(Representations of) Furniture at the Chrysler Museum of Art

Driving back from our research trip to Virginia’s Eastern Shore, we stopped in Norfolk for lunch and our first visit to the Chrysler Museum of Art. Our lunch was good, only sandwiches but well prepared with fresh ingredients. The museum was nice, too.

There was furniture scattered around and a nice exhibit of Art Nouveaux. All this will be covered in the near future.

I quickly documented all the furniture there and was ready to move on but my wife had other ideas. It was still raining hard and she was not ready to leave. We hadn’t yet seen the glass, the European and American paintings and sculpture, ancient and non-western art or photography. And what is the difference between modern and contemporary art?

There were two paintings in the European gallery of particular interest to me, they were period domestic scenes with furniture. Most of the furniture I see is in auction gallery or antiques shops. There is no context for the furniture. Historic mansions and museums like Winterthur and MESDA do show entire period rooms but these are all curated and idealized representations of the past.

Painted period rooms might be closer to the way things actually were. The artist was living there and then. These might not be 100% accurate but, like Wikipedia articles, close may be good enough.

The first is The Surgeon by David Teniers the Younger, Flemish, 1610 – 1690:


Typical multi-provider practice of 1670’s Flanders.

David Teniers the Younger Flemish, 1610–1690 The Surgeon, 1670s Oil on canvas Is there a doctor in the house? Not in this one. The medic in this picture is a lowly barber surgeon, a quack who preyed on the ignorant and poor. Surrounded by his potions and aided by two dimwitted assistants, he operates on a patient’s back, ignoring his painful yelp. The monkey crouching nearby is an age-old symbol of foolishness. He “apes” the patient’s pose, suggesting that the man is chained to the ignorant belief that the barber surgeon will cure him. Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. 71.480


Here are some benches and stools.


The other practitioner is treating a victim/patient sitting in a Savonarola or Dante chair.


Some seating and crockery. Down front there appears to be a cow’s skull. But yet we know Georgia O’Keeffe wouldn’t be born for another 200 years.


This monkey is not furniture but it is interesting.

The other painting of interest is Home by Sir Joseph Noel Paton, Scottish, 1821-1901.


Reunion of a Scottish soldier with his family upon his return from service in the Crimean War (1854-1856).

Sir Joseph Noel Paton Scottish, 1821–1901 Home, ca. 1855–56 Oil on panel Noel Paton’s scene brims with details that bring its story of military valor and family strength to life. The Scottish soldier seated at center has just returned from the Crimean War. Slumped in a chair, his wife and mother fold over him. He has suffered serious wounds—his head is heavily bandaged and he has lost an arm in battle. But despite the sacrifices the family has made for home and country, the open Bible proclaims its spiritual strength in the face of uncertainty. The promise of a better future is embodied by the child sleeping peacefully in the cradle behind them. Museum purchase and gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.


A Hepplewhite chair, a cradle and a table.


An amoire acting as a catch-all.


A table and what looks like a slyod knife.


Nice piggins and a good selection of platters.

There Are No Rules.

Let’s recap what we know about chairs. There are one-legged chairs:


One leg is enough.

Two-legged chairs:


Obidos, Portugal


Go with me here.

Three-legged chairs:


Obviously a Canadian chair.




Ancient in appearance.

And the conventional four-legged chairs:


Primitive chairs.


Modern chairs.


Abstract chairs.

Today, we were on the Eastern shore of Virginia tracking down the final resting place of my wife’s dead relatives. By 2:00 PM, we were out of places to look and relatives to look for. As it happens, there was a large antiques mall just a few miles up the road. And it was raining. We went.

I wandered around a bit and thought I had found the elusive five-legged chair when I saw this one:


It looks like it has a spare leg out front.

Upon closer examination, I realized it only has four legs but the are incorrectly placed:


Mistakes were made, heads will roll.

These furniture makers have no respect for tradition. Furniture making is no place for original thinking. The furniture gods are surely angry.

One more look:


There are no rules!

Of course, it would be hard to rock back. Maybe lean side to side…

Yup, That’s My Mom…

I was looking through the family picture album and came across this one:


My Mother at a café near Florence in 1958.

We were there on vacation. We passed this café and stopped to look at the furniture. We could tell the chairs were Thonet. Turning them over we saw they were branded  Thonet and Made In Poland.

We couldn’t tell about the table. My Mother did the only reasonable thing and checked the table for markings. I could easily walk under the table but I couldn’t read so my use was limited.

