Week 5 - 25 January 2012


Amber Bailey

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Back in November, Bucks New University held its annual guided learning week, an off-timetable week that gives students the opportunity to participate in other activities. This gave first year students on the BA (Hons) Furniture: Conservation, Restoration & Decorative Arts course the chance to experience their very first restoration project through a client.

Having completed a total refurbishment in 2011, St. Mary’s Church in Princes Risborough approached the University with the task of restoring one of its original 6ft-long pine pews circa 1860, and making a new one from the wood of other much longer surplus pews. In preparation for both the restoration work and building of the new pew, the original ones had to be taken apart so that the carpet seat covering could be removed and the previous finish could be sanded off. The pews were then rebuilt with extra support and alterations where necessary, and a final finish was added to make sure that they matched.

The pews are now situated in the church porch, and ahead of the church’s official re-opening the participating students took a visit to see the final result of their hard work and meet the Rev David Williams.


The University has also just started its first run of short courses for the year and I thought I would try my hand at woodcarving!

The course is five sessions long, and takes place over alternating Saturdays. The beginning of the first session was spent holding an in-depth discussion on carving and the tools available. Before we could even put a chisel to wood, it was important that we understood the basics of tool sharpening, as this is an unavoidable part of woodcarving and also greatly affects the quality of mark that a chisel can produce. We were then taken through the wide range of sharpening and polishing techniques, and were given the chance to try them out for ourselves.

The day’s task was to create a selection of carved circles on a piece of lime wood, which was in no way as easy as it sounds! It was a first attempt at woodcarving for most people and the point of the exercise was to give us the chance to experiment with some of the different types of chisel. The task required a small and large gouge as well as a small and large V-shaped chisel.


I think it’s safe to say that by the end of the day all our arms were starting to ache!

Back on the furniture restoration course, we have just begun our next project, which is to make a Gimson mortised and tenoned ladder-back chair. This is our first major project and will require hand and machine skills. It will also form the basis for both an upholstery and finishing exercise. The project requires us to create a logbook for recording our planning and investigating, and it will also teach us how to produce written work for clients, a skill that is incredibly important for employment.


Images, from top to bottom:

1. Voila! The finished articles (Photograph by Dean Valler)

2. The team with course leader Paul Tear and Rev David Williams (Photograph by Dean Valler)

3. Creating carved circles in lime wood using various chisels

(Photograph by Amber Bailey)

4. Marking out the measurements for the mortises on the back legs of the Gimson chair (Photograph by Amber Bailey)

5. Creating my Chair Log (Photograph by Amber Bailey)

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