Wikinson Patent Dining table

New in this month is this Regency period metamorphic mahogany extending dining table of Wilkinson patent type. These were ingeniously designed ‘metamorphic’ mahogany dining tables, complete with extra leaves, which closed to form a fold-over side table of compact form. This type of patented dining table, first advertised in 1807 by the cabinet-making firm of Wilkinson & Sons of Brokers Row, later Ludgate Hill, London, were created in order to occupy little space when not in use .

The folding-top D-end side table with reeded edges, opens with a hinged action, with a brass-mounted ‘concertina’ or scissor-action carriage beneath which pulls open and extends to accommodate the two extra leaves. The original leaves are of equal size, all with conforming reeded edges. The front of the closed table has a frieze with turned paterae mouldings and is raised on reeded legs capped with brass castors.

Thomas and William Wilkinson were cousins who ran a cabinet making firm at No.’s 9 & 10, Broker’s Row in Moorfields, London during the period 1790-1808. They were most renowned for the specialist production of patent tables, and extending dining tables in particular, which in their own words could occupy ‘a space considerable smaller than is necessary for the standing of any other dining table now in use’. The Wilkinson partnership ceased in 1808 when William left the firm in order to set up his own company at 14 Ludgate Hill while Thomas continued to operate in the same capacity, albeit on his own, until 1828

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Why Do We Use Spokeshaves?

One of the tools people are surprised to see hanging in our workshops is the spokeshave. A very ancient tool, they were originally made in wood as wheelwrights’ tools, for shaping the “spokes” of a cartwheel. Similarly, they were commonly used by the Windsor chair makers of the 18th and 19th centuries for shaping stretchers and splats, while the spindles were turned on a lathe. The  early design consisted of a metal blade with a pair of tangs to which the wooden handles were attached, as with a drawknife.

These early wooden spokeshaves are delightful tools – the finer ones are usually made of boxwood, and all have their place in a cabinetmakers armoury … but for restorers? We’re not often shaping out new stretchers or splats, or quickly getting rid of lots of “waste” wood. But what we are doing is cleaning down small sections of fine cabinet timber where pieces have gone missing – say a section of Rosewood crossbanding, or a “finger” repair we have carefully laid into a mahogany top. The replacement piece is glued in oversize so that it can be cleaned down to the exact level of the surround WITHOUT touching the original patina. Not easy! Do you use a small block plane, which if very sharp will certainly flatten nicely … but won’t take account of the natural ripples in an old surface?

The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is the spokeshave. In the workshops here we use good quality old metal shaves made by Record [as with all woodworking tools we find the older they are the better made they are!]. The next point is that the blade has to be razor sharp, so that the tool can be worked carefully across the grain as well as with it … not easy to achieve. The blade is barely more than 2 inches long – how to hold that at the correct angle on the sharpening stone? The answer is this beechwood jig which I made over 35 years ago, and still use regularly – the blade slides in and is held securely while the edge is honed.

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Dealer’s Choice: Exceptionally fine set of four Georgian mahogany hall chairs, in the manner of Gillows.

We are delighted present this stunning set of four Georgian Hall chairs, in the manner of Gillows. The arched backs have carved paterae and painted recessed panels. The moulded seats below are raised on turned reeded legs. They are a rare design, of refined elegance and handsome proportions, and it is not hard to imagine them in the large hallway of a grand house.

And the big house that they originated from in this case was Gargrave Hall, Yorkshire, seat of the Coulthurst family during the late 18th and 19th century. Although occasionally hall chairs were painted with the family crest, in this case we have inset panels painted with equine crests. In heraldry the horse is a symbol of speed, intellect and virility and is said to signify readiness to act for one’s country.

Once a staple feature of stately homes throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, hall chairs occupied a prominent position in the home’s entryway. Placed to accommodate guests entering the home before they were invited into the more intimate inner rooms, they also provided a discreet resting place for waiting servants, the solid upright back prevented slouching!

For more information on the chairs, please see the following link:
https://www.thakehamfurniture.co.uk/antique-chairs-sofas-stools/antique-dining-chairs/set-of-4-georgian-hall-chairs-4-11-refno-4060/

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What is Patina?

 

One of the most frequent questions we are asked is “What is patina?” It is one of the most difficult things to describe, and yet it is that extra ingredient which transforms the surface of a piece of furniture from the ordinary to the exceptional. Put simply, patina is the surface formed by a combination of the ageing processes caused by rubbing, dusting and waxing, coupled with oxidisation of the wood and the action of the sun’s rays, producing a bronze-like lustre, or “skin”.

