I went on to focus my work on the reproduction of 17th-century forms, which sometimes included all kinds of chairs. The furniture was pretty straightforward – kind of squarish without a ton of realistic ornamentation. Something else I find interesting is that fans of Arts & Crafts furniture and decorative arts see the style as being something entirely new and unique. Keep the maker of the second chair away from the lathe and you’re looking at nearly the same piece just 250 years apart (give or take). Chairs, while fairly common, are not the only form of mission furniture that shares its roots with earlier pieces.
Both are joined chests (it’s a mortise-and-tenon thing, remember), which means they both have corner posts that form the foundation. If you really want to study historic furniture design, take a look at the precious metal smiths of the time and their work.
When I started looking for photos for this post I came across the Stickley wall plate below and instantly thought of alms dishes from the 16th and 17th centuries. Chuck is a former senior editor of Popular Woodworking, and has 30+ years of experience as a high-end period furniture maker and woodworking teacher. A problem with Arts and Crafts furniture is seeing it in isolation from the larger movement. Some of the difficulty in discussing comes from ignorance (Ever try getting an answer to what makes a particular furniture style?), some from terminology. Starting in the north and working my way south (and in no particular order), my first submission is the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (affectionately known as the MFA).
Plimoth Plantation is another of my favorites and is easily combined with a trip to Boston. If you head over to Salem, Massachusetts (an extremely cool town) drop in and see the Peabody Essex Museum for a look at some great furniture.
Once you’re finished in the Hartford area, head south to New Haven and check out the Yale University Art Gallery. Over in Albany, New York you might find the Albany Institute worth a visit before you head south to Manhattan. In the little town of Freehold, New Jersey you’ll find an oft overlooked museum filled with rare and exquisite examples of period furniture – The Monmouth County Historical Association.
If you want to deviate from period furniture a bit, make sure to check out The Mercer Museum in Doylestown, PA (for more you can read about the museum in the February issue #209). If you want to trek a little further west, be sure to hit the Landis Valley Museum in Lancaster, PA. If you head back east, just below Wilmington, Delaware is the big dog of period furniture museums – Winterthur.
In Washington, DC and the surrounding area, I’d be sure to drop in on the State Department and get a tour of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms (make sure you register for the tour ahead of time). And finally, if you head to Williamsburg, make sure to check out the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. The geographic focus of this post has limited the choices so I may try to do a few more that give you ideas for different areas of the country. First third of the book covers 18th century works as well as precursor styles and a look to future movements.
Maybe not quite historic is the Wharton Esherick Museum in Valley Forge Pa and Nakishima In New Hope, Pa. I wonder how many woodworkers have made the trip to Colonial Williamsburg and seen the village, gone through the woodworking, and carpentry shops, gunsmith, and toured everything in the village. I was going to post a pic of the museum entrance but thought that might give too much away. His pieces married Arts & Crafts, folk Dutch, Art Nouveau and the Vienna Secessionists to create a lighter version of the sometimes too-heavy Craftsman styles.
I say “almost” because there is so very little known about the man aside from his catalogs, advertisements and the furniture record.
This book delights me especially because it contains two of my bucket-list projects: The Limbert Pagoda table and the No. Chris is a contributing editor to Popular Woodworking Magazine and the publisher at Lost Art Press. I just recently discovered this piece (and the related two-door version), I really like it. Click on the table of contents image  to enlarge it and read a list of all 42 projects – including Gustav Stickley bookshelves, chairs and tables, a Byrdcliffe linen press, a Greene & Greene medicine cabinet and sideboard and much more. And here I am contemplating a new chair (or two maybe) for my living room… how fortuitous this could be!


