Column veneering

A traditional and effective method of veneering small circular columns and half columns, which does away with the necessity for shaped cauls, is to glue the column with hide glue and allow to cool off, cut the veneer with a generous overlap in the width, pin one long edge (if necessary damping it so that it lies flat), wrap the veneer round the column and bind it with a 2 in (50 mm) continuous calico strip which has been well wetted so that the whole of the area is covered with the strip. The column is then gently heated over a flame or other source of heat until the glue runs, the webbing again wetted with warm water and then reheated to shrink it and force out the surplus glue. After the glue has set the webbing is removed, the overlap joint cut through, the edges warmed, fresh glue inserted, hammered down and strapped with tape. Jointed up or fragile veneers which do not bend easily may have to be reinforced with a glued paper cover before wrapping, while intricate inlays and built-up patterns of small elements may have to be glued firmly to a supporting base of thin fabric which must be dampened slightly before bending and gluing in position. (Subsequent cracking, crazing and lifting of highly figured or spiteful veneers [mahogany curls, rosewood, etc.] can often be prevented by the traditional method of backing the veneer with glued muslin prior to laying. See also Yorkite crossbanding veneer, page 307). Large columns of either coopered or laminated construction can be made in convenient sections, each section hammer or caul veneered and then reassembled with either tongued and grooved or rubbed joints; but such work belongs more properly to specialized joinery and advanced techniques are employed for repetition work, although the occasional 'one off' usually has to be made up by traditional methods improvised to suit. One thing is very certain, that no matter what new shape is evolved which would seem to call for revolutionary methods it has usually been done before by primitive but essentially practical methods. To state it fairly, the old cabinetmakers knew every worthwhile trick, and the study of antique furniture is the study of man's mastery over his material. The heavily shaped bombe commode with its flashing richness of intricate veneer-work may look almost impossible, but it was done with primitive planes and scrapers, a pot of home-made glue and a lump of heated iron. No doubt the old craftsmen had more time in which to develop their skills and we are in too much of a hurry, but in the end they achieved more than we can usually show. The moral, therefore, must surely be 'make haste slowly'.

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