Four Hepplewhite caned chairs

Owned by a family in Suffolk, these chairs are of a Hepplewhite design (in Strange’s English Furniture, p.258 no.3). They are in variable condition, and show signs of previous repair. The finish on all of them was in need of TLC, and they needed recaning. One had been recaned, and some extra wood screwed on to help house the cane, using beech, as one of the four seat rails was split along the cane holes.

damaged finish

In general…

I used a nail to help push out cane stuck in the holes, and then a (general purpose) drill bit for the more intransigent ones. The advantages of a drill bit are that it has a slightly pointed end (a wood bit would be too pointy), so that it will bite; precisely the right size can be chosen; if you whack it in so that it gets stuck, you can attach a drill to it to undo and release it. Cave: drills do break, so whack carefully!

I used meths to clean up the shellac finish

more damaged finish

which was cracked or scuffed or absent. Where the finish was better, a mixture of meths, turps and soap approx 45:45:10%. The uncleaned finish was reddy-brown, and in some places obscured the floral detail. Cleaning lightened the colour and revealed the detail, but was perhaps a bit too red. More research is needed to determine the right colour.

In particular…

Chair 1: Both front legs cracked at the top, and have been repaired previously, with the addition of pegs to secure the tenons. (Such pegs are absent from the other chairs.) I used a syringe to squeeze glue into the joints, and cramped them, rather than taking the whole lot apart, which was not my brief. The toprail sinister side was loose; again glue in a syringe and cramping.

Top of sinister leg showing fractures

Top of sinister leg showing fractures

Top of dexter leg showing fractures

Chair2: The added wood took some work to get the screws out; heating them up eventually did it. The top rail had been smashed (sinister) and repaired; the presence of three plugs suggest screws underneath, but investigation of these was again beyond my brief. The finish of the toprail was a different colour to the other chairs and to the rest of the chair.

fracture to top rail

chair seat recto and verso

Chair 3: The top rail sinister had broken and been repaired.

Chair 4

Cane used was nos 3 and 4. I decided on this to give strength to the chairs.I experimented with 3 for settings and weavings and 4 for diagonals, but this looks too heavy; the other way round looks better. Examples from the Parker Collection seem to use no 3 (or is it no 4?) throughout.


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