Moses Gill Side Chair Series- Entry 20

Final Post for this Series

Students visit Old State House

Students visit Old State House

A few weeks ago, we arranged for the cabinet and furniture-making students at NBSS to visit the Council Chamber at the Old State House. I was joined by Nat Sheidley, Matt Wadja, and Lance Patterson. We gave the students the run-down of the project; Nat covered the historical importance while Matt, Lance and I explained the furniture. This visit was the final chapter for me in the closing of this project for the Bostonian Society.

I would like to take a moment to thank all the people who helped make this project possible. It is impossible to name everyone involved; however, there are a few individuals whom I worked with directly. Many thanks to: Nat Sheidley (Bostonian Society), Gerald Ward (Museum of Fine Arts- Boston), Matt Wadja (River City Furniture), Lance Patterson (Fort Point Cabinet Makers/ NBSS), Nonie Gadsden (Museum of Fine Arts- Boston), and Joseph Karagezian (Pioneer Upholstery). Of course, thanks to all the participating craftsmen who worked on this project in one form or another. There is a plaque at the Old State House in the Council Chamber that lists all the members involved.

There are not many opportunities to take part in projects like this, so it was a very unique and special time for me. By serving as the project manager for NBSS and having the chance to build a piece of the furniture, I was able to see the project through from beginning to end. This was not only an educational experience in furniture, but also a renewed lesson in American History. It is an honor to help re-tell the story of the historical importance of the Council Chamber and the Old State House.

Thanks to you, the readers, for following this post, and please feel free to post a comment or share the blog link with others!

Moses Gill Side Chair Series- Entry 19

Upholstering the Seat

When I managed the Council Chamber project, I knew I needed an expert upholsterer well versed in period work. I am fortunate to have worked with master upholsterer, Joseph Karagezian, from Pioneer Upholstery in Peabody, Massachusetts. Joseph has done work for most of the major museums and numerous high profile, personal collections.

In this post, I am going to share the upholstery process with you through the photographs I took of Joseph doing what he does best. With authenticity in mind, I followed Joseph’s guidance and expertise to best represent this period piece.

Seat Frame

Seat Frame

The seat frame is made of soft maple, as was the original. It is mortise and tenoned together like most 18th Century frames. Many people today choose, instead, to use slip joints for these seat frames because of their efficiency on table saws. The photo above shows the seat frame dry fit together. Once the frame is glued, it is pinned and then the front and back members of the frame are cut to match the trapezoid angle.

Upholstery Shop

Upholstery Shop

Chair in Shop

Chair in Shop

Laying Out

Laying Out

Joseph’s layout work is very precise and best utilizes his time and material.

Webbing the Frame

Webbing the Frame

The bricks are one of those tricks of the trade that seems so obvious after you see it. The  bricks are used to help hold the frame down while the opposite end of the webbing is tacked.

Cutting Muslin

Cutting Muslin

Tacking Muslin

Tacking Muslin

The webbing is tacked to the frame and the first layer of muslin is tacked over the webbing to the frame.

Tacking Horsehair

Tacking Horsehair

Joseph chose to use blonde horsehair for this piece because of its authenticity to the period. His analogy to explain the difficulty of getting this product is like cabinetmakers trying to get their hands on real Cuban mahogany.

Filling in Seat

Filling in Seat

Shaping the Hair

Shaping the Hair

This part of the process is critical to the final shape of the seat. It is very common for traditionally upholstered seats today to include a layer of cotton on top of the horsehair for additional cushion. This was not the case in the period, so we decided to delete the cotton and focus on working more directly with the horsehair.

Joseph Signing the Frame

Joseph Signing the Frame

Tacking the Muslin Cover

Tacking the Muslin Cover

Muslin Complete

Muslin Complete

Trimming Up

Trimming Up

Test Drive

Test Drive

A proud craftsman enjoying the very first test drive of the chair! At this stage, Joseph really wanted to see how the seat felt so any necessary adjustments could be made before the final covering.

