FSE Books

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Building the Hepplewhite Settee




The Ferd Sobol Editions invites you to view The Three Seat Hepplewhite Settee a new Limited Edition currently on the workshop bench.

Many years ago Ferd created The Chippendale Three Seat Settee, the Legacy Edition that sold out far too quickly for many. It combined beautifully with his other Chippendale pieces like his Dining Room Ensemble which is also in his Legacy Collection. Per the requests of collectors comes his latest piece.

Although not exact, similar to the three individual Hepplewhite Chairs shown, the latest edition will feature a lovely shield back for which George Hepplewhite is justly famous, as a single unit - The Three Seat Hepplewhite Settee.

Watch the blog and website to see when the release date is announced, or if this new edition is one that tickles your fancy email or call to place an advanced reservation. In the meantime, have a look behind the workshop doors as it gets built.

Hepplewhite’s shield back design is one of the most recognized design elements of antique furniture. Variations on his theme offered a wide variety of beautifully proportioned curved geometric and nature based configurations. The results are very refined, delicate and an elegant chair back that looks just lovely against a wall.

Ferd gets some skilled assistance from his wife Millie who is seen as she carves the petite florets on the front of the chair backs. She uses a Dremel router that has been affixed to a custom created jig that moves on a dual axis keeping the delicate bit aligned and from digging too far or deeply into the wood. This is only the first step in the carving that will be completed later by hand carving. All surfaces and edges undergo a number of increasingly finer sandings.

With his handy Dremel tool Ferd sands all of the raw edges during a sanding. The three backs will eventually be combined together making a settee back. Above a leg and back is glued and drying.

Ferd adheres to the philosophy first presented by Michelangelo that the carving already exists within the block and the excess material must simply be removed in order to reveal it. This however is a painstakingly slow process. Additionally the rate of attrition, and the percentage of loss by the process is very high, as just one slip during step 27 may send the destroyed component to the recycle bin, and Ferd sadly back to step one to recreate a replacement component.

Some of the progressive steps in assembling the Hepplewhite Chair are similar to those needed on the new settee. Below we see one of the many drawings Ferd does to isolate and fine tune various design elements of an edition. The photo on the left of his previous Legacy Chippendale Settee assists in referencing the omnipresent need to retain proportion and veracity of scale each step along the entire process.

Ferd is gluing the back to the legs. While Chippendale was fond of curved legs on both his tables and chairs, Hepplewhite built strait legs on his.

While tight glue joints are very important in any type of building they are absolutely essential in miniature scale. There’s nothing capable of destroying the willing suspension of disbelief faster than does a sloppy glue joint. All joints must be clamped as the glue dries, thus the pin.

Ferd is known internationally for the many unique design elements he brings to his editions, as well as for the many nifty jigs he invents and uses to perfect his building results.

One such jig is seen here being used to create a tiny slot around the perimeter edge of the settee seat component. Here accuracy is needed on the depth of the cut as it goes through the thin wood. Without a jig to firmly hold and stabilize this step would prove to be very difficult if not impossible.

Another jig is used to drill the very small hole into the top of the leg needed to attach it securely to the chair back. The drill is still in motion and if one were to try this operation freehand, the chance of error would be great. This jig is needed for precise accuracy, and to allow the drill to invade only a tiny predetermined amount into the wood to prevent splitting the leg. The bolt lends a sense of scale to this delicate procedure.

See more of this edition when it is released. We are now accepting advanced reservations.



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