Timothy Langston Fine Art & Antique’s Guide to Wood


As a furniture dealer, the story of wood fascinates me.
In cabinet making terms it begins in the medieval period when oak, an indigenous
timber throughout northern Europe, was the favoured material for making furniture This was the case
seventeenth century when walnut suddenly became fashionable. This is the
case throughout Europe until the end of the 18th century and in England until
the middle of the 18th century when mahogany finally took over. But this mirror behind me –
which was made in England in 1730 certainly belongs to what is known now as
the Golden Age of English cabinet making: the walnut period. And as
you look at it, this nuttybrown veneers running all the way around book matched in the middle – which
basically means a single piece of timber divided in two and then laid flat over
surfaces so that both sides reflect one another. As you can see this is
articulated with gilded carved decoration which runs all the way around highlighting the form. Just as that mirror
is veneered in walnut, this piece uses solid walnut timber for its construction and decoration as you can see it has the same nutty colour, but this piece was made in France at the end of the 18th century, the Directoire Period The French continued using walnut throughout the 18th century until the Empire period when mahogany became fashionable. Rather like the French, the Italians also utilize walnut
in all their furniture designs. The piece behind me is veneered throughout in walnut with fruit wood detailing enabling geometric design throughout. It was made in
Piedmont, which is in northern Italy and this sort of work is typical of that
region. Thomas Chippendale was the greatest cabinetmaker and furniture designer
of the 18th century and his Gentlemen’s Director of 1754 outlines numerous
designs which cabinet makers could copy. This table was made in about 1760 closely resembles
the designs of Thomas Chippendale. It has a scallop top, a fluted column stem, cabriole
legs and also fabulous carved decoration throughout, which includes
sea scrolls, shells and foliage. Another great furniture designer from
the 18th century was Thomas Sheraton his designs from the 1780s and 90s,
to a large extent, incorporate the timber satinwood. Satinwood is a close
relation of mahogany. It is a similar grain but is much blonder in colour. So we’ve looked at walnut, mahogany and
satinwood and these three timbers form the basis of furniture making in
Britain and throughout Europe in the 18th cenutry To find out more about timbers, you
can visit our blog Begin your adventures in timber with
Timothy Langston.

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