The flat yellow colour of walnut becomes golden and “honey-coloured”, with wonderful depth. Oak richens from dull grey to a deep, dark brown. Mahogany loses its reddish hue and softens to lovely gradations of brown, golden and grey. Finally, the dirt and dust of years which clings to corners plays its part by highlighting the paler, mellow surfaces; even the natural grease from fingertips which darkens areas around handles is an important factor.

Patina cannot be reproduced by the makers of fakes, and its qualities are an intrinsic part of the value of an antique. It takes two hundred or so years to form, but can be removed in an instant by the use of cleaners by unskilled restorers. Here in the  Thakeham Furniture workshops, our team specialise in the preservation of patina. One of the finest examples we’ve had of patina recently is this beautiful quality George III linen press, dating from about 1790. The vivid colours of the decorative veneers and inlay have faded to a mellow hue, and it has a wonderful waxy sheen.

 

 

 

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Antique Miniatures vs Apprentice pieces: What’s the difference?

 

Miniature Georgian mahogany chest of drawers

Here at Thakeham Furniture, we usually hold a stock of miniature antique furniture. Always popular, these charming pieces are often the subject of much discussion… why were they made? And for what purpose? People like to use the term ‘apprentice pieces’ when referring to these, but more often than not this isn’t the case. But what is an apprentice piece and why are they often confused with miniatures? Here we aim to answer these questions! …

George III miniature mahogany chest

The majority of miniature furniture are in fact sample pieces used by travelling salesmen. Workshops would send out salesmen on lengthy country-wide tours, with a miniature of each piece on his sales cart. This meant the cabinet maker could use the smaller form to show off his skills, without the salesman having to lug a full size piece of furniture wherever he went! Using exactly the same skills and techniques as used on the full sized pieces, the miniatures offered a fantastic way of potential buyers being able to get a feel of the quality of goods the workshop produced, before committing to a purchase… much better than a sketch in a catalogue!

A much smaller number of these miniatures are what was called ‘apprentice pieces’. Apprentice pieces, although again a scaled down version of the workshops’ offerings, were made by an often inexperienced apprentice. They were given lesser quality materials to work with and the craftsmanship was often less refined.

Miniature 19th century mahogany cheval mirror

Both miniatures and apprentice pieces are highly desirable and collectible antique items in today’s market. They are rarer than the real thing, and the charm and precise craftsmanship of these exquisite pieces is undeniable. These days they are often used as collectors’ chests and jewelry boxes etc., and make a wonderful gift!

 

To see our stock of miniature antique furniture and other smalls, please click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Secrets of the Glue Pot

 

When people come into our workshops here at Thakeham Furniture [visitors are always welcome], one of the things that astonishes them is the sight of a traditional ‘glue pot’ containing hide or ‘Scotch’ glue, such have been used in workshops since the 17th century! Scotch glue is an adhesive, similar to gelatin, that is created other by prolonged boiling of animal hide, and it is used hot.  It comes in the form of pearls, which are first soaked in water; the technology of the glue pot, however,  has moved on: we use an electric double skin device.

Why not use modern, synthetic adhesives? Well, there are several answers to this question. The first, and most important, is authenticity. When working on antique furniture you should never introduce materials that were not around when the piece was first made; for example, we have a wood store of old timber, so that we never have to use ugly modern mahogany in a repair. Scotch was what was used when the piece was made.

The second reason would be strength and reliability. Hide glue also functions as its own cramp. Once the glue begins to gel, it pulls the joint together. Cabinet makers may glue two planks together  by using a rubbed joint rather than using cramps.  This technique involves coating half of the joint with hot hide glue, and then rubbing the other half against the joint until the hide glue starts to gel, at which point the glue becomes tacky. At this point the plate is set aside without cramps, and the hide glue pulls the joint together as it hardens.

The third reason is convenience – hide glue is very forgiving. It is water soluble, so it can be washed off easily. Haven’t managed to wash every scrap of old glue off before re-gluing an old joint?  It doesn’t matter: the new heat of the new glue will soften up the old and they’ll combine nicely. Working on a piece that was restored by a cowboy last time? If they used a synthetic glue you will be cursing them, as anyone who has spent hours picking tiny scraps of Cascamite out of a joint will testify.

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What Is a Bonheur Du Jour?

A bonheur du jour (in French, bonheur-du-jour, meaning “daytime delight”) is a type of lady’s writing desk. It was introduced in Paris by one of the interior decorators and purveyors of fashionable novelties called marchands-merciers about 1760, and speedily became intensely fashionable. The bonheur du jour is always very light and graceful, with a decorated back, since it often did not stand against the wall (meuble meublant) but was moved about the room (meuble volant); its special characteristic is a raised back, which may form a little cabinet or a nest of drawers, or open shelves. The top, often surrounded with a gallery, serves for placing small ornaments. Beneath the writing surface there is usually a single drawer, often neatly fitted for toiletries or writing supplies. Early examples were raised on slender cabriole legs; under the influence of neoclassicism, examples made after about 1775 had straight, tapering legs.

