William & Mary Side Table
Turned drops and legs, arches and serpentine stretchers typify this ornate 17th-century style.
by Kerry Pierce
When someone uses the term “period furniture,” we think most often of the Queen Anne, Chippendale and Federal genres. Certainly these have been the most influential styles in Western furniture-making history. But there have been other periods worthy of our attention, among them the William & Mary period, named for the English monarchs of the late 17th century. This is a genre I’ve long admired. Unfortunately no one had ever before asked me to build in this style, so when my wife asked for a small table on which she could rest her coffee cup beside her bird-watching chair, I decided to indulge myself.
The design of my wife’s table incorporates several William & Mary motifs: the serpentine X stretcher, the Gothic arches on the apron, the turned drops at the bases of the arches and, of course, the bold leg turnings, incorporating both the “cup and trumpet” and the bun foot features.
Drawings & Story Sticks
I begin the construction of any piece of furniture by creating measured drawings to guide me through the construction process (presented here in 1⁄4 scale). Then, based on those drawings, I make my patterns and story sticks. This particular table requires three story sticks: one for the legs, another for the feet, the last for the drops. It also requires a pattern for the Gothic arches of the aprons and a pattern for the X stretchers.
In addition, I made two simple measuring implements: one for the legs and one for the feet. These are necessary because it isn’t possible to lay a story stick or a rule on a “bold” turning and produce accurate results – the peaks and valleys of the turning make it impossible to lay the story stick flat on the work. And, while the heights of intermediate turned elements can vary from leg to leg or foot to foot, it is critical that the overall length of these parts be absolutely consistent from one to another.
I don’t keep pattern material in my shop. Instead, I use whatever odd pieces of wood that will serve, so for this table my story sticks are hardwood offcuts; my patterns, two pieces of 1⁄4″ plywood; and my measuring gauges, are two pieces of 3⁄4″ pine.
Patterns: Download full-sized patterns of the legs, feet, drops and stretchers.
Article: Read “The William & Mary Style,” by Charles Bender.
Article: Read Kerry Pierce’s “Rethinking Shaker Design.”
Article: Read about period hardware and how it was attached to furniture.
In our store: “Build a Classic Shaker Stool with Kerry Pierce” DVD and video download.
In our store: “With Saw, Plane & Chisel: Building Historic American Furniture with Hand Tools,” paperback and ebook by Zachary Dillinger.
To buy: “Pleasant Hill Shaker Furniture,” by Kerry Pierce.