Woods are decorated with carvings and polishing, embossing, etc. This gives the woods a different looks and enhanced its values. These can make the finished goods even more expensive depending on their styles and the type of designs or carves that are made on the woods.
The earliest way of decorating a wood article was perhaps by means of carving. In the case of oak, the hardness of the timber severely limited the craftsman, but the coming of walnut was more encouraging. It lent itself to the chisel readily, and in some instances the carving was decorated additionally with gilding to give a very rich effect.
Pieces treated in this manner, partly polished wood and partly gilt, are known as 'parcel-gilt'. Mahogany was the carver's delight, and he was able to show with it all his skill. In addition, fretting was applied sometimes to mahogany pieces. This took two forms: the wood was pierced in a pattern with a fine saw, or the effect of a thin pierced sheet stuck down on the surface was imitated by carving. This latter type is known as 'semi-fret', and if often to be seen in Chippendales designs.
One other wood must receive a mention: pine. This was in use from the end of the seventeenth century, and its texture provided an excellent medium for carving. In most instances this was concealed under gilding or paint, and almost all the elaborately carved mirror-frames and tables of the eighteenth century will be found to have been made from this timber.
Silver and gold
Towards the end of the seventeenth century a certain amount of furniture was made of which all or most of the surface was covered with embossed sheets of silver.
A famous suite of this description, consisting of mirror-frame, candle stands and a table is at Windsor Castle; there is another at Knole, Kent, and yet another was sold by auction in 1928 for no less than 10,100 guineas. At about the same period, in imitation of gold, pieces of furniture were painted with successive thin coatings of a plaster composition called 'gesso' (pronounced 'jesso'), carved in what appear like embossed patterns, and then spread with gold leaf.
Later, in the eighteenth century, the gesso was painted on carving and followed the design of the woodwork itself. Tables, and even chairs, were treated with gilding, but the most popular furnishings to be decorated in this manner were mirror-frames.
The gold leaf, pure gold beaten into small flat sheets thinner than tissue paper, was made to stick to the plaster surface by means of a type of gum or by oil-size. The former, which needs greater preparation of the groundwork is called 'water-gilding', and can be highly polished afterwards; the other, 'oil-gilding', is a simpler method and the work cannot be burnished.
The hardness of the oak timber severely limited the craftsman, but the coming of walnut was more encouraging for them. And Mahogany was the carver's delight, and he was able to show with it all his skill. The end of the seventeenth century saw the furniture embossed with sheets of silvers and gold.
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Mitch Johnson is a regular writer for www.kitchen-plans-n-designs.com/ , www.guidetocollectables.info/ , www.hubforcollectables.info/
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