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Antique Chairs

Toward the late 1600s, antique chairs were normally made from wood alone, held together by pegs at the joints. Often the wood could be old pieces that were being re-used. In the next 200 years, their construction became more sophisticated, with the frame and the joints increasingly complex and sturdy. Then in the early 1800s, there was an increase in machine-made chairs, or at least parts of the chair, as this reduced the costs of production. Through the 1700s, the broad, primitive rails gave way to smoother and narrower parts, and many of the chairs were designed with a drop-in seat that was supported by the wide frames. Some chairs, mostly from England used mortise and tenon joints along with animal glue and no pegs. The back was one piece of wood along with the back legs, making for a stronger chair. Chairs with large corner blocks were eventually replaced by diagonal struts that gave the chair much needed strength and allowed the rails to become thinner. This used less wood and was more cost effective. As individual pieces could be made in batches, a precursor to the assembly-line, more chairs could be made faster to satisfy the rapidly-increasing demand. Until the middle 1600s, chairs were heavy and architectural. They were used by nobility and the wealthy, and represented authority. The common folk had to settle for shorter crudely-made stools and benches. It is the decoration of a chair that points to its period in time. They could be finished with carvings, veneer (covering cheaper woods with more expensive laminates), marquetry (inlaying and enhancing by staining and coloring to create picture mosaics) and parquetry (geometrical veneering), brass inlay, gilding, lacquering, and painting, among others. 

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