by Frank Vucolo
While one revolution was winding down, another was gaining force. The Federal period, from about 1780 to 1820, saw both the rise of the nascent United States as well as a uniquely American interpretation of neoclassical design.
This New World take on European design was lighter than the preceding Queen Anne and Chippendale styles, using less imposing elements. It did, however, make extensive use of fine veneers and inlays for depth and richness.
Craftsmen could buy inlays from specialists, but many created their own shop-made inlays. With a few simple tools, you, too can make your own inlays for your Federal (and other) projects and get great results.
The American Federal period developed when U.S. cabinetmakers began interpreting the work of British designers such as George Hepplewhite, Thomas Sheraton and the Adams brothers, who exported their ideas from England in the form of design books. Their influences quickly became part of the decorative arts landscape.
Gone were the undulations of block-front and bombé chests sporting expressive brasses on elaborately shaped and carved mahogany.
Narrow tapered or turned legs, the use of negative space in the design and gently curved or flat surfaces form the core of Federal work. And while many of the high-end Federal pieces were carved, it tended to be more subtle than in preceding styles.
Federal furniture depended more on contrasting colors and accents. Neoclassical pictorial elements such as urns, shells and fans were created in veneer, as was the eagle, which had emerged as a symbol of the United States.
Blog: Learn the trick to keeping your inlay clean and clear.
To Buy: Discover “Marquetry, Veneer & Inlay for Furniture Makers with Rob Millard.”.
In our Store: Learn the fundamentals of inlay, including stringing and line & berry.