As those of you who follow the Gardiner’s blog know, we’ve been involved in providing two sets of clothing for the new Row House at the Jamestown Settlement museum. Additionally, I’ve been working on a project to help furnish the new building, a turned chair for the Governor’s bedchamber.
There are already some nice examples of the joiner’s craft in the row house, such as this frame and panel chair with linenfold panels.
Or this joined chair with an upholstered back and seat.
Both of these examples use mortise and tenon joints, a method of construction restricted among the London trade companies to joiners. Other furniture making trades, such as carpenters and turners, were in theory forbidden from their use. For carpenters, basic nailed board construction was typical, such as these classic six-board chests.
Turner’s were left to round mortises and tenons, essentially a round peg in a round hole. Since the turner’s trade is not represented in the Fort’s furniture, I volunteered to build a chair that would be appropriate for the new Governor’s bedchamber. Turned chairs were reaching their height of popularity in the late 16th and early 17th century, from simple three-post triangle stools to elaborate great chairs with masses of turned spindles, knobs, and rings.
The model we settled on for the new chair was an Anglo-Welsh piece, circa 1600. Appropriate for a high-status owner, this chair uses a relatively new style of construction where the back is slightly reclined, rather than the traditional medieval style of a straight, vertical back. Such a chair would have been turned on a pole lathe, a foot-powered lathe that uses a back-and-forth, reciprocal motion to spin the workpiece. More about early modern lathes can be found here.
The Jamestown Settlement curator requested that the chair be made of white oak, as opposed to the original ash. In addition, I took a few liberties with the design to make it more durable for its role in an open-air museum. The original had wide, flat captured rings on the back rail, and sharp profiles on some of the back spindles that I thought would not hold up under rough use. Most of the differences are subtle, and the captured rings have been replaced with more conventional solid ones.
Here is the chair thus far,
And a close-up of the back,
I still have a few rails to turn, and of course the seat panels to mortise in, but otherwise it is getting close to completion. With luck, it will go to the fort for the weekend of Military Through the Ages.