir in the tray and watched in amazement the sizzling effect going on. I let it sit there in a couple of minutes and with a toothbrush I scrubbed the plate. Presto! I couldn’t believe how easily the tarnish scraped or brushed off. So I put it back in the tray and left it there for an hour to see what effect it would do to the metal. To my surprise, no damage. I scrubbed away with the brush and then switched to a 0000 steel wool to make it even brighter. The results are below.

All the gunk and tarnish just fell off with ease. I put a gentle coat of shellac with hardener in it to keep it shiny from now on.

Household vinegar and bicarbonate soda give it a try. I’d say it would be just as good for rust as well.

General considerations

Materials

Wood

WRITTEN BY Edward J. Wormley

Wood is the material most often used for making furniture. Although there are over a hundred different kinds that can be used for furniture, some woods have natural properties that make them superior to the others.

A relatively cheap material, wood lends itself to various kinds of treatment; for example, it can be stained, painted, gilded, and glued. It can be shaped by means of hand- or power-operated cutting and drilling tools. Heated, it can be bent to a certain extent into a predetermined shape and thereafter will retain the shape. The grain in wood creates a structure with varying character, which in itself provides a natural ornamental surface, in which patterns can be formed by means of precalculated juxtapositions. Colours range from white, yellow, green, red, brown, gray to black through countless intermediary tones. By juxtaposing wood of different colours, extremely rich effects have been achieved, especially in the 17th and 18th centuries. Wood, if stored under favourable conditions, is durable, and pieces of furniture from the oldest civilizations—Egypt, for example—are still extant. Lastly, most wood has an aromatic scent.

Walnut armchair attributed to an unknown Philadelphia craftsman, c. 1730–40; in the Art Institute of Chicago.
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of the Antiquarian Society through the Jessie Spalding Landon Fund, reference no. 1944.207 (CC0)

Developments in the sphere of craftsmanship and mechanical techniques, during the past 200 years or so, have made furniture production both cheaper and quicker. Using timber as a basis and applying techniques such as shredding, heating and gluing, it has been possible to evolve new materials. To an increasing extent, cabinetmakers and furniture factories are using semi-manufactured wood such as veneer, carcass wood, plywood, laminated board, and hardboard (fibreboard).

Veneer is a very thin layer of particularly fine wood that has been glued on to inferior wood in order to produce a smooth and attractive surface. It would hardly be possible to achieve such a surface by using solid wood, partly because of the expense, partly because of its brittleness, and partly because the grain can never be shown off to its best advantage when the timber is cut into solid boards.

The practice of veneering furniture has been known since the time of pharaonic Egypt, but it was not fully exploited until the beginning of the 18th century. During the Rococo period, especially, great virtuosity was displayed by the craftsman in the veneering of curving, concave, and convex surfaces; for instance, as found on chests of drawers.

Veneer is made by sawing, machine-cutting, and peeling. Saw-cut veneer is of the highest quality, but because of the relatively large loss of wood in the form of sawdust, it is also the most expensive. Therefore, furniture veneer, as a rule, is machine-cut.

Veneering is done on carcass wood, either in the form of a solid surface or a surface composed of several layers glued together. Old furniture is nearly always veneered on solid wood of an inferior quality to the veneer, such as beech, oak, or deal. High-quality English mahogany furniture made in the 18th century, however, was veneered with mahogany on mahogany. In the 20th century, machine-made laminated board of various thicknesses was generally used. The advantage of ready-made laminated board is that it does not shrink. Wood expands and contracts in various ways, and its strength can vary axially, radially, or tangentially; by blocking the wood—i.e., gluing pieces of wood together in different directions—such differences are eliminated and equal strength is obtained both longitudinally and laterally. The characteristic feature of laminated board is that the veneer on both sides encloses a wooden board composed of narrow strips of wood glued together on edge. The board is therefore thick enough to be suitable for table tops or doors.

If laminated board consists only of single sheets of veneer glued together, it is known as plywood. Plywood is widely used in the manufacture of furniture, particularly as backing for chests and other storage pieces, for the bottoms of drawers, and for shelves.

Restoration:Stanley No.246 Part II

This is the part where I start putting the box back together again. It won’t be in order but you can clearly see the difference of before and after. Actually I’ll place the before and after shots.

Automatic Catches
Steel Base

Pay attention to this important detail. Remember I wasn’t born in the fifth century as some may proclaim, I learn to trial and error and this one I easily picked up on. Insert the part that I’m holding into the steel base however, make sure that the cut angle is facing towards you (sawing position).

facing towards you

The bolt goes through all parts as is shown

Do this on both sides. Once you’ve done that insert the two grub screw on each sides. These grub screw have a point on the end. You turn them to adjust the saw vertically to 90°. Refer to the picture below for more detail.

