Perhaps one of the most important changes in furniture-making in this period was that from nailed and pegged board construction, to framed-up construction. The reasons for these constructional changes and the pace at which they occurred are difficult to fathom, but three separate theories have been proposed. First, the desire for lighter, more easily moved furniture, which introduced sawn timber and panels rather than baulks and boards. Secondly, the invention of the water-powered saw mill in Germany in the early fourteenth century could have made it easier to convert logs into thinner panels and more manageable boards, especially in comparison to the older methods of two-handed pit sawing. Thirdly, there is an obvious benefit in not having timbers that split. Whatever the reason, the class of workmen called joiners, from the end of the fifteenth century, were encouraged to develop skills of artistry only previously known to masons and smiths. Panelling of 'wainscot' (quarter-sawn oak) became popular for interiors once timber conversion had become easier. This new-found delight encouraged changes such as allowing the wood members of bed-testers, posts and headboards to be exposed rather than hidden beneath cloth, and, more important, for ornament to be produced from the wood itself, rather than the painting or applied metal work. The construction method still necessitated mouldings to be worked in the solid and for masons' mitres (where joint and mitre do not coincide) to be used. This was discontinued in the sixteenth century when true mitres began to be constructed. Frame and panel construction is illustrated in Figure 2.29.
Was this article helpful?