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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Two Pillar and Scroll Tables (ca. 1840- 1850)

I received two tables which I have started working on. Both are of the Pillar and Scroll style. The first is a two drawer drop leaf stand and the second is a pedestal table. I thought that before jumping into the repair aspect of these pieces that I would write a bit about their history.

Most of the dates that and specific information that I am going to relate comes from an article I found online concerning this furniture. If you are interested you can follow the link below to the article:

for all of the time that I have been a cabinetmaker I have referred to these pieces as American Empire. Recently while researching another piece I came across this term of "Pillar and Scroll".

The "Pillar" referred to is the pillar that supports the top of the table while the "Scroll" referred to is the scroll patten used to terminate the feet on many of these pieces. While many pieces have these features, the key characteristic is the use of tight grained crotch Mahogany veneer to create repeating patterns that decorate the piece. This is usually the sole means of decoration
on a piece.

The reason for this type of construction is that by the 1840's furniture manufacture had moved into a quasi mass production setting for the first time. While the joinery was still done by hand, the sawing of the wood and veneers was starting to be done by with the help of machines. The curvilinear designs for these pieces utilised the band saw to cut the initial shapes out of a secondary wood, usually pine or poplar. These shapes were cut from large stacked blanks or assembled from hollow forms. The shapes, once cut and sanded were veneered. The result was decoration which was relatively easy to produce and repeat. It was also inexpensive to produce. Only in the higher end pieces do you find carving for ornamentation. Turnings were sometimes used as well for ornamentation but overall it was the simplified veneer decoration which dominated this style.

While I use the term pillar and scroll the proper categorisation of these pieces would be Late Empire or Late Classical. I like the use of Pillar and Scroll because it properly identifies these pieces. This being said, these pieces have design elements taken from the American Empire movement in furniture and fall within this category.

The drop leaf table as it came to me was severely damaged by movers and was disassembled and badly gouged on the top. The Pedestal table was in better condition and but needed veneer work done as well as having he top refinished. below are some photos of the pieces as they came to me I will follow this up by individual posts concerning the repairs.

The drop leaf two drawer standDamage to the top of the stand.A close up of the damage.The Pedestal table.Damage to the top of the pedestal table.

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