Make sure to thread the depth stop before screwing on the upright.

Insert the spring

The pictures are really self explanatory. The parts that aren’t I’ll do my best to clarify. The tie-bar goes through that slot above the saw guides.

An important part I forgot to mention is prior to all that you have seen, install the baseboard first just to make life installing it a little simpler. I bought new screws for this.

Make sure to chamfer the end of the board that will butt up again the fence. Also if you are going to use pointed screws that will stop your work from sliding then plane the board to thickness. I can’t remember what it was, but you can work that part out easily.

Now comes the fun part adjusting the saw to accuracy. It actually wasn’t as frustrating as Ron Herman made it out to be. Maybe I was lucky IDK.

Not 90°

First turn all the grub screws until they bottom out. Be gentle as soon as you feel it touched the other side stop turning. Now turn anti clockwise front side then the back and check for 90°. To get it to saw straight I loosened the bottom nut and turned the steel base. I fluked that one as well.

That is it for the adjustments. I made a base and I put a lip on it so it butts up against the edge of the workbench. However, if you prefer you can omit the lip and just use holdfasts to hold it, that too works quite well.

The vintage and antique mitre boxes and I sold one antique mitre box as I don’t need two are very accurate, robust and solidly built. The handsaws that come with them need to be sharp and properly set for it to cut straight. Everything must work in harmony with each other.

I remember when I was in my early twenties I bought myself a modern day mitre box much like the Jorgenson and boy did I hate that thing. It cut accurately, but I stood forever trying to saw through a 2×4. I haven’t used one since I’ve restored this one and what a difference it made. The cuts are fast and the box isn’t flimsy. You can clearly see that these mitre boxes were made for the journeyman.

I understand why the world has moved to cheaper alternative materials and I know Stanley didn’t have a choice; it was to stay in the US and go broke or mass produce in China and triple their profits. However, I as a consumer have a choice and I choose to buy the best I can afford, but as much as we’d like to think we can make a difference we are a minority and in this case the minority are not the loudest voice.

Restoration: Stanley No.246 Part I

I’ve been wanting a vintage mitre box since forever, but I could never find one that was in good nick and reasonably priced. I have found a couple on eBay that were beautifully restored, but was horrifically priced. One chap was selling one for $700, but it was beautifully restored. Eventually one came across on a woodworking forum for a very low price of $40, so I snapped it up. It wasn’t much to look at, but it was as accurate as the day it was made. I left it on the shelf for about a year before I had time to restore it. In fact, I was going to write the article on how to restore for the magazine. So here I am writing now, probably not as in depth as I would have liked it to be but enough to give you some idea of what the parts do. The restoration itself is basic enough that an article need not be written on it. However, I feel that giving you an insight into what some of the parts do would be better time spent in writing.

Before Restoration

First thing I did was take lots of photographs before stripping it down. I didn’t strip it entirely down, but enough to make it visually appealing. There was no need to pull every part off.

After I was satisfied I had enough pictures, I soaked all the parts including the mitre box in a bath of vinegar and bicarbonate soda. I bought double extra strength vinegar thinking it would do an even better job of de-rusting but normal vinegar is more than enough. Vinegar is a very friendly de-rusting agent, and it’s perfect for tools that are antique.

First runner up are the saw guides.

The saw guides have roller bearings. They help eliminate wear on the saw and guides.

Next is the Tie-bar. This gives rigidity to the upright which are the two metal rods the saw guides slide through. The Tie-bar was installed wrongly by the previous owner. Fortunately for me I was informed by one of my readers on how to install correctly which I will divulge this bit of information later down the track or you can simply search through my previous posts and find out immediately.

That cover holds the automatic catches from falling off.

Automatic catch

The automatic catches face towards you. When I received the saw they were facing inwards towards each other which is incorrect. The automatic catches hold the saw above the work so that both hands can be used to place the work. They release the saw when the tip engages the front catch.

This one here I paid the price. As I didn’t know at the time what it does and ended up sawing deeply into my new base board. No big deal other than aesthetics flying out the window. Fixed stops threaded on the uprights prevent sawing below the baseboard. Adjustable stops are provided to aid in sawing to a given depth. A heavy spring on the uprights lifts the saw out of any kerf cut in the board and permits the swivel to be moved without lifting the saw.

Steel Base

This is what they call a steel base and this is what holds the uprights. The instruction manual says that they can be turned to fit a saw of any thickness. I’m not entirely sure as to what they mean. To remove the uprights you simply unscrew them. Being as old as they are this may not be an easy task.

