Published at Monday, April 02nd, 2018 - 04:00:07 AM. Balloon Chair. By Ernest Barnier.
Most chairs made in Australia before 1830 have saber-style front legs, some tapered and pegged (in an English provincial style), and others have turned front legs that were manufactured on a pole or treadle lathe. Machinery in the workshop at that time was very simple, driven by manpower in the form of a treadle or rotating flywheel: the job at hand was pretty well all hard slog. This period in our turbulent past of colonial cabinet-making is considered by all experts and connoisseur collectors alike as the only period worth collecting, as it was pure in style and as close to being completely hand-made as possible. Chairs of this period are mostly fitted with drop in seats and, on rare occasion, are caned below, allowing the seat to be removed for summer comfort. Chairs from this period are extremely hard to find.
In my opinion, the second break-point in cabinet-making history is around 1835, when there were numerous changes in the styles of furniture influenced by many great designers. It was also the beginning of modern industrialisation, with the introduction of steam engines for power in the workshop, rather than horse-driven tread mills. This new technology drove a network of geared flat drive belts to give variations of speed used for rotating and band saws, and planers and lathes for cutting, planing, and turning timber for furniture manufacture. Also, our population was growing rapidly with barely enough skilled cabinetmakers to satisfy the growing demands of our young nation. The majority of chairs in this period were made with turned front legs, a convict (or trafalgar) style back and, occasionally, a carved back rail. The seats were often cane with a covered cushion for winter use and comfort; front seat rails were cross-grained on better quality chairs, as was sometimes the back rail. Drop in seats were also used in this period, but seldom seen after 1845.
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