The French had the idea of mounting bonheurs du jour with specially-made plaques of Sèvres porcelain; the earliest Sèvres-mounted pieces are datable from the marks under their plaques. Other choice examples of the time are inlaid with marquetry or panels of Oriental lacquer, banded with exotic woods, with gilt-bronze mounts.

By the mid-1770s the bonheur du jour was being made in England, where it was often simply called a “lady’s writing-desk”. This particularly fine Scottish example is in finely figured rosewood, with decorative boxwood stringing. The folding writing surface opens to reveal the original tooled leather and inset pen and inkwell trays. The scrolling shelf supports contribute to the overall elegance of the piece, which dates from about 1810.

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A History of Hall Chairs

Once a staple feature of stately homes throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, hall chairs occupied a prominent position in the home’s entryway. Placed to accommodate guests entering the home before they were invited into the more intimate inner rooms, they also provided a discreet resting place for waiting servants, the solid upright back prevented slouching!

Thomas Chippendale’s ‘The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director’, 1754, featured the first designs for the hall chair. The backs, carved from solid wood, were often painted with the family’s coat of arms and motto, which these days allows for provenance to easily be traced. They feature a solid hardwood seat, allowing for it to be easily cleaned. Hall chairs are not to be confused with porter’s chairs of the same period, which were designed with a cocoon like back to exclude draughts.

In recent years there has been a surge of popularity in Hall chairs. Alongside the robust design, and clean, architectural aesthetic, the chairs often come in pairs; creating a pleasing symmetry when placed either side of a console table in a hallway.

This pair of Regency mahogany hall chairs are in very good original condition. The architectural fanned back rest is typical of the style of the period. Please click here for further info on these chairs…
https://www.thakehamfurniture.co.uk/antique-chairs-sofas-stools/single-chairs-and-pairs/pair-of-georgian-hall-chairs-4-13-refno-3781/

 

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Gilt Mirrors

The term ‘gilding’ covers a number of decorative techniques for applying fine gold leaf to solid surfaces such as wood, stone, or metal to give a thin coating of gold. A gilded object is described as ‘gilt’. Where metal is gilded, it is traditionally known as ormolu, and was used for furniture mounts, mostly by the French.   Parcel-gilt (partial gilt) objects are only gilded over part of their surfaces. The use of gilding dates back to Egyptian times, and has always been valued for its beauty, its highly skilled techniques and opportunity to display wealth.

Specialist tools and equipment are needed: a gilder’s cushion, tip and knife. The cushion is a small padded board covered with suede, with a screen made of 4in high parchment or brown paper attached along one end of the cushion and halfway down both sides: this prevents the gold leaf being blown off, as it will do in the slightest draught. The gilder’s tip is made of fine brush hair and is used for moving the gold leaf: the tip is rubbed against the face or hair to produce static, which is then used to lift the delicate leaf onto the cushion for cutting.

Beneath the gold are the layers of gesso and bole. Gesso is composed of fine plaster of Paris and animal glue size – traditionally made from rabbit skin. It is applied with a brush, like paint, layer after layer, until the correct thickness is achieved. The Armenian bole, the final layer, gives a richness to the gold: it resembles reddish clay – due to the presence of iron oxide – and is again mixed with size. The surface is burnished with an agate burnisher to an almost mirror finish. This is then wetted, to activate the size, and the gold leaf laid on top. When it is perfectly dry the excess leaf is brushed away and the surface burnished again to make the gold shine.

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Gillows of Lancaster: The long established cabinet makers renowned for the highest quality craftsmanship

 

Gillows of Lancaster was established by Robert Gillow in 1728 and continued by his two sons. They were a unique firm: no other cabinet makers were in business for so long a period, and no other provincial firms had a showroom and workshop in 18th century London;  they were responsible for some of the finest pieces of English cabinet work during the late 18th and early 19th century. They had a wide range of clients, from aristocracy to the merchant classes. All designs were practical and of the best materials, and above all was the quality of design craftsmanship: two hundred years later drawers still glide in and out smoothly.

This two door wardrobe, circa. 1850 and stamped “Gillows”, is a fine example of this first class craftsmanship. Although well over 150 years old, it has really stood the test of time.. the drawers run smoothly, the linings are incredibly clean, and there is no warping or movement – everything fits in its place neatly and flush.

Another example of Gillows furniture currently in stock is this 18th century serpentine chest of drawers. Again, beautiful quality, the oak drawer linings are crisp and clean, and the lovely small dove tail joints are clearly the work of a highly skilled cabinet maker. Serpentine front chests always are always held in high esteem, due to the extra work during construction.

 

 

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