The Ancient Woodcraft of the NorthThe History of the Origin of the Design Period Known as Early American Colonial Furniture

England has been a meeting place of men and ideas. The south has sent us influences, ways of building and of decorating, but it has been from the north that her people have come. They came from the shores of the North Sea, from the Baltic, from Norway and Sweden, from Denmark and North Germany, from the Low Coun­tries around the Rhine mouth. It was these folk who felled the trees and shaped the logs, who built house and home.

It was the dark and cold of the northern winter that brought the " hall" into being, the large room built around a central hearth which gave heat and light to all, to free-born and serf, to master and man, where all could meet and work, could feast or take counsel, could sleep or play. In some cases the same roof even covered the stables and byres. The Lord had a " high seat " from which he could see all that took place. A bench ran around the walls. Forms and stools, with trestle tables, were the furniture.

There was the same need in England and the Americas of gathering around the Hearth for warmth and light, and for many centuries our forefathers continued to build and to furnish as their forefathers had built and furnished in their home-lands beyond the sea.

In just the same way as in Egypt we have gleaned much of what we know of the craft-work of the north from the burial places of people of high rank. In Scandinavia the most famous of these are the ship burial sites on the shorelands of Oslo Fiord. In these the ship and personal belongings of the owner were buried within a huge mound. These are not so old as the Egyptian tombs, but the contents show the wonderful skill that the northern woodworker had attained, both in construction and in certain forms of decorative carving. We must remember, too, that the skilled craftsmen was honoured in the north, and we read that among the accomplish­ments of King Olaf, the Saint of Norway, he was " very handy, and very exact and knowing in all kinds of smith-work, whether he himself or others made the thing."

Greek and Roman Carved Mouldings

Plate III
Carved moldings of the style known has Early American Colonial Furniture

  1. Various Mouldings
  2. Various Mouldings
  3. Palmate Bands
  4. Torus Mouldings
  5. The Interlace and Guiloche
  6. Modillions
  7. Doric, Ionic and Corinthian Capitals ; Roman Arch and Rosette
  8. Greek Frets


The story of English woodcraft is very largely the story of generations of native workmen, whose ancestors came from the northern lands, adapting themselves time and again to new ideas and new timbers that have come to these shores from the south.

Things to do in tracing carved moldings of the style known as Early American Colonial Furniture

  1. If there is a Museum or a good Library handy, go and see if it contains any Egyptian woodwork, or books containing pictures of Egyptian craftsmen at work, or copies of papyrus or wall paintings with
    representations of furniture.
  2. Copy as much as you can for your notebook collections.
  3. In the workshop make copies of Egyptian wood-jointing. Full-size copies of Ushabti boxes and cases for Canopic jars can be made, and models of much of the furniture.
  4. Draw all you can of Greek ornament.
  5. Model in chalk or plasticine the capitals of the Greek orders.

We can make and design all the furniture mentioned on this page and we will ship it anywhere in the world.

Related Sites

Go to period furniture carved website Visit four poster beds website Visit wall panelling corporation website Visit stair parts carved website Visit doors carved website Visit four poster beds carved website Visit wood carvers guild websiteVisit the worlds finest classic beds maker of affordable high quality beds

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