Author Topic: methods when recording original objects  (Read 2544 times)


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methods when recording original objects
« on: November 18, 2009, 07:07:32 AM »
I have taken a bit of a thread that started about carving layout; and tried to expand it a bit to be about methods of recording original objects for reproduction. It started when Al Breed & I were discussing the layout for the low-relief carving on the sides of the Pope cabinet (made in Salem, c. 1680; now at Peabody Es Museum)

Al asked:

“…but do you think they used some sort of template to locate the compass points when repeating the same pattern? I've made a bunch of Pope chests and I have a board with holes in it that gives me the compass points for the circles and then I just go at it with the gouges. If they did use a guide it certainly would be long gone and not the type of thing to be recognized as a tool…”

My method has always been to layout each panel, mark centerlines, margins, etc & go from there. I then mentioned that I think Al’s scenario is feasible, and the best way to check it would be to take accurate measurements of all three Salem cabinets that use this motif (the Pope cabinet at Peabody Es Museum, one at the MMA, and one of two at Winterthur - )

Although I have seen all of these objects back when Al & I were both making copies of the Pope example, I did not record all the details from the “others” that I did get from the Pope cabinet. There is the failing.

But it brings up some points about approaches used in recording original examples. I try to see as many related examples as I can to an object I am to reproduce. My aim is to see a pattern of work habits, if possible. Sometimes, there are no known related objects; in which case you go with what you find on a single item. In other cases, the Pope cabinet was one, (there are really four cabinets from the same Salem shop, three are essentially the same pattern throughout) I look for any discrepancies – did they always use these nails here, were the hinges all set the same way; and similarities; size of mortise & tenon; number of pins in the joints; even stock dimensions.

In some cases, I have taken all the measurements for several related examples, and at times you learn something. There’s a group of joined chests I wrote about back in 1996 wherein the joiners adjusted the widths of the muntins & panels to arrive at a desired overall width for the front of their chest. The long rails’ shoulder-to-shoulder dimension was, in about 9 cases out of 12, 45 ½” within about ½”. But the panel widths and muntin widths varied; as panels were wider, muntins became narrower & vice versa…

It all comes down to time – how much time do I have to record this material; how much time does the curator/collector have to stand around while I endlessly obsess over this stuff, etc.

It’s easy here in New England, where a dozen examples is a large sample. I have friends in England who study groups of seventeenth-century objects where there might be 50 or more related objects…such a problem to have!

so let's hear it...


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Re: methods when recording original objects
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2009, 09:04:23 PM »
Peter- Good stuff. The time a museum can spend with you is critical, so I always take the info with story sticks, which are very fast. I also use a big sheet or two of posterboard for patterns and then take a lot of pictures, especially very close up.-Al
Allan Breed

Kirk Rush

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Re: methods when recording original objects
« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2009, 08:09:34 AM »
     Like you,  I try to examine as many pieces of the same type as I can, if possible.  If I can get good photographs of the piece prior to looking at it, I make several zerox copies to take with me to write down mearurements.  I take a drawing pad to make notes on construction, etc., and as Al says,  take lots of pictures.   I just finished a walnut Phil. tall case clock.  It was not feasible for me top make a trip up north(I'm in S. C.) to look at period ones, so I just had to make do with what photos I could find.  I spent a number of hours looking at details, proportions, etc., and making drawings before I came up with something I was satisfied with.  I would have been much easier to be able to look at some period ones, but it just wasn't possible.  Even when I can examine  pieces I find that I always missed something(or several things) when  I am making it.