Ever the lady, she even managed to keep her legs crossed at the ankles.

And, yes, she was wearing pearls.

(With apologies to Gianni Berengo Gardin and others)

The Missing Link

As you all must realize, all our blogs go through extensive editing and quality contoll checks. The link for the flickr photo set accompanying today’s earlier blog, Primitives From Hickory Mountain,  was disabled shortly after posting. I believe we were hacked. I am going through the forensic evidence and now believe it was either the Russian FSB, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence, the North Korean Bureau 121 or, most likely, the dreaded Landespolizei, the Liechtenstein National Police Force. We have had issues going back many years.

There is a small chance I deleted it when I went back in to edit the link to make the link open in a new window, but I doubt it. Beginner’s mistake.

If you were unable to see the photo set (as opposed to not wanting to see the photo set), you can go back and reread the blog (it’s that good) or click on the link HERE.


Primitives From Hickory Mountain, NC (Link Fixed)

Last blog, I featured some of the workbenches from a local antiques shop renowned for their primitives.  Renowned might be a bit strong but it’s late and I want to get this done.

As I wrote, they have more than a few workbenches:


Perfect for an apartment woodworker. Or, now, the tiny house woodworker.

They are more than workbenches. They have lots of pie safes:


A very odd pie safe.

with a very odd latch:


I don’t believe this latch was made for this pie safe. Who knows.

And chairs. Lots of chairs:


Most of them have woven seats.

Lots of trunks and chests:


I believe this is considered to be a domed chest.

Chinas and cupboards:


What it is depends on who you ask.

No antiques store is complete without dressers:


A bit too fancy for a primitive.

And a smattering of painted pieces:


If I knew more (anything), I could describe and interpret the paintings on this piece.

To check out the full set, click  HERE.

Primitive Ways of Work.

A local antique shop specializes in primitive/vernacular furniture. Specialize is the wrong word to use. Specialize indicates a consciousness of thought. A strategy. I think these people just buy and sell stuff they like. It’s more of a that’s who they are than a marketing decision.

A few weekends back they had their annual open house. I knew it was an open house because they had printed and distributed flyers saying there would be an open house. There might have been free coffee but since I don’t drink coffee, I neither noticed nor cared. Next year I will be sure to take note for those of you out there that might be concerned.

Can you have an open house without free coffee?

The only difference I could discern was that there seemed to be more people there than typical. Probably because the owners printed and distributed flyers and customers assumed there would be free coffee.

They had a good assortment of primitive and vernacular furniture as well as the flyers and free coffee. As you would expect, a good percentage of this furniture is work related. As in that work in an foreign and abstract concept to me, I was fascinated by this furniture. I thought I might share some with y’all so we might all be enlightened.

This stool might be a work stool, no one can prove it’s not:


It certainly is primitive.


But is it vernacular?

This is a broom maker’s bench:


I know this because the tag says so.

I can’t remember the vocation associated with this bench:


I hope it wasn’t a cabinetmaker.


Or at least not a drawer specialist.

This is the token conventional workbench:


Well, kinda, sorta conventional.


It does have a tool tray.


And an end vise.


One square bench dog.

Only small work done here:


Only a little ugly.

A bench with storage:


Great natural patina.

A larger bench with storage:


Big drawer below, seems like it would be hard to open.

Big bench, different configuration:


A mercantile bench, perhaps?

Some storage stacked up:


Stacked here but not in real life.

I’m sure this is not a salad spinner.


But it is a mixer of some sort.

There is a tool chest:


A typical chest.


Only one till left.

Leaving their shop, I headed to nearby dealer located in a strip mall. From well-worn wooden flooring to fading linoleum No benches or tool chests but there were leg vises:


It looks complete. It just needs a new home.


I really like the aftermarket plumbing hindle…

I can’t wait for next year’s open house with the implication/inference of free coffee.

In The Beginning It Was Simple…

In the beginning it was simple, like this tilt-top table/bench contraption:


The simple tilt-top table.


Looks simple.

It’s a convertible table/bench. The top pivots around the rear pins and is locked in down position by the front pins. It should be symmetrical and the top should be able to hinge around the front pins.

Typically, there is storage in the base.

Let’s make it more complicated.


No pins in the rear, hinges.


No indication there ever were any pins in the rear of the table/bench. This is the design and not a repair.

The hinges look seriously undersized yet it exists.

Now let’s engineer it and make it more complicated and harder to produce.


