Arts & Mysteries: Make a Ball & Claw Foot


Part 3 in a series on building a Philadelphia-style Chippendale chair.
By Adam Cherubini
Pages: 22-27

From the February 2009 issue #174
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If you’ve been following my column, you know that I am building a Philadelphia-style Chippendale chair. I’ve reached the stage where I’m supposed to carve the legs, and I’m just not confident that I understand the basic steps required or even the final shape. I’ve just not seen enough of these chairs and I lack experience carving. So I’ve asked for help.

Chris Storb is a conservator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He specializes in 18th-century Philadelphia carving. His job at the museum has allowed him to learn from one of the world’s largest and most prestigious collections of Philadelphia Chippendale furniture. So he’s uniquely qualified to tell us about typical characteristics, which features are unique to certain shops and what features are never apparent. For example, Storb has never seen evidence of rasp or file use on the carved feet of Philadelphia chairs (there are, however, plenty of rasp marks on other areas of chairs).

Storb is also the master carver the museum uses when a masterpiece needs work. If a recently acquired piece has a missing cartouche, Storb carves a new one. Philadelphia’s American Wing actually showcases a fair bit of Storb’s work.

So I was thrilled when he agreed to visit my shop and let me photograph him carving a Philadelphia-style ball and claw. It was a bit like having a free-throw lesson from former NBA star Michael Jordan.


From the February 2009 issue #174
Buy this issue now