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The History of Oak and Walnut Furniture

Aug 17, 2007
The different kings and rulers used different types of woods for their furniture. Like oak were used widely during the Tudor reigns. They mostly used imported furniture, which were both heavy and durable. Jacobean mostly used walnut and Cromwellian used both oak and walnut.

TUDOR: Elizabeth I to James I (1558-1603)
Oak was in use for furniture during the reigns of the Tudors, and for most of the seventeenth century as well. It is a heavy and strong wood, which grew plentifully in England but was imported also, and the furniture made from it is both weighty and durable.

Being a hard wood it is not easy to carve, although it can be decorated with inlay. On the whole, the hardness of oak determined the styles in which it was made and ornamented, and in spite of the difficulty of working the timber surprisingly elaborate carving and inlay was carried out. Construction was simple: the mortise and tendon joint held fast with a wooden peg, or dowel. The most noticeable feature in design is the exaggerated bulbous turned leg on tables, bedstead posts, and supports on the fronts of cupboards.

JACOBEAN: James I to Cromwell (1603-1649)
Walnut began to be used, but in the solid and then only occasionally. As this wood is prone to attack by woodworm, a great amount of it was probably destroyed and it may have been much more popular than we know. The bulbous support, so popular earlier, is seldom seen and is replaced by simpler turning.

CROMWELLIAN: Oliver and Richard Cromwell (1649-1660)
Oak and walnut remained the principal woods, but the most common feature is again the use of turned ornament. Fronts of chests were decorated with turned columns cut into two halves lengthwise, and inlaid with simple patterns in mother-of-pearl, bone or ivory. Turning on chair and table legs was often in a series of knobs, known as 'bobbin-turning'. Seats of chairs were sometimes of leather, fixed with large brass-headed nails.

CAROLEAN: Charles II to Flight of James II (1660-1689)
After the years of austerity under Cromwell and the Puritans, the accession of Charles II was the signal for an outburst of luxury and extravagance; according to some, never surpassed.

Walnut superseded oak, although the latter continued in use on a diminished scale as it does even now. Veneers and marquetry, lacquer and embossed silver were introduced for the decoration of furniture, and the use of mirrors on the walls of rooms became general.

The tall-backed chair, known earlier in a simple pattern, became the object of attention from turners and carvers and is the typical feature of the period. The back and the front rails were elaborately carved, the design often centering on a pair of cherubs holding a crown aloft, and the seat and back panels were caned.

Tudor in most of the seventeenth century used the oak wood that was known for its hardness and it was difficult to carve and do the inlay. Walnut, even though was prone to the attack of the woodworm was used during the Jacobean.

The Cromwellian were known for the use of turned ornaments and inlaid with simple patterns in mother-of-pearl, bone or ivory. And during the Carolean veneers and marquetry lacquer and embossed silver were introduced for furniture decoration. And one of the common thing during this time was that the use of mirrors on the walls of rooms became general.
About the Author
Mitch Johnson is a regular writer for http://www.kitchen-plans-n-designs.com/ , http://www.mycollectableshub.info/ , http://www.mycollectablesresource.info/
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