Jan 31st, 2006
The Hitchcock Chair
The creation of the Hitchcock Chair was in 1818, by Lambert Hitchcock (1795-1852). Hitchcock apprenticed to apprenticed to Silas Cheney of Litchfield, Connecticut, as a woodworker. At this time chair-making was a long process where all components had to be hand carved or turned, then finished by hand. This process made owning a set of chairs no easy task financially. He revolutionized the chair market by producing a wide variety of chairs and furniture in many different local Connecticut woods in one of the earliest forms of industrial mass production. He adapted a simply design in which all the components could be created rapidly by the periods standards, and then assembled together by a different group of workers at the factory, with a final group finishing the chair.
In 1825, Hitchcock established the Hitchcock Chair Company in what’s now Riverton, Connecticut and pushed the boundaries of chair-making further by featuring black finishes, creating unique shapes and designs on all parts of a chair, and by implementing a stencil technique that became a signature of his style. Using these techniques, Hitchcock was able to produce nearly 15,000 chairs a year, an unheard of number at the time. Even with the large productions amounts, each chair maintained the hand made New England look.
With a sad end to the legendary story, the Hitchcock Chair Company closed its’ doors in 2006.
Jan 9, 2007
Save Your Pieces!
Recently while staying with a friend and her family in central New Hampshire, I noticed a federal period slant front desk, that was missing a rather large piece of veneer. Unluckily, they didn't have the original piece as it was lost or misplaced. This is a common occurrence with antiques, and how you care for the piece when veneer breaks can make a large difference in the repairs and costs.
When veneer breaks, the best thing that one can do is to get an envelope and store the broke pieces within the furniture. By keeping the broken veneer, a restorer can later use hide glue (the same adhesive that was used to create the piece) and clamps to securely put the piece back in place with minimal signs of an accident. Veneer is fragile and can break for a myriad of reasons. Placing a piece of furniture too close to a heat source can cause the wood to expand and contract rapidly is one reason. Keeping a plant on the surface with the occasional spillage of water is another.
Caring for your antiques that have veneer is a simple process. Start by lightly tapping the veneer with your finger tip. It should sound solid. If you hear a hollow sound, it means that the veneer has lifted from the surface. In a situation such as this, the worst thing that someone can do is to use an Elmer's, or any other unnatural adhesive. As conservators, we have to undo many old repairs which takes time and could be harmful to the piece. The next posting will address the process of repairing the veneer.
Nov 20 2006
I suppose that for the first entry in these letters I should answer one of our most asked questions when we return a piece. That is ‘how do I take care of it?’. Believe it or not this is asked by some of the most seasoned collectors, perhaps even just to gather a consensus from all the opinions they get.
Firstly, spray on quick shine products are not to be used. They will only collect dirt and need to be removed shortly. The only ways to help patina involve some amount of elbow grease so quick products should be avoided.
To maintaine your furniture, dust and spills should be cleaned occasionally by wiping with a slightly damp cloth, either cotton or preferable a chamois cloth well wrung out. This is also a good opportunity to find any loose veneer or stringing on your pieces before they come off and get lost. Beyond this routine cleaning we recommend waxing perhaps yearly with a good traditional furniture wax. ‘Butchers’ brand Boston Polish is acceptable. Wax is applied very sparingly, allowed to harden, and buffed with a soft cloth. If the piece is dirty the wax can be applied with 0000 steel wool to pull off dirt. The buffing is important and that’s where the elbow grease comes in. You need to rub hard so as not to leave excess wax on the surface because that will collect dirt.
The method has produced wonderful patina for hundreds of years. This type of wax is a benign product and won’t hurt but it should be used sparingly.
54 Westchester Ave, Pound Ridge, New York, 10576 (914)-764-1138 John@CurryandHovis.com