Quantcast

Laburnum source (now resolved thanks).

UKworkshop.co.uk

Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

AJB Temple

Finely figured
UKW Supporter
Joined
13 Oct 2015
Messages
3,316
Reaction score
493
Location
Tunbridge Wells
Now now! I am not aware actually that Sissinghurst has any truly old furniture. Hever does, but it's privately owned (no trustees....)and had a brutal revamp in the early part of the last century by William Waldorf Astor. I know it well as my wife did her RHS training there and we got married there in the stunning oak dining hall.

I will not disclose it on this forum but if you are desperate Mike you can PM me and will give you a big hint.

Adrian
 

Trevanion

Greatest Of All Time
Joined
29 Jul 2018
Messages
3,760
Reaction score
532
Location
Pembrokeshire
Sounds like a lovely project Adrian.

I've actually worked with a little bit of Larburnum in a past life, I'd be amazed (Like, properly) if the seat was a single piece of Laburnum as I've personally never seen a piece larger than 6-8". I've still got a couple of pieces 4" wide pieces knocking about that are incredibly dense and very dark, I can't remember off the top of my head how many growth rings there were in the four inches but it was definitely 40+.

Elm is also quite scarce to get in seat sizes now too. Funnily enough, Chris Willams the Welsh Stick Chair Man was talking about it yesterday on Instagram
http://instagr.am/p/CFNlxg6D_lF/
 

AJB Temple

Finely figured
UKW Supporter
Joined
13 Oct 2015
Messages
3,316
Reaction score
493
Location
Tunbridge Wells
Thanks T. Do you want to sell....

I have a bit of stock of Elm (2 tree trunks worth left) but will have to fetch it from Warwickshire. I can do a seat from a single plank if it is Elm. However, I don't mind going Laburnum and will even get my animal glue pot out to do it.

I would go trad and do hand tools only, but frankly the seat is going to see a bit of router action before hand finishing. It's got me quite excited as this is a nice project.

Also I have agreed to be paid in kind (they have to buy the wood) and I get a significant supply of turkey, venison and beef and eggs and chickens next year! It feels quite rustic. You may surmise I am not vegan.
 

Sgian Dubh

Established Member
Joined
12 Oct 2004
Messages
2,219
Reaction score
87
Location
UK
OK, the plot thickens. I've now been sent a scan of the original bill of sale and what it actually says is "4 armchairs in modern style of laburnum & other woodstock". Dated 8 January 1740.
Funnily enough, I took as close a look as I could at the photograph in your original post, and I came to the conclusion that the bulk of that chair quite likely wasn't laburnum. The four species in genus Laburnum are all small, seldom more that about 9m ~30 ft tall, and relatively short lived. They just don't generally get very big, so to find a board big enough to make the seat alone would be challenging, but I suppose you could always glue boards together. It's rare indeed to come across a piece of sizable furniture where all the show wood is laburnum, but there was a maker in Scotland, whose name escapes me, back in the eighteenth century who had a bit of a name for making pieces in laburnum.

So, initially my first thoughts turned to yew, elm and ash as being more likely candidates for most of the parts, with perhaps laburnum being restricted to the filigreed splats, or other small elements. Then you posted the image of the two chairs together, and I'm rather more convinced that the seat might be elm, the bentwood parts perhaps yew, with yew also being a possible candidate for the rear legs and the front cabriole legs, The front legs appear to be fine grained, and another slightly likely candidate for them might be sycamore. Yew is good for steam bending, but thick clear bits are hard to find, which you'd need for the cabriole legs.

Well, I don't suppose I've added anything really helpful, and it's hard to tell what wood is used there from just a picture. But those are truly attractive chairs, and I'm not surprised someone has quoted big money to replace just one, especially if it has to look aged to match the original. To get that right will take a lot of painstaking work, plus finding the right material probably won't be an easy or inexpensive task.

On a side note, I can't help seeing some Islamic influence in the design of those chairs, especially in the two outer back splats, with that Islamic like motif being less obvious in the middle splat. On an unrelated side note, I have three laburnums growing at borders of my garden. They're one of my favourite trees primarily just for their flashy spring flowers, so I planted seeds in plant pots about fourteen years ago, got them well established and then planted out the saplings to grow on and mature. Each spring I cut off any branches or shoots that emerge below about eight feet above ground level to discourage the trees from their typical laburnum habit of creating two or three trunks from low down. Slainte.
 

AJB Temple

Finely figured
UKW Supporter
Joined
13 Oct 2015
Messages
3,316
Reaction score
493
Location
Tunbridge Wells
Thanks Richard. I have agreed not to post actual photos of the chair in question so the ones I pictured are close facsimiles of the style. If nothing else, this project has inspired me to plant a laburnum tree or three.