Measuring Fabric

Measuring Fabric

When it comes to the top fabric, especially if it has a pattern, it is crucial that the layout be precise. This was custom fabric provided to us by The Bostonian Society.

Tacking Cover

Tacking Cover

Making Corners

Making Corners

The process of making, folding, and tacking the corners is what separates the pro’s from the amateurs. For this reason alone, it is worth using an expert upholsterer for your projects.

Finished Chair

Finished Chair

This is the first picture of the actual complete chair! I want to thank Joseph for his generosity in allowing me to photograph and share his work on this project.

 

Moses Gill Side Chair Series- Entry 18

Completing the Chair

In this post, the corner blocks are installed and the molding of the seat rails is completed.

Seat Molding

Seat Molding

Seat Molding Continued

Seat Molding Continued

After the molding is complete, the final assembly of the chair can be done. It is glued and pinned, as are the rest of the joints on this chair.

Fitting Corner Blocks

Fitting Corner Blocks

The corner blocks on this chair, in keeping with the original, are made of red oak and are glued and nailed in place. Adding corner blocks to any mortise and tenoned frame adds incredible strength to the corners.

Installing Corner Blocks

Installing Corner Blocks

Corner Blocks Complete

Corner Blocks Complete

All four corner blocks are in, and the chair is complete and finished. Off to the upholsterer!

Council Chamber Article

Write-up on Boston.com about Council Chamber Project

I wanted to share the following link with you for a recent article published online about the Council Chamber project at the Old State House in Boston. Please check it out!

http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/house/blog/dne/2014/04/bostons_council.html

Moses Gill Side Chair Series- Entry 17

Carving the Knee

This post brings you through the progression of the knee shaping and carving. The knees are the last elements to be carved in the chair. The asymmetrical pattern has a unique look, and a different set of challenges than a typical knee carving pattern.

Transitioning for Trapezoid

Transitioning for Trapezoid

Before the carving can begin, the side transition blocks must be faired and shaped to match the trapezoid angle of the seat. This angling blends from the side seat rail up to about the peak of the knee.

Transition Faired

Transition Faired

Carving Position

Carving Position

The carving position for the knees had to be accessible, comfortable, and natural. Just as I discussed with the chair back, the front of the chair could be completely built and still easily be carved after the fact.

Setting In

Setting In

One of the most important steps in carving, especially knee carving, is that the set in and background are clean and well grounded.

Establishing Leaf

Establishing Leaf

Side Details

Side Details

Knee Carving Complete

Knee Carving Complete

A knee carving, whether it is a shell or an acanthus leaf, should look as though it lays on the surface of the knee. This is achieved all the way back in the grounding work. Most of the time carving this type of element is spent working on this stage. If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is to take your time with this step and it will greatly improve your finished results.

Moses Gill Side Chair Series- Entry 16

Shaping Legs and Carving Feet

In one of the early posts in the series, I showed the progression of carving the hairy paw feet on sample blanks. This post highlights the leg shaping and carving of the actual feet for the chair.

Foot Blank

Foot Blank

Leg Champhers

Leg Champhers

The photo above shows the primary champher layout for the leg shaping.

Blanks Ready for Carving

Blanks Ready for Carving

These are the two leg blanks ready to be carved. The major stock removal for the feet is complete and the primary leg champhers are also finished.

Establishing Toes

Establishing Toes

Here the toes for both feet have been located. In the beginning, this part of the process was very time consuming because of a lack of sequence. Now I feel like I have really established a procedure that makes it easier to duplicate and maintain efficiency.

Laying out Hair

Laying out Hair

Rear Toe

Rear Toe

Completed Foot

Completed Foot

This unique foot was a great challenge to figure out. As I said before, it was important for me to replicate the processes in making and carving this chair to the best of my ability. I have developed a procedure that seems quite practical and effective. I do believe that this is very similar to what was probably done by the original maker.