Same basic idea but the folding top sits lower.


The table top pivots and tracks about a bolt and slots in the battens.


The table is locked in the down position by the engagement of another slot in the batten around a pin.

This base also has storage.

Another difference is that this unit has 2X4 legs and not sides made from boards.

The only advantage of this construction I can see is that the table top sits lower in the bench position. This could be useful if you need the wall space for your art collection:


Margaret Keane’s classic No Dogs Allowed. Art like no other.

Finally, the Arts & Crafts/Mission variation of this idea:


Everything’s better in oak.

Here, the top pivots around bolts with vertical movement provided by slots on the supports. For added stability, the “feet” on the supports rest in cups on the seat.

Many ways to achieve the same goal.

On The Creative Process…

Saturday night we went to an auction where we got to leave stuff. Let me rephrase that. Saturday night we were honored to donate various hand-crafted items to an auction benefitting our friends’ church camp. This is at least the sixth year we have been so honored. At least.

This year we donated four lots from the shop and one item given by my wife that did not functionally or aesthetically meet her expectation when received. Perfect for someone, just not her.

First lot was these wheeled wooden toys, subdivided into four lots:


Meet the truck, hippo, tanker and bulldozer.

Regular readers may think this looks an awful lot like our Toys For Tots offerings. Nothing could be further from the truth. These are entirely different. Just look:


There was a pig/bear in the Toys for Tots collection. Totally different.

Next was this dovetailed and painted nail carrier:


Any dovetail shortcomings are covered by paint.

It started life as the dovetailed nail carrier designed by Chuck Bender, late of 360 Woodworking. I showed the unfinished project to the camp director and his wife for approval. They suggested milk paint. I used General Finishes milk paint which really isn’t but that’s a story for another day.


My first prototype as Mr. Bender intended.

Keeping with the spirit of the church camp benefit auction, I donated a wine carrier based on a dynamite box:


Remember this one?


It is built to carry stuff. Usually just not California sparkling wine. I can’t call it Champagne.

Lest you worry that I might run out of dynamite boxes and various sized reproductions, be assured, I have more.


How do you spell OCD?

More on these later.

I, on occasion, build things as a proof of concept, or to see hows it’s done or because I want to. These items don’t always have a place to be and languish in the shop. This auction does give a forever home to some of these forgotten projects. Won’t you help?

There was one purpose built item, this unique pizza peel:


It’s called a pizza peel and I don’t know why.

It was my wife’s idea. I made her one a few years back. I didn’t love it. It was meant to be a prototype but it worked and she liked the look. I always knew I could do better.

Below is the sausage making. If you wish to continue believing I am brilliant and a design genius, stop reading now. Otherwise, prepare to be disillusioned.

I thought about it for a long time but didn’t start until I realized on Friday that it was due to be delivered on Monday. I raced to the shop and started looking through the wood pile. I found some 5/4 by 7.5″ wide maple long enough for the body. Then I found some 32″ long 6/4 walnut for the handle. My thought was that I would inlay an 8″, 10″, 12″ and 14″ circle for proper pizza dimensioning. The peel need to be at least 16″ wide. After four squaring the stock, I was short of design goals. I dug around and found some 1/4″ cherry, laid it out and still came out a bit narrow. More digging came up with the last of the thin walnut for the ears.

Off to the band saw to resaw the stock. The walnut was no problem. The wider maple was a problem. Either a dull blade or overly aggressive feed rate through the saw lead to the blade deflecting changing 1/2″ design goal to a 3/8″ design concession.

After the glue-up, a few passes though the drum sander, the 3/8″ design concession was almost met. You would never know if you didn’t have calipers. It sanded out well.

I used the previous peel as a template and the band saw made quick work of the dimensioning and shaping. An assortment of sanders made it pretty. Time with a spoke shave tapered the lip and contoured the edges.

At just under 3/8″, the handle was too thin. Back to the wood pile to retrieve the thin walnut and cherry and more glue and clamps. More time with the spoke shave and integration was complete.

On to stringing. A plunge trim router with a 1/16″ bit and home made circle jig made quick work of defining the circles. I had holly of the appropriate dimensions. Looking through my thin stock, I found some mahogany of the proper size. I used my table saw and a fine toothed 7.25 ” blade to rip off some 1/16″ stringing. Mahogany is a bit brittle but manageable.