Even when I get the fire damaged chair, I am not sure I will be able to see what is what. I can examine the undamaged one too of course and will probably have to get them both in my workshop to take detailed dimensions and photos. I have made things like cabriole legs, turned feet, turned spindles and bentwood before (yew), so I think that the project is perfectly doable even for an amateur like me. If it does not work out, very little will have been lost. Kind regards, Adrian

PS: I bought your book! Arrived 3 weeks ago. It's worth the money.
 

Blackswanwood

Still Learning
Joined
17 Nov 2018
Messages
658
Reaction score
187
Location
North Yorkshire
It was bugging me as I knew I'd seen this before. The chair in the picture of the original post is in the book "English Windsor Chairs" by Ivan G Sparkes which traces the history of Windsor chairs.

IMG_4470.jpg

The text says:

"The most unusual of the eighteenth century chairs, which appears as a bow back or as an arch back, is linked to the Gothic Revival of the later eighteenth century, and it bears such names as the Strawberry Hill, Gothic or church-window splat Windsor. It uses three open tracery splats in place of the back sticks of earlier chairs and has one smaller splat on each side also, infilling the arm supports, all echoing the tracery of stone Gothic church windows, giving a richness to the design. This is given even greater emphasis when these window splats are enclosed in an arch-shaped back bow. The Gothic Windsor had quite a short life (c1755 -70) but has has been revived since the Second World War and is gaining popularity in a specialised way. To many, it's eccentric lines are totally alien to the simplicity of the country wheel-back in the same way that many will not accept the Cabriole leg as being in sympathy with the rest of the Windsor chair's design"

I think it's a beautiful chair and a great project - it's a shame you won't be able to share the experience as a thread but I can also understand why the trustees may feel it prudent not to want it in a public forum.
 

wallace

Established Member
Joined
13 Feb 2011
Messages
1,971
Reaction score
21
Location
county durham
I visited a wood yard in sheffield recently, whilst hunting a wadkin lump. It was called Albion timber, he had some boards of laburnum
 

dutchboy

Member
Joined
4 Feb 2017
Messages
7
Reaction score
0
Location
harrogate
As a (very rare) paid job I have been asked if I will make a chair out of Laburnum. There is no rush. It is to replace one of a pair of 17th century laburnum chairs, one of which was very badly damaged in a fire (and which will be given to me as a template in due course).

For reference it is a Gothic arch back chair that looks a bit like this but quite a bit simpler and somewhat earlier. (This pic borrowed from Pegs & Tails excellent site as I was hunting around for examples in the hope of finding a construction plan).

View attachment 92472

I have had a scoot around on-line to find a source of Laburnum in suitable dimensions (I can laminate to make the legs) but have drawn a blank on stock, even though some of my usual places list it. We don't know whether the original is common or alpine and so don't really mind which of the two variants. If anyone knows a source who has or may have stock over the next 3 months, please let me know.

PS: I am not doing the finishing, that will be done by an antique restorer. The chair was quite an important piece in its setting and the owner (a historical trust that I am peripherally associated with) was quoted a sum of several thousand pounds to replicate the original. I am not an expert chair maker but I have made a number of ornate chairs over the years. Finding wood is the first hurdle. I will be making a trial run out of oak for myself and to template.

Thanks, Adrian
 

dutchboy

Member
Joined
4 Feb 2017
Messages
7
Reaction score
0
Location
harrogate
It was bugging me as I knew I'd seen this before. The chair in the picture of the original post is in the book "English Windsor Chairs" by Ivan G Sparkes which traces the history of Windsor chairs.

View attachment 92530

The text says:

"The most unusual of the eighteenth century chairs, which appears as a bow back or as an arch back, is linked to the Gothic Revival of the later eighteenth century, and it bears such names as the Strawberry Hill, Gothic or church-window splat Windsor. It uses three open tracery splats in place of the back sticks of earlier chairs and has one smaller splat on each side also, infilling the arm supports, all echoing the tracery of stone Gothic church windows, giving a richness to the design. This is given even greater emphasis when these window splats are enclosed in an arch-shaped back bow. The Gothic Windsor had quite a short life (c1755 -70) but has has been revived since the Second World War and is gaining popularity in a specialised way. To many, it's eccentric lines are totally alien to the simplicity of the country wheel-back in the same way that many will not accept the Cabriole leg as being in sympathy with the rest of the Windsor chair's design"

I think it's a beautiful chair and a great project - it's a shame you won't be able to share the experience as a thread but I can also understand why the trustees may feel it prudent not to want it in a public forum.
I have a reasonable selection of laburnum boards, what kind of sizes are you looking for? I’ve been told this laburnum was on of the largest in the north and was in the garden of an industrialists house in The Lakes
 

AJB Temple

Finely figured
UKW Supporter
Joined
13 Oct 2015
Messages
3,316
Reaction score
493
Location
Tunbridge Wells
Thanks Dutchboy I will calculate and PM you. Chairs don't use an enormous amount of wood (though I am making two) - the tricky part being the seat if indeed that is Laburnum. I won't be able to check until Monday or Tuesday, when I am hopefully picking the damaged one up.
 

