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Antique Desks  - Antique Desk Chairs
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Glossary of Terms Used in the Antique Furniture Profession


Explaining the terms and descriptions commonly used in the antique furniture trade

  • Blind tooling: Embost pattern on leather surface without gilt or colour added.
  • Bramah Locks: 'Bramah Patented Locks' (1784 - 2002) "In 1784, Joseph Bramah patented his lock which for many years had the reputation of being absolutely un-pickable.He offered £200 to anyone who could pick his lock and although many tried it - it was not until 1851 that the money was won by an American, A.C. Hobbs, although it took him 16 days to do it!Joseph Bramah was deservedly honoured and admired as one of the earliest mechanical geniuses of his day." 
  • Bullnose moulding: Moulded rounded edge.
  • Chippendale:  Thomas Chippendale was a London cabinet-maker and furniture designer in the mid-Georgian, English Rococo, and Neoclassical styles. He became the first cabinet-maker to publish a book of his designs, titled The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director. His designs became very popular again during the middle to late 19th century, leading to widespread adoption of his name in revivals of his style.
  • Cock-beading: A bead moulding applied to the edges of drawers. 
  • Corbel: A projecting carved moulding at the top or bottom of cabinet furniture.
  • Corner Desk Chair: A chair with a central leg and a bowed top rail . 
  • Coromandel: Type of wood from the Coromandel coast of India used for banding and inlay, popular during the Regency period. 
  • Cornice: The projecting decorative moulding at the top of tall furniture. 
  • Cross Banding : A veneered edge to table tops and drawer fronts, at right angles to the main veneer. 
  • Curl Mahogany: This mahogany has very small, delicate waves in the grain that are 'curled' rather than straight as is normal mahogany.
  • Dentils: Small rectangular blocks applied at regular intervals to the cornices of furniture. 
  • Davenport: A compact writing desk with a sloped top above a case of drawers. 
  • Drop-in seat: An upholstered seat frame that sits in the main framework of a chair. 
  • Dovetails: A series of interlocking joints, used in drawers. Handmade dovetails are finer and less uniform that machine made joints and confirm that the piece of furniture has some age.
  • Dummy Drawer: A decorative false drawer, complete with handle. 
  • Ebonized: Wood stained and polished black to simulate ebony. 
  • End Support: A central support at the sides of a writing or sofa table. 
  • Escutcheon: Brass plate surrounding and protecting the edges of a keyhole .
  • Front: The flap of a bureau or secretaire that pulls forward to provide a writing surface.
  • Feather or Herringbone Banding: Two narrow bands of veneer laid in opposite diagonals. 
  • Fielded Panel: A raised panel with a bevelled or chamfered edge that fits into a framework. 
  • Figuring: The natural grain of wood seen in veneers. 
  • Flamed Veneer: A veneer cut at an angle to enhance the figuring. 
  • Fluting: Decorative concave, parallel grooves running down the legs of tables and chairs. 
  • Foliate Carving: Carved flower and leaf motifs used as decoration. 
  • Fretwork: Fine pierced decoration often applied over solid wood and known as blind fretwork.
  • Frieze: The framework immediately below a table top. Usually fitted with a set of drawers.
  • Gilt-tooled Decoration: Impressed gold leaf on the edges of leather desk tops. 
  • Improved: An item that has been altered or added to at a later date to improve its style. 
  • Kneehole Desk: A desk with a recessed central cupboard below the frieze drawer. Usually in one piece.
  • Loper: A pull-out arm used to support the hinged fall of a bureau. 
  • Moulding: A shaped piece of wood applied to a piece of furniture, comprising a long strip or a small decorative motif. 
  • Ogee: A double curve of slender S-shape. 
  • Ovolo: A moulding comprising a quarter-segment of a sphere. 
  • Partner's Desk: A large desk for use by two persons, one either side. The desks have a configuration of drawers and cupboards on either side or drawers to both sides.
  • Patina: The build-up of wax and dirt that gives old furniture a soft mellow look. 
  • Pedestal Desk: A flat desk, usually with a leather top, that stands on two banks of drawers known as pedestals. 
  • Plinth Base: A solid base which with a desk goes around the pedestal beneath the drawers
  • Reeding: Parallel strips of convex flutes found on the legs of chairs and tables. 
  • Runners: The strips of wood on which drawers slide inside the top of a desk or table. 
  • Sabre Leg: A curved chair leg in the shape of a sabre, strongly associated with the Regency period. 
  • Spade foot: A tapering foot of square section. 
  • Spandrel: A decorative corner bracket, usually pierced in decoration.
  • Splat: The central upright in a chair back; loosely applied to all members in a chair back. 
  • Squab: The loose flat cushion on the seat of a chair.
  • Thumb moulding : Decorative convex moulding that looks like a thumb has used to mould its shape. 
  • Stretchers : The horizontal bars that unite and strengthen the legs of chairs and other furniture. 
  • Turned: A solid piece of wood modeled by turning on a lathe, i.e. chair or table leg
  • Uprights: The vertical sides of the back of a chair 
  • Veneer: A thin slice of timber cut from the solid wood used for decorative purposes.
  • William IV: A transitional period (1830 to 1837) that lies between the Regency and Victorian eras.  A term often used to describe furniture that incorporates features which are typical of both the earlier Regency and later Victorian styles.