Upcoming Presentation and Summer Workshops

Upcoming Events  

Presentation: Guild of NH Woodworkers- Carving Symposium

This event will feature presentations and demonstrations in sculpture carving, furniture carving, period furniture details including the ball & claw foot and the linen fold, and tool selection, sharpening, and use. Admission is free, but registration is required. 

Presenters: Daniel Faia and others

Date: Saturday, May 17, 2014

Location: Pinkerton Academy- Derry, NH

For more information, please visit: www.gnhw.org

 

Workshops: Wood Carving I, II, and III

Whether carving furniture elements or creating freeform sculpture, the fundamentals of the art of woodcarving are universal. Participants will build the skills and knowledge that are necessary in becoming a woodcarver. Students may attend any or all of the workshops. Each workshop focuses on a set of tools and techniques. Take all three and build a tool collection and skills for a wide range of carving projects.

Instructor: Daniel Faia

Dates: Saturday-Sunday, 6/21-22, 7/19-20, 8/16-17, 2014

Location: North Bennet Street School (NBSS)- Boston, MA

For more information, please visit: www.nbss.org

 

Moses Gill Side Chair Series- Entry 15

Dealing With the Angles of the Seat

This post shows a few steps in bringing the leg into the trapezoid angle and the side seat rails into the cant angle. The trick is to achieve a visually seamless transition from the canted posts of the back of the chair to the square plumb front legs.

Sawing Trapezoid Angle

Sawing Trapezoid Angle

Large pieces of wood from the sides of the front legs need to be removed to accommodate the trapezoid shape of the seat.

Trapezoid Angle on Leg

Trapezoid Angle on Leg

Cant Angle for Side Rail

Cant Angle for Side Rail

The picture above is a before shot comparing the canted back post with the plumb side rail. The tenon for the side rail into the front leg is angled to match the trapezoid, but is plumb so that the front legs are vertical. The tenon for the side rail into the back post  matches the trapezoid angle, but also angles to accommodate the cant angle of the post.

Twist in Side Rail

Twist in Side Rail

To make the transition from front (plumb) to back (canted), there is a deliberate twist that is planed into the face of the side rails. The picture above shows a pair of winding sticks which exemplify the actual twist in the rail. The black winding stick is in the front (plumb) and the light winding stick (canted) is in the back.

Moses Gill Side Chair Series- Entry 14

The Finished Chair

I just received my professional photographs (many thanks to Lance Patterson!) of the completed Moses Gill chair, and I wanted to share them with you.

Boston Side Chair- Full View

Boston Side Chair- Full View

Boston Side Chair- Back Detail

Boston Side Chair- Back Detail

Boston Side Chair- Leg Detail

Boston Side Chair- Leg Detail

Moses Gill Side Chair Series- Entry 13

Constructing the Seat Frame

Now, back to construction details of the front of the chair. I elected not to show the mortising of the front legs because I have covered the process in earlier posts. It is important to note that the trapezoid angle I used in the side seat rail mortise for the post is the same for the corresponding mortises in the legs. The front rail joints are the only 90 degree joints in the chair.

Seat Rails

Seat Rails

The seat rails have transition blocks at the back joints and additional backer blocks for the front joints.

Framing Up

Framing Up

Here is the front of the chair with all seat rail joints cut and fit.

Rabbeting for Transition

Rabbeting for Transition

The photo above is showing a rabbeting cut for the transition blocks at the legs. This construction detail is one of my own. There is no example that I know of that uses this technique. I will cover what is happening with these joints in a future post.

Fitting Transition Block

Fitting Transition Block

Dealing with the trapezoid angle even in fitting the side transition blocks…

Transition Block

Transition Block

Sawn and Fit

Sawn and Fit

Side Transition

Side Transition

The process shown in fitting the side transition blocks also repeats for the front joints. The structure of this chair is incredibly strong; many original Chippendale chairs with cabriole legs sacrifice strength in the leg joints because of the way in which the transition blocks are applied. Also, many of these chairs do not have stretchers which add additional structure to the chair. The back rail joints on this chair are identical to the original Moses Gill chair, but the front side rail joints are an adaptation to strengthen the overall structure of the chair.