AJB Temple

Finely figured
UKW Supporter
Joined
13 Oct 2015
Messages
3,316
Reaction score
493
Location
Tunbridge Wells
It was bugging me as I knew I'd seen this before. The chair in the picture of the original post is in the book "English Windsor Chairs" by Ivan G Sparkes which traces the history of Windsor chairs.

View attachment 92530

I think it's a beautiful chair and a great project - it's a shame you won't be able to share the experience as a thread but I can also understand why the trustees may feel it prudent not to want it in a public forum.
Thanks. Oddly enough that was not the source of my photograph, it was just the closest google images match to the photos I have of the actual chairs.

However, being forced to search around on this subject, I have some doubts. I know that historical texts are not necessarily definitive, but I am not convinced that the bill of sale is for these chairs. Part of the reason is it refers to 4, not a pair. But mainly because I can find no reference to arched back gothic style dating as far back as circa 1740. Almost all early references seem to start around 1760 to 65. That bothers me a bit.

It is of course not my place to question provenance or indeed authenticity.

It would seem from on-line sale records that there were a lot of Victorian reproductions of Gothic Windsor chairs (and even more of Chippendale patterns). I am not suggesting that these chairs are much later. Just curious about Gothic revival of original gothic style.

The other slightly odd thing, is that the house is much older than the furniture in this bill of sale. Of course old houses get altered a lot and presumably refurnished with the fashions of the day. It has set me onto a bit of sleuthing though.
 

Fitzroy

All the gear...
Joined
12 Mar 2013
Messages
1,156
Reaction score
89
Location
Aberdeen
What a fascinating thread, woodwork sleuthing at its best, with help in abundance from the great folks on here.
 

Sgian Dubh

Established Member
Joined
12 Oct 2004
Messages
2,219
Reaction score
87
Location
UK
PS: I bought your book! Arrived 3 weeks ago. It's worth the money.
Oh! Excellent, and many thanks indeed. I truly hope you find it useful with nuggets of valuable information you can put to practical use. Thanks again. Slainte.
 

custard

Established Member
Joined
20 Aug 2008
Messages
7,007
Reaction score
280
Location
Hampshire
Amazing chairs! I didn't appreciate that they were quite so magnificent. There's no question but you have to try and remake those in the original timbers. Substituting a close visual match is all well and good, but for a genuine "legacy project" like this you need the real deal. Unfortunately Laburnum can be quite distinctive, you'll often find faint traces of medullary rays on the quarter sawn faces, not as pronounced as Oak but it's there none the less, and matching that would be a real challenge. I think you'd get fairly close with Sonokoling Rosewood, but a knowledgeable person scrutinising the work at close quarters would spot the subterfuge and regard it as just plain wrong!

Incidentally, one fascinating snippet for you. Most people know that bows were often made of Yew, but what isn't so commonly known is that Yew was only one of the timbers commonly used for bow making, indeed there's a Plantagenet statute that lists the timbers to be used for bow making. Yew, Hazel, Ash, and a mysterious timber called "Hoburn". There's a strong chance that "Hoburn" is actually Laburnum, and a Bowyer I met had actually made a bow from Laburnum and regarded it as every bit as suitable as Yew or Ash. The doubt comes in because the first recorded example of Laburnum grown in Britain only came later, but personally I don't find that a valid objection. It's a common enough European tree, so for all we know the Romans could have brought over and planted a few examples!

One way or another I'm fairly confident you'll get your Laburnum, it may take a bit of time to track down some knot free, straight grained stuff (these "park grown", ornamental trees, tend towards sprawl, so you rarely get the long clean bole that furniture makers want) but with patience I've no doubt you'll turn something up.

The bigger challenge is the Elm. And it's a challenge that has at least three components.

The first part of the challenge is English Elm versus Wych Elm. Marcros has already pointed out that you may have better luck sourcing Elm in Scotland. He's absolutely right, but it's almost certainly going to be Wych Elm. For example a few years ago there were quite a few mighty Wych Elms felled in the grounds of Edinburgh's Holyrood Palace, I got a few boards and for a little while had a decent business using it for furniture that went to clients of Scottish ancestry in Canada and America. Here's one of those boards, and very nice it was too! The good news is that boards from that same source are still in circulation and still available in a few yards.

