Come On Get Happy

Perhaps many of you have seen this already via the Colonial Williamsburg website, but if not, here’s the official announcement for our next Working Wood in the Eighteenth Century symposium – co-sponsored by Fine Woodworking:

The Pursuit of Happiness: Furniture for Leisure and Entertainment

While it is a very broad topic, it presents an opportunity to focus on a good variety of pieces, topics, and woodworking techniques.  The official description, schedule, as well as registration information can be found through the link above.

Here are some of the pieces we’ll be covering in January.

Card Table (1930-225)

Card Table (1930-225), Philadelphia ca. 1765

We’re excited to feature guest speaker Alfred Sharp this year who will demonstrate the construction and decoration of this mid-century Philadelphia card table from our collection.  Alf, a recipient of the Society of American Period Furniture Maker’s Cartouche Award for lifetime achievement, has published and lectured widely on traditional furniture making and brings a perspective informed by deep experience with both traditional and contemporary building techniques. 

Here is a closer look at some of the mahogany table's carved features.

Here is a closer look at some of the mahogany table’s carved features.

Cabinet shop supervisor Kaare Loftheim and Colonial Williamsburg’s conservator of upholstery Leroy Graves will explore and demonstrate the construction and upholstery on an easy chair attributed to the original Hay Shop.  This will be the first time we’ve had a chance to sink our teeth into more complex upholstery at the Symposium.

Easy Chair (1989-372), Williamsburg, VA attributed to the shop of Anthony Hay, ca. 1750 - 1770.

Easy Chair (1989-372), Williamsburg, VA.  Attributed to the shop of Anthony Hay, ca. 1750 – 1770.

For something equally suited to relaxation in an upscale manner, and also unexplored in past symposia, joiner Ted Boscana will demonstrate some of the work required to build a stylish gazebo.  While he won’t build the entire thing onstage (I hope you understand why), this will be our first look at a freestanding outdoor structure.

Gazebo, Colonial Williamsburg. Snow and seasonal decor may or may not be featured in the program.

Gazebo, Colonial Williamsburg.
Snow and seasonal decor may or may not be featured in the program.

For some the pursuit of happiness has a soundtrack so to that end harpsichord maker Edward Wright will walk attendees through some of the structural, mechanical, and decorative work that goes into making a spinet.  Perhaps you’re thinking that spinet making is not in your future, no matter, the techniques and tools involved in this work can all be employed in or adapted for cabinetmaking.  Besides, this program just might convince you that making a spinet would be more worthwhile than making yet another workbench or tool chest – you never know.

Spinet (1960-321),

Spinet (1960-321), London,  made by Cawton Aston, 1726.

Cabinetmaker Bill Pavlak will explore various approaches to making tripod base music and reading stands.  Such pedestal bases could also be used to support frames for needlepoint and other sewing work.  The presentation will focus in part on working with period pattern books.  

Plate XXVI form The Universal System of Household Furniture by Ince and Mayhew, 1762.

Plate XXVI form The Universal System of Household Furniture by Ince and Mayhew, 1762.

If your search for happiness leaves you thirsty or if thirst quenching is an integral part of your pursuits then these next pieces may be of some interest.  Colonial Williamsburg Cooper Jonathan Hallman along with cabinetmaker Brian Weldy will demonstrate the construction of this coopered mahogany wine cooler on stand (apparently Messrs. Bartles & Jaymes didn’t know what a wine cooler really was.  Hallman and Weldy will set them straight).

Wine Cooler (1989-368), England, ca.1760.

Wine Cooler (1989-368), England, ca.1760.

Mr. Weldy will also explore a much more ornate wine cooler that he’ll scale down to the size of a tea caddy.  This will allow us to not only look into the intricate carved patterns and alternate approaches to coopered construction, but also into the issues that arise in scaling pieces up or down in size.

Wine Cooler (1972-343), England, 1755-65.

Wine Cooler (1972-343), England, 1755-65.

What else?  Furniture curator Tara Gleason Chicirda will open the conference with an illustrated overview of eighteenth century leisure activities and the material culture surrounding them.  Later in the conference she’ll present a brief look into the structure of a period billiard table and curator Jan Gilliam will share some of the wooden toys in our collection.  Special guest, independent scholar Jane Rees, will join us once again – this time to discuss gentlemen’s tools and tool chests (in other words the really fancy tools used by well-off amateurs).  Many of you will know of Jane through her co-authorship of the book on the Benjamin Seaton tool chest, if not her many other publications on the history of tools and technology.

What else?  We’ll have a panel discussion with all of the presenters as we did last year, a tool swap, optional tours of our conservation facilities, a banquet with a yet to be determined presentation, an opening reception with drinks, breakfasts, plenty of opportunities to talk to fellow cabinetmakers at all levels of skill and experience and much more.

We hope to see you all here – we’re really looking forward to sharing this year’s diverse selection of projects and topics.  If you’ve never been before and want to know more please ask or check out these posts from past conferences:

2015 Desks; 2014 Dining Room Furniture

More soon…

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