To remove the steel base you need to flip the mitre box upside down and remove the large middle nut.

Then unscrew and carefully remove the two springs you see on either side. These two screws locks the swivel to every degree not just the main ones.

Lower down you will see the pin. This is what locks in the holes under the swivel to 90°, 22.5°, 45° etc. There is no need to remove this unless you really, really, want to.

This nut holds the whole swivel arm. You can remove this if you so wish, but caution if the thread is damaged then you will have to rethread it and use a larger bolt.

This is self explanatory. Once you screw it back it is self centring so no need for any adjustments.

This was part of the length stop to make repeatable cuts. Mine never came with it and that screw is all that’s left of it.. There a guy on eBay that sell accessories for mitre boxes.

Adjustable Spurs

They hold the work or stop it from slipping

I missed this picture previously. Don’t lose those springs and remember the position it’s supposed to be in. When I got this mitre box these screws were screwed in from above and when I tried to set to an n th degree it would not lock in place, so again set it like this and don’t lose those springs.

Luckily for me the feet are Malleable iron making them practically unbreakable. The earlier mitre boxes are from cast iron and if dropped will break.

This is the end of Part I. In the next part the mitre box is restored and I will show every detail of the part going back together again.

Furniture industry

WRITTEN BY Charles Harold Hayward Freelance writer and artist. Editor, Woodworker, 1939–65. Author of English Period Furniture and others.

Furniture industry, all the companies and activities involved in the design, manufacture, distribution, and sale of functional and decorative objects of household equipment.

The modern manufacture of furniture, as distinct from its design, is a major mass-production industry in Europe, the U.S., and other advanced regions. It is very largely a 20th-century industry, its development having awaited the growth of a mass consumer market as well as the development of the mass-production technique. Earlier furniture making was a handicraft, going back to the most ancient civilizations.

mahogany card table Card table, mahogany (primary wood) with original gold patina and gold stenciling, maker unknown, c. 1828; in the Indianapolis Museum of Art. 70.48 × 91.74 × 91.44 cm.
Photograph by Jenny O’Donnell. Indianapolis Museum of Art, Thomas W. Ayton Fund, Alliance Art Auction, Eugene Beesley Fund and James V. Sweetser Fund, 80.374

The word furniture comes from the French fourniture, which means equipment. In most other European languages, however, the corresponding word (German Möbel, French meuble, Spanish mueble, Italian mobile) is derived from the Latin adjective mobilis, meaning movable. The Continental terms describe the intrinsic character of furniture better than the English word. To be furniture, it must be movable. Since furniture presupposes some degree of residential permanency, however, it is understandable that no independent furniture types seem to have been developed among the Melanesians or the Inuit in Greenland or the Mongolian nomads in Asia.

In general, furniture produced in the past 5,000 years has not undergone innovative development in any functional sense. An Egyptian folding stool dating from about 1500 BCE fulfils the same functional requirements and possesses the same basic features as a modern one. Only since the mid-20th century, with entirely new synthetic materials such as plastic and completely new fabrication techniques such as casting, have there been signs of a radical revision of the concept of furniture.

History

Examples of ancient furniture are extremely rare, but there is considerable knowledge of the pieces made by craftsmen in China, India, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome from pictorial representations. Beds, tables, chairs, boxes, stools, chests, and other pieces were nearly always made of natural wood, though veneering was known in Egypt, where it was used to produce coffin cases of great durability. The Romans too used veneers, though chiefly for decorative purposes. Bronze was also used in Roman tables, stools, and couch frames. Pompeian wall paintings show that plain, undecorated wooden tables and benches were standard in kitchens and workshops and that panelled cupboards were common. Chests for valuables were covered with plates or bound with iron.

The early Middle Ages were much poorer in household furnishings of every kind than the Roman world, but in the 14th and 15th century a growing affluence brought a major revival of furniture making, with many new types of cupboards, boxes with compartments, and various sorts of desks appearing. The religious houses in particular were well supplied with furniture. Framed panelling, reintroduced in the Burgundian Netherlands, quickly spread. The mortise and tenon and mitre provided greatly improved joints.

The growing sophistication in technique brought a revolutionary change in the men who made furniture. Where previously carpenters and joiners had made furniture along with every kind of building construction in wood, several circumstances combined to create a new profession: that of cabinetmaker. The most important technical factor was the introduction, or reintroduction, of veneering, first in western Europe, then in Britain, North America, and elsewhere.

In the earlier system of framework and panel, the framing gave the required strength in both length and width, the panel being a mere filling held in grooves. Its attractive appearance was the result of highlights and shadows produced by the framing, moldings, and carving, which formed the chief means of decoration. The grain of the wood was incidental.