Elm,-Windsor-03.jpg


In the general run of things I'd judge Wych Elm as a reasonable substitute for English Elm. But if your chairs are genuinely significant then you may conclude that "close" isn't actually close enough! In that case you're left looking for the far rarer English Elm.

The second challenge you have is one of dimension. Elm tended to be a fairly whopping tree, so really wide boards capable of making an unjointed seat constituted a decent percentage of all the boards out there. But the bigger problem is likely to be thickness. Specimen windsor chairs that I've measured often had particularly deep saddling to their seats, no surprise as even an extra 1/4" in thickness adds masses to the visual impact. Consequently you'll need a 2 1/4" or 2 1/2" thick board. Unfortunately most mills will cut quite a bit thinner. It's heart breaking to finally track down an English Elm board and discover it's been converted at 25mm, 35mm, or even at 50mm.

The third challenge is finding two Elm blanks that have a harmonious and shared grain pattern, such that they sit comfortably in each others' company. This probably means either finding consecutive boards from the log, or a single board large enough to yield two seat blanks. If you go back to the photo above you can see that it's actually marked up for windsor chair seat blanks and that each seat will have a similar catspaw pattern of pippy grain towards the centre. With two consecutive boards this yielded six chairs that formed a unique and harmonious set for a breakfast table.

But given that you're trying to match chairs with extant specimens you may prefer a more neutral grain pattern, such as this English Elm Windsor seat blank,

Elm,-Windsor-01.jpg


The right boards do exist, but they're extremely rare and it will take a lot of patience and detective work to find them. I've got a couple of boards of 65mm English Elm, actually I've hung on to them in the hope of a commission for a matching pair of Gothic windsor two seater settees, so not that distant from your project! I've carried a picture in my minds eye for many years of them sitting opposite each other, the focal point of the entrance hall to a country house or as a counterpoint in an uber cool city apartment.

Elm,-Windsor-02.jpg


The point is that once or twice over the years I've had the opportunity to replace these boards, so even though they're rare they are not quite in the unicorn droppings category!

Again, a great place to start would be a post on the WoodLots forum. With luck you'll find a tree surgeon who's about to remove a big English Elm, so you can specify conversion to 65mm or 70mm thick boards. You'd still have to wait three or four years for air drying, but that would provide bags of time to source some truly exceptionally Laburnum. As I always say, cabinet making suits the tortoise more than the hare as it's all about playing the long game!

Good luck!
 

AJB Temple

Finely figured
UKW Supporter
Joined
13 Oct 2015
Messages
3,316
Reaction score
493
Location
Tunbridge Wells
Custard, thank you so much.

I doubt that Elm is going to be a problem - with one proviso. A good many years ago when we had the mighty storm, our family farm, mainly run by my uncle at the time, lost a large number of mature oaks, a few elms, and other bits and bobs. I had some previous experience of elm floorboards (lots of movement) so the elms were as far as I know never used as I avoided it and my brother was into metalwork mainly. There should be two quite large trees planked and sticked.

But now the snag. I can't recall off hand what my brother and I did with the elms when the mobile millers came, but most of the oak that was cut into boards (a lot was beamed), was cut at 2", so probably the elm will be the same. Hence your warning that I may need thicker boards could be unfortunate. I have no means of finding out until my next trip to Warwickshire.

I will ask someone to post for me on Woodlots. I need to tread a bit carefully as I have asked one of the trustees to do the wood search in the first instance and she has been busily ringing up tree surgeons and yards.

Edit: I went ahead and placed the ad myself. If someone has suitable wood it's best if they speak directly to me. I have also PM'd you dutch boy.
 
Last edited:

Blackswanwood

Still Learning
Joined
17 Nov 2018
Messages
658
Reaction score
187
Location
North Yorkshire
Edit to above. I have tracked the photo No 2 back to LVS decorative arts, which is an antique dealer in Sussex apparently. Large pair of Gothic style Windsor armchairs in SOLD ARCHIVE

These are late 20th C copies.
It is intriguing - pretty sure it is out of print but if you can get your hands on "The English Windsor Chair"by Thomas Crispin it may give some pointers. I had a copy but gave it away.

FWIW I think it was the late 1730's that the Gothic revival took place. It's certainly around then that Walpole who was one of the leading influences started coming to the fore.
 

HOJ

Established Member
Joined
21 Oct 2014
Messages
329
Reaction score
6
Location
South Norfolk
If of use, my supplier in Suffolk, Ben Sutton @ Sotterlley Sawmills, is showing on his web site, Waney Edged First Quality Elm KD in 54mm & 80mm boards. Sutton Timber
 
Top