A Campaign Stool Mystery – Lost Art Press


While teaching at The Furniture Institute of Massachusetts this week, Phil Lowe pulled out an interesting conservation (or restoration) project he was working on for a customer.

It was a footstool that was in pretty bad shape because the joints were all loose or coming apart. Or was that by design?

Lowe turned the stool over and pointed out how the four legs were attached to the top frame of the stool with snipe hinges. Then he showed how the lower stretcher simply pulled out of its dovetailed socket and was keyed in there at some point.

So it looks like the whole stool was designed to fold down.

Was it English? The turnings looked kind of English. And the entire thing was worm-eaten like old English walnut. Was it a campaign piece?

Who knows?

Lowe pulled up some of the horsehair and burlap stuffing and showed me a further mystery. The frame and legs were nailed together so the legs couldn’t fold. And the nails were blacksmith-made, wrought-head nails. Very early. Was the stool built to knock down? Was the nail added immediately after the maker saw that the folding wasn’t work to his or her liking? Or what?

Lowe and I looked at the piece for a good long while. Then we walked away and had a beer.

If you’ve seen a piece like this, leave a comment or let Lowe know. He’s debating how to properly conserve or restore the piece.

— Christopher Schwarz

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