The introduction of veneering coincided with the use of walnut as a furniture wood. It was soon realized that the grain of such a wood could be of decorative value, especially as veneering made it possible to use such visually attractive parts of the wood as burrs, butts, and curls, unreliable if used as solid wood. It became the custom to have the grain of the veneer generally run crosswise because of its decorative appearance. Marquetry (a form of inlay in veneer) was another example of the decorative use of the grain and colour of wood in surfaces unbroken by panelling.

In addition to veneering and the new system of construction it involved, an impetus to the establishment of the trade of furniture making came from the increasing market demand provided by the growing affluence of the 17th and 18th centuries. In the new system of construction, plain, flat parts are dovetailed together and then veneered. It can be contrasted with the traditional framed method of rails and stiles put together with mortise and tenon joints, the panels fitting in grooves.

Coinciding with this change, or preceding it by a few years, was another breakaway: that of the chairmaker, who had become another specialized craftsman. At first chairmaking was closely associated with wood turning but by the 18th century turned legs were largely replaced by shaped legs of the cabriole type. Chairmaking has remained a separate branch of furniture making ever since.

This growth of cabinetmaking as a trade of its own eventually resulted in a considerable degree of standardization of methods of construction, particularly in the types of joints used and in the thicknesses of wood for the various parts. It also resulted in an increased division of labour. Turnery became a separate trade, while the cabinetmaker assembled the turned parts; veneer and marquetry cutting was not done by the cabinetmaker although he laid both; carving too called for the skill and experience and tools of a craftsman who did nothing else. Another specialist, the upholsterer, did his work after the chairmaker had made the frame; and it seems likely that finishing was seldom done by the cabinetmaker. This was certainly the case later in the 19th century when French polishing became the standard method of finishing furniture.

An important 19th-century change was the separation within the industry of those who made furniture from those who sold it. Previously the customer commissioned a cabinetmaker, perhaps after consulting a design book by Chippendale, Hepplewhite, or Sheraton. Or he might work out his requirements in consultation with the cabinetmaker or, if he were sufficiently wealthy, employ an architect or designer. After the midyears of the 19th century the showroom gained popularity. A large store often retained its own workshops where special items were made to customers’ requirements, but for the greater part it became the practice to buy wholesale from furniture making firms.

Taking the cup out with an Iron

I’m making a fancy box that will be filled with chocolates. I’m using European beech that I’ve had for quite a while. After re-sawing it, the darn thing cupped. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t, it’s all part of the journey and you just deal with it. Unfortunately, the cup was really prominent and I cannot afford to plane out as it’s the lid and I want it to remain as close as I can to 3/4″ thick.

So what can I do? I can cry, I can throw the timber across the room or I can iron it out, and I chose option three. I wet the timber through a wet paper towel and lay it across the wood.

Next, I lay the hot iron across the paper towel which made it cup in the opposite direction.

Plenty of steam came out, which is why the picture is so foggy. I did this as many times as necessary to get the cup out. In my case, it was three times.

That’s close enough. As you can see, most of the cup is gone. Instead of planing it now, I stickered them to allow nature to take its course and let the timber move and acclimate for a couple of days. Sometimes you may have to wait a couple of weeks for the wood to properly acclimate and stop moving around on you. This is not a permanent solution but only a quick fix if you needed to attach it to something. Unfortunately, it cupped again and again and again even after I had placed heavy loads on it to stop it from. I was hoping it would acclimate to the shops environment and stay flat, but it didn’t. It just cupped to the same level it did the first time round as if it had memory. There wasn’t anything I could do change the situation. Wood moves and unfortunate for me it moved because it wasn’t kiln dried properly in the first place. This is an on going issue I am having with my timber yard that for one reason or another it never get addressed.

Compliment to the hands

This short video is about a well known Croatian violin maker Ivan Hus (1898 – 1992). The video doesn’t go into any great detail, except that it shows how once upon a time one made a violin. Ok, maybe that’s a little unfair as the process hasn’t changed for those still working by hand. His tools are not shiny, his hand plane is full of worm holes yet fully functional. The film was made in Croatia in 1967. When looking at the film, I initially thought it was in the 1920s.

There are still small pockets in the world who continue to practice woodworking by hand, but sadly the rest of the world has abandoned this and moved towards robotic woodworking through CNC machining and what not. The mighty dollar seems to always take precedence over what truly holds value. Without getting too philosophical, I will abandon what I intended to say and allow you to watch the video. If by the end of the video you feel what I felt, then you’ll know what I wanted to say.