Bannister back chair – roughing the crest rail

I love to carve.  But, I certainly wouldn’t call myself a carver.  Most of my carving has been limited to architectural details and small work on furniture.  At first look, the baroque acanthus crest rail on this project was more than a little daunting.  But the more I studied the photos, I became aware that it was actually pretty straightforward.  The are three (maybe four) basic elevations, each designed to “pull details forward”.

The first task was to cut out the “piercings”.  I was going to do this with a coping saw, but Les offered his scroll saw.  Not too reluctantly, I accepted his offer.

Then the actual “roughing in” began.  This process allows me to come to an understanding of where the elevations are, where I need to make transitions, etc.  The good news is, that if I make a little mistake, I can always go a bit deeper when doing the finish work (thank goodness).


I didn’t have a photo of the back of the crest rail.  Fortunately, the construction details are to be found in the excellent tome offered by the Metropolitan Museum of Art,

BTW, This book is available for viewing, in its entirety, on the Metropolitan Museum of Art Website.  It’s an incredible resource.  It ain’t cheap, but it’s an excellent reference book for anyone building (or simply interested in) period furniture.

The top “bell flower” will be mirrored on the back side.  As in the original, the piercings will be given a broad bevel, just to give the back a little interest.  After all, not everyone can set next to the wall.

The project is going reasonably well.  For once, I might actually complete something on time.  But, you never know what might come up.


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4 Comments on “Bannister back chair – roughing the crest rail”

  1. John Kissel Says:

    Thanks for another interesting post. It looks like the carving is well on the way!

    I plan on stopping by the Met tomorrow. I’d be happy to take any detail photos that would be of interest if the gallery is open.


    • D.B. Laney Says:

      Thanks for the offer John. If that particular chair is in the gallery, a pic of the rear side of the crest rail would be great. For that matter, any rear shots of bannister backs could be helpful. I can post them up for readers information. Thanks again.

  2. John Kissel Says:

    HI, sorry I set out early and didn’t see your response. I detoured to the Cloisters (medieval branch of Met northern end of Manhattan) at the last minute. IMG_7912.JPG.jpeg. Will report back if I get there soon.

  3. John Kissel Says:

    HI, I stopped by the museum earlier but wasn’t able to find the exact chair you’re working on. There were a few similar pieces that I did get some good details of feet, turnings and crest rails if you’re still interested. I’m not sure how to send the pics though.

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