We have lately revisited a restoration project, completed over a decade ago, that required reproducing six 18th century Chippendale dining chairs. We wanted to evaluate and compare the appearance and wear after several years of use.
When the project was commissioned, the client agreed that the result was to produce honest reproductions. One of the features of this project was the finish. We needed to recreate a historically appropriate finish that would continue its maturing process similarly to the finish of the original chairs.
Already familiar with Chippendale’s classic designs, we researched the methods and materials of the original chairs. A selection of the most comparable mahogany wood was obtained and the fabrication process began utilizing the same techniques as in the Chippendale era. We reproduced hand carved elements of the graceful splat openwork, motifs, and joinery. The chairs were then skillfully assembled and upholstered with a horsehair foundation. The reproduction chairs took on the form of the originals with the one notable difference, which was in its weight. The original chairs are lighter in weight due to the loss of the natural water in wood drying over time.
After a decade we can verify that mastering and using the same finishing techniques and similar materials delivered the results we were hoping for. The proper application of shellac and wax produced a finish that continues to blend in with the finish of the original chairs, and as time goes on “develops” its own patina making it even more difficult to distinguish the reproductions.
It was important and rewarding to assess the Chippendale reproduction chairs to confirm that traditional methods stood the test of time. We will continue to revisit this project in the future.