The Chippendale style Gainsborough suite, comprising of 2 single chairs and 1 double settee, started out as 3 single chairs. The client required a suitable settee to complement the two chairs, and we found a solution. Having only made single chair frames in this style, I cut one of them up, maintaining 2 side frames. Once the relevant mortise joints were cleaned out, all new longer rails and central legs were made and fitted to the two sides. The appearance is of a double settee, like 2 chairs joined together, which was one of the earliest forms of the settee, during the eighteenth century.
Back in 1990, a dealer commissioned me to convert an old burr walnut piano into a davenport desk. Fortunately the piano was already dismantled, having outlived its usefulness as a piano – a task that would have been arduous enough! It was a somewhat challenging job, as a swathe had to be cut through the centre of the piano due to the book-matched veneers and the original finish preserved. Not visible in the photo is the cupboard built into the lower side. Possibly not a viable undertaking today.
Not having been punished enough, a second request was made in 1993, with a slightly more glam piano. Again, the finish was preserved, but this time a bank of drawers, including a ‘secret’ drawer with a trigger mechanism, was built instead of the cupboard, making it more complicated.
Looking back on this 90s restoration, I was faced with a choice of keeping the item for spare parts or attempting to piece it together. The previous owner had dismantled the French Renaissance revival secretaire bookcase and many of the decorative relief carvings had been planed off. There was also a fair bit of weathering. Fortunately, I had one of everything to copy, and so over many months I set about rebuilding it.
It was always going to be a bit of a monster! I could only fit it in the workshop between the rafters without the pediment. So out into the vegie patch it went, where there was a large enough space to set it up, and fit the basic pediment. The posts were Australian blackwood and red cedar repurposed from a church.
I’m probably not alone in having a favourite tool, amongst the many I’ve accumulated over the years. I bought this beech cabinet-maker’s mallet for $3 some 35 years ago from Faram Bros in Port Melbourne, and still regularly use it today. I have others, including a heavier version of the same, a slightly different shaped one and a carver’s mallet as well. But this one just feels right – not too heavy and with all its ‘battle scars’ it’s acquired the look of something cherished. It’s also a reminder of the journey I’ve taken. Sadly, Faram Bros closed down around 4 years ago after 87 years of continuous operation. As I recall being told, Faram Bros had taken over a general store that had been in existence since the mid-19th century. I frequently bought supplies from them; they would weigh up the nails and wrap them in newspaper.