More sanding and the peel was ready for a finish. Salad bowl finish went on and enhanced the colors. The maple went darker than I hoped and the holly popped more than anticipated. That is my only disappointment with the peel.

I think it turned out well in spite of my best efforts. The more woodworking one does, the more one is rewarded with accidental successes.

The peel went to good friends of ours, both turners. Last year he won this platter I turned:


The glued up platter from last year. I was trying to replicate the look of a Native American painted plate. Another example of the dominate culture appropriating indigenous artistic achievements.

(More on this platter later.)

At this rate, they will shortly have more of my finished pieces than I have.

This peel will never see the inside of an oven they claim. It will be mounted on the wall as art. I wish I knew that before I spent all that time tapering and thinning the leading edge.

My wife won this nice little bench:


By local woodworker Jeff Chelf.

This is a bench I could have built. The problem is I haven’t.

Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Injection Molded…

While doing some research recently I stumbled across a relatively new iconic chair in the making. The research facility I wandered into was a local retailer that specializes in Danish and Modern furniture. A chair caught my eye and seeing a likely sale, the owner excitedly started telling me about what she called the trio or Masters chair:


The Kartell Masters chair. Around $300 Made of modified batch-dyed polypropylene.

The description of this chair is as follows:

Philippe Starck and Eugeni Quitllet pay homage to three different midcentury-modern masters in one sleek, versatile indoor-outdoor seat. The Masters Chair (2010) weaves together the back silhouettes of Jacobsen’s Series 7™ Chair:

oak-series-7-chair-front-arne-jacobsen-fritz-hansen_1024x1024 (1)

The Arne Jacobson 3107/Series 7 chair, from around $200 up.

The Model 3107 chair is a chair designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1955 that uses the previously invented technique through which plywood can be bent in three dimensions. Over 5 million units have been produced exclusively by Fritz Hansen.

There is a scandalous history to this chair from 1963 available HERE. Not click bait, honest.

The next chair honored is the Eameses’ Molded Shell Chair:


Charles Eames 1950 molded fiberglass chair  from around $550.

Arguably one of the 20th century’s most beloved designs, the Eames Shell chairs remain a sought after design classic nearly 55 years later. The molded fiberglass chairs are the result of Charles and Ray’s 6 years of experimenting with molded plywood to create a single shell form. Unable to successfully create the single shell with molded plywood at the time, Charles & Ray saw an opportunity to fulfill their vision using a new material: fiberglass.

There is a history of the Eames chair HERE.

And the third honoree is Eero Saarinen’s Tulip™ Armchair:


Eero Saarinen 1957 Tulip Arm Chair from around $1,100.

Eero Saarinen developed the Tulip Armchair as part of the pedestal series in the 1950’s. The Saarinen Tulip Chair, the corresponding pedestal table, and other furniture he developed, represent the peak of Eero Saarinen’s career in which these lasting icons of modern classic furniture were brought to the forefront. 

Eero Saarinen called himself a “form giver,” and everything he designed – from the Gateway Arch in St. Louis to his Womb™ Chair to his Pedestal Table – had a strong sculptural quality. “The underside of typical tables and chairs makes a confusing, unrestful world,” said Saarinen. In a 1956 cover story in Time magazine, he announced that he was designing a collection to “clear up the slum of legs in the U.S. home.” Later that year, he completed his Pedestal Table and Tulip Chair Collection (1956) with its cast aluminum base inspired by a drop of high-viscosity liquid.

Eero Saariens was talented architect and designer and you should read more about him HERE.

I know that this is a plastic chair and not to everyone’s liking. Not of wood and not built using traditional methods. Still, it is interesting to understand the history, the present and future of furniture. Furniture does not exist in a vacuum. It is influenced by what has come before and will influence what comes after.

They can’t all be Windsor chairs. Well, they can be but what fun would that be?

I Knew It.

Yesterday’s blog was all about a folding Chinese that keeps showing up live and in print. I showed a picture from Ole Wancher’s 1966 book The Art of Furniture. (Ole Wanscher (1903 to 1983)  to repeat, was a renowned Danish furniture designer and author of several books on furniture and design.) This be that picture:


Another look.

My Danish language copy of Møbeltyper (Furniture Types  – 1932) arrived. Also by Ole Wanscher. On page 15 you find the 1932 version of the chair:


Folding chair of unvarnished wood with fittings of enamel inlaid silver. China. Qing Dynasty (1735-99) . Maurice Dupont: The Furniture of China.

The Chinese chair has been iconic for quite a while.