Tools and techniques of conversion and construction

During the eighteenth century there were few developments in methods of construction or of the use of new tools. There were, however, some efforts made that were to assist developments in the long term. These early attempts included the 1761 Society of Art's Prize to Stansfield, for his sawmill design, and in 1793, Bentham's comprehensive patent for woodworking machinery. Developments such as lathe-turned screws which were being produced with slotted heads to fix handles, and Maudsley's construction of a sliding tool holder in 1797 which enabled screws to be made more easily, were aimed at woodworkers other than furniture-makers. Their influence was not to become important until the nineteenth century.

One process of construction that continued without question was the use of plies and laminates of wood for the construction of chair splats and fretted galleries. The use of plies in mid-eighteenth century work was merely a solution to a problem; it was not seen as a momentous technical advance. It was evidently common practice for larger plies to be used as well. Sheraton describes the construction of his Universal table by saying '... the pannels are sometimes glued up in three thicknesses, the middle piece being laid with the grain across, and the other two lengthways of the pannel to prevent it warping.' More deliberate developments occurred in the work of Chapius in Belgium, and Samuel Gragg in the United States. Both men made chairs with bentwood components but the process was subordinate to the ruling taste in design terms. Tambour doors were introduced from France in the latter part of the century and were used as decorative falls or covers for night tables, pot cupboards and desks.

Furniture historians are indebted to the design books of the eighteenth century not only for their designs, but also for general practical details of construction. The works of Plumier, Diderot, Roubo and Bimont are invaluable for their extremely detailed accounts and illustrations of furniture and woodworking practices in eighteenth century France.

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