I milled my neighbor’s oak into 1000 bd ft and all I have to show for it so far is this bookcase. Post-and-rung, ladderback, slat-back – these chairs have lots of names in various places and in different periods. It mentioned and briefly discussed traditional forms, then went into the how-to of it, with particular attention to the moisture content of the chair’s rungs and posts.
When I think of how many of these chairs have been made over the years in various workshops, classes, from the book and eventually from the “Make a Chair from a Tree” video, it’s amazing.
The elaborate and impressive ones are those that usually get attention in museums, private collections and in the antiques market.
The other thing you’ll notice about a good bit of that furniture is it has a rather ecclesiastical appearance.
If you look at the first chair in this post, can you see how it relates to the Cromwellian chair?
I know, there are a few extra stretchers on the older chair but I want you to look at overall form, not the details. Again, look not at the decorative details but the general form and you’ll see serious similarities.
Even that movement itself was a repackaging of what happened as style transitioned from the Chippendale period into the Federal period. It was really about creating an environment, a life style based on an overly romantic and certainly a unrealistic fantasy of life in a Medieval society (minus the plague).
Maxim and Martha Karolik consulted with the curators at the MFA to learn more about American decorative and fine arts. They’ve got some period furniture plus a whole bunch of stuff my friend Peter Follansbee has made. They’ve got some very early stuff but they also have some great Federal furniture – Samuel McIntire worked in the town. They not only have some great Eliphalet Chapin pieces but a good part of the Wallace Nutting collection. You might not automatically think a university would have a great collection of furniture but Yale has the Garvan collection plus an amazing study collection (that’s a code word for fakes).
With over 100,000 objects in 175 rooms, you could spend years touring the place and not see it all (I know – I’ve tried).
And if you’re not overloaded on the local furniture, be sure to check out the Maryland Historical Society.
If you have any doubt about the grandeur of our country, a tour of these rooms will certainly put that to rest. It’s a great way to spend the day and has some of my favorite pieces in Colonial Williamsburg on display.
I always try to find smaller, less frequented museums in whatever area I am currently traveling (like checking out Washington’s Headquarters in Morristown, NJ for example).
Remainder of the book offers many skill development type information lush with photos and illustrations including exploded drawings of some key pieces discussed earlier. Both of those you mentioned are extremely cool places to visit even if you are focused on period furniture.
I’ve heard it said more than once, you have to be a little crazy to appreciate woodworking.
Limbert is, in my opinion, one of the grossly underappreciated designers of the Arts & Crafts movement.
Unlike Gustav Stickley, Limbert is somewhat of an enigma who is clouded by his own marketing hype. Glad I didn’t get the first edition since this would likely be beyond my ability to resist temptation.
Looks like there are quite a few interesting new pieces in this edition that I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at. Our project illustrator provides the essential and classical guidelines to improve your technical drawings. I learned how to make them at a shaving horse, shaving the parts to generally cylindrical shapes with drawknives and spokeshaves. This was the key to the chair’s success; the slightly higher moisture content of the post would eventually drop, leading the post to shrink onto the drier rung. But for a minute, forget those “great” chairs in inventories, whether they be wainscot chairs, upholstered examples or even the turned chairs such as Governor Bradford’s chair at Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth Massachusetts. What I find interesting is that you can see the base forms of future styles sitting there staring you in the face. Granted there are a few decorative elements that differ, but the overall design is pretty similar, you’ll have to admit.


Take the two examples below, both are what today we would call blanket chests – the Stickley chest is a slightly stylized version of the Jacobean chest from Pennsylvania.
Sure the stiles that break the Stickley chest’s front into three separate panels have a bit of flair to them but they are basically the same. This means you can see furniture forms in brass (and yes, I know brass is not a precious metal), silver and gold earlier than you can in tables, chairs or chests. Fashion shifted from Rococo furniture with its lush, realistically carved vegetation to the simple, inlaid furniture of Hepplewhite. The idea of the post is to hopefully get people looking at early furniture in a different light. Once bitten by bug, they collected extremely fine examples of period furnishings, silver, textiles and art from all of the colonies – then they donated it to the MFA. And while you’re there, make sure to drop in on the Memorial Hall Museum for a look at some early Connecticut river valley pieces.
While you’re there, pop on over to the Connecticut Historical Society for more Connecticut furniture. Their collection of period furniture and room settings is unrivaled except for Winterthur, but we’ll get to that shortly.
But, if you want to stick with period furniture and room settings, make sure to check out the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA). The National Clock And Watch Museum and the Wright’s Ferry Mansion (probably my favorite historic house behind the Wythe house in Colonial Williamsburg).
Most folks think of the Smithsonian American Art Museum when they think DC period furniture (and they wouldn’t be wrong) but, the Diplomatic Reception Rooms are far less frequented and much more densely packed with the stuff.
Be sure to also stop by the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum for a look at some of great paint decorated pieces. At this point, I am not interested in creating period pieces, but am very interested in learning how to see.
My library is not extensive so I am not able to compare it to other works, but I’d state that it is an awesome resource. We went knowing they were there, but once there had to ask a lot of questions to sort out exactly where.
These designs are presented in a manner similar to Bob Lang’s great “Shop Drawings for Craftsman Furniture” books.
I fear that it won’t gain the same traction that other books on Arts & Crafts furniture get, and Limbert’s legacy will once again slip away from the limelight. After years of having only poorly made tools to choose from, woodworkers now have some excellent tools to choose from. Remove some hardware from the Stickley chest and add a couple of drawers and we’re exactly where we were with the two chairs above. I think the true spirit of the movement is more clearly expressed the amazing textiles, pottery and stained glass. So many (using the big tent again) A&C fans love the style for its simplicity of design and construction but few look to its design inspiration with the same fuzzy feeling. While in Manhattan make sure to trek over to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum (currently close for renovation but it should re-open a little later in 2014). If you want to head out of the city, a short nine mile jaunt from the doors of the MET is the Brooklyn Museum. Limbert has always been my favorite Arts & Crafts designer, and this book (almost) gives him his due.
If you look at each style as building upon the previous styles, you’ll learn to appreciate all of them to a greater degree. Frankly, I like both but then again I appreciate most eras of furniture design (though I am not necessarily a fan of every piece ever created). It needs to be to cram Mackintosh, Stickley and the Greene brothers into the same style mold. Bob Flexner tells you to forget commercially available wood conditioners - what you need to prevent ugly blotching is a gel stain.
Ingenious Jigs brings you how to turn your laminate trimmer into a device that brings surfaces flush with incredible precision and finesse.
Our seven-part series on routers continues with an in-depth look at everything you need to know to make boxes and drawers. After half a dozen plans for Morris chairs, we decided it was time to help you put your feet up and relax with a Stickley Ottoman.




Diy Large Planter Box
Woodworking projects for young boys


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