catholiccomposer

Period furniture: where to start?

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I'm relatively new to woodworking (only a dozen or so projects under my belt), and one of the things I'd like to find out more about and try my hand at making is period furniture. To that end, I have two questions, which are hopefully similar enough to warrant only one post instead of two:

1) What are some good resources, either online or in print, for getting to know the various styles in the history of American and European furniture? I can find plenty of things on the individual styles themselves, but I'm looking for more of a survey that addresses the various periods and the hallmarks and characteristics of each one.

2) What are some good beginner's projects and/or exercises in period furniture? I know things like Shaker tables and other pieces with mainly straight lines are often suggested for beginners, but I'm not sure where to go from there to learn some of the more complex techniques.

Thanks for your help!

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This book has been around for a while, been through a few editions and is a favorite among period furniture makers:

 

http://www.amazon.com/New-Fine-Points-Furniture-Masterpiece/dp/051758820X/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1421459652&sr=8-2-fkmr1&keywords=period+furniture+albert+sack

 

Resources will vary depending on how faithful you are to an original... what tools you plan to use.    

 

 

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Google books has several illustrated books on various styles of old English and early American furniture, and they are free to view or download to the Google Play books app. Most of these free ones were written around 1900 so the style may be a bit different but they are worth a look.

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SAPFM is a fantastic resource.

 

http://www.sapfm.org/

 

The group has chapters that hold meetings and learning opportunities in many parts of the country, is very friendly to newer folks, and pretty much anyone you've ever heard of related to period stuff is a member.  The website offers forums to members, and they publish several very informative items annually.  I'm a member of the quarterly eNewsletter team.

 

PM me an email address, and I'd be happy to share the latest eNewsletter issue PDF.

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This is the absolute best first book on period furniture that I've found. It discusses the individual periods from a social perspective, to help explain why some of the changes occurred, as well as the details of the furniture that fit them into the period. Plus there are construction details and how to's as well. For your first book on period furniture, this is where you should start. Then move on to more detailed and specific books.

http://www.amazon.com/American-Furniture-18th-Century-Technique/dp/1561581046

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I agree with Mr. Rozaieski. Jeffery Greene's book is probably the best and least noted book on period furniture. He discusses all the styles, shows construction techniques and even looks at period finishes. I own two copies. One signed.

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On info, you have some great links to be getting on with. If you have a good antiques store near to you make a visit, look at stuff and take notes. With phones these days videos are even possible. Just check the owner is cool with it. Seeing actual objects is a real eye opener, splice that with the written stuff and you'll have enough projects for quite a while!

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If you have a good antiques store near to you make a visit, look at stuff and take notes. With phones these days videos are even possible. Just check the owner is cool with it. Seeing actual objects is a real eye opener, splice that with the written stuff and you'll have enough projects for quite a while!

 

 

There can't be enough +1's on the suggestion to see as many items in person as you can.   I'm fortunate to live near the Yale Furniture Study, a large collection of important works at Yale University, a resource made available to the public for study!    The curators will remove drawers and flip them over, show you important construction details, let you measure, climb underneath, etc...

 

Many antique dealers love what they do, and enjoy others who share their interests.  Chat with some of them, as they may be open to allowing you to carefully study items up close, as will as share history of specific items.  Find out if they like pastries, wine, or beer, maybe buy something...     ;)     Let's face it, period furniture isn't exactly "in" right now with the masses, so interested folks are often happy to see fresh interest.

 

A few years back, I was able to take a six-day class at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking where we went to a local museum on a day it wasn't open, and were taught etiquette and techniques around obtaining permission, damage-free handling, measuring, photographing, templating (tracing odd shapes and profiles), creating full-sized plans, and building the item from our own research.   I had classmates that traveled from as far as Toronto.

 

SAPFM chapters nationwide organize "backstage" visits to museums and restorers, and/or hold meetings that bring history or conservation experts to you.  Some chapters are far more active than others, but often an extra interested person or two can get the gears turning in your locality. 

 

What general part of the world do you call home?

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Thanks, everyone!  Sorry I haven't had a chance to respond yet, but all of this looks like a great jumping off point for me and I can't wait to dig into all those books and links.  I'm in Western MD, Barry, so it looks like the closest SAPFM chapter is the Chesapeake chapter.

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