Carving Spanish Feet


A Delaware Valley foot and a Pennsylvania ring-and-vase turning combine to develop a period-style design.
By Charles Bender
Pages: 55-57

From the April 2009 issue #175
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Years ago, when I first began my business as a period furniture maker, a close friend and mentor jumped on board to help kick off my backlog of work. He was a widely known collector of William & Mary furniture – his home was touted as the “mini-Winterthur” – and while he had no personal woodworking experience, he did know 17th- and 18th-century American furniture better than anyone I knew. He should have, considering he began his collection immediately following World War II. His initial project for me was to create a piece that is currently nonexistent in the antiques world. He wanted a Pennsylvania William
& Mary wing chair.

With his passing earlier this year, I’ve reflected on that project with great fondness. We spent hours together researching period frames, turnings and foot variations. We felt strongly that wing chairs existed in Pennsylvania during this time period. These chairs were found in other regions of the Colonies; certainly they would have existed in Philadelphia. This city was the center of the Colonies for wealth, education and furniture making. Yet no chair of this type has ever been offered for sale on the antiques market.

With the help of some of the East Coast’s leading collectors, antique dealers and museum curators, we came up with a design that represents what could have been made in Philadelphia in the late 17th century. We settled on a distinctly Delaware Valley version of a Spanish foot with concave flutes that form the “toes” that, while bolder and more dramatic than their New England counterparts, are fairly simple to carve. And we’ve adapted this design to use for a footstool.


From the April 2009 issue #175
Buy this issue now