I’ve always wondered why Federal Furniture is not as big a deal as Queen Anne or Chippendale work in the woodworking world. In the antiques world, Federal pieces are not the top money-grabbers at auction. That could be an indication of why selections from this period are overlooked, but from a woodworkers’ perspective, Federal furniture should be near the top when choosing a piece to reproduce.
Furniture from the Federal period has straight lines akin to Shaker , a style with which many woodworkers begin as they enter the craft. Additionally, Federal pieces are not necessarily stained or dyed, so finishing steps are easier to complete (wood choice is especially important, though). Yes, more curvaceous furniture designs from the Queen Anne and Chippendale periods are sure to catch ones eye, but to me, Federal furniture, with all the patera, stringing and banding in place, trumps curvaceous , hands down. And what could be better than using small scraps from your bin, along with detail-oriented work, to make brilliant inlay and banding to add to your projects as “eye candy.”
Lie-Nielsen Toolworks has just released a new DVD, “Making Ornamental Bandings” with Steve Latta. Latta knows his stuff (check out some of his work). This is his third Lie-Nielsen DVD focused on Federal inlay design and techniques. In this DVD, materials are discussed as are the tools used to create banding and the glues used to pull it all together. A number of specific-use jigs are demonstrated, and so many different banding designs are shown that you’ll wonder where to begin.
Latta, an associate professor at Thaddeus Stevens College, moves through the topics with ease, and his knowledge and perspective on bandings is outstanding. What I find most appealing about this DVD (and Latta’s earlier DVDs) is his blue-collar attitude toward woodworking. You do not need any special tools to make banding. In fact, throughout the entire DVD, a utility knife, straightedge, hand saw and a table saw are all he uses. At the table saw, Latta uses a blade that is less expensive to purchase than your everyday blades, and with this blade, you get more rips per glued-up packet. Also, all the jigs used are shop-made from MDF (finally a place to use this stuff other than under laminate). And what he does with ordinary packing tape is phenomenal , forget glue issues.
During the DVD, Latta demonstrates (using over-sized pieces for clarity) basic banding; some banding variations that pump up the design; what you can do with two-core or three-core packets; and how angled cuts produce different looks. Then he follows up the demonstration by showing actual banding he’s made and used throughout the years.
If you’ve entertained the idea of making banding , you would be surprised by how different shop-made pieces look from mass-produced work , this DVD is a must. Even if you’re not planning to make your own banding, this is a DVD that I would recommend. Latta’s setup for repetitive cuts at the table saw is the best I’ve seen since I’ve been involved with woodworking , it’s safe and you can produce accurate cuts in no time.
Other places to learn about inlay are:
- From the Woodworker’s BookShop, Fundamentals of Inlay: Federal Table Leg with Steve Latta (Lie-Nielsen Toolworks)
- American Furniture of the 18th Century by Jeffery P. Greene
- Watch a free video of Rob Millard installing curved inlay