Chippendale Dovetail Saw
To understand how we came up with the concept for the Chippendale Saw, one firstly needs to take you back 300 years in time…
18th Century London
Having been ravaged by the ‘Great Fire’ in 1666, London in the hands of great architects such as Sir Christopher Wren was rapidly expanding in the 18th Century. The demand for skilled craftsmen and artisans soared and ‘Journeymen’ with their tool chests descended upon the city from all over the country to gain employment in their given craft. One notable Yorkshire Man instilled with an entrepreneurial vision also arrived to make his fortune, and that man was no other than the undisputed ‘Shakespeare of furniture’ Thomas Chippendale. Beyond the city grand Georgian and stately homes were beginning to spring up and the wealthy owners wanted only the best stonemasons to build them and the finest London made interiors to fill them. Owning Exquisite pieces of handmade furniture became seen as a status symbol and the man that everyone wanted to commission to do this was Chippendale. His most notable work being for Edwin Lascelles, at Harewood House from 1767-1778 and cost a colossal £6,838 19s 1d. It would be true to say that this commission almost broke Chippendale, payments fell into arrears and he couldn’t afford to pay his workers. This led him to take the drastic action of selling his best mahogany to some of his competitors to bridge the gap.
Statue of Thomas Chippendale 1718 -1779 Otley
Arguably one of the world’s most revered cabinetmakers, Thomas Chippendale, the son of a joiner was born in Otley in 1718. He firstly served his apprenticeship with a furniture maker in York before heading to London to work and then opening his very own workshop at 60-62 St Martin’s Lane in 1753. A fairly private man, who despite appearing to be greatly successful, did however live a fairly humble life. Married twice, Chippendale you may be surprised to learn had twelve children, of whom only Thomas Jnr continued with the business and most of the others died before Chippendale himself did of consumption in 1779. Despite being a skilled craftsman, what really ‘made’ Chippendale however, was the publication of ‘The Gentleman & Cabinet-Maker’s Director’ in 1754. This was one of the most luxurious and comprehensive books of furniture designs ever created, and the rich loved it! We ourselves love the craftsmanship that had evidently gone into producing this book alone. Each steel plate was individually and yet meticulously carved with the intricate designs before being inked and printed onto the page.
First Edition Of ‘The Gentleman & Cabinet-Maker’s Director’ 1754
Chippendale’s outstanding reputation attracted many wealthy people from the aristocracy. Never short of offers for financial backing, it is noted that an affluent Scottish merchant named James Rannie, invested in Chippendale from the outset. Luck wasn’t always on Chippendale’s side though and unfortunately in 1755, a fire broke out at the workshops and completely destroyed the tool chests of 22 cabinet-makers. It is thought that around 50 people at its peak worked for Chippendale in St Martin’s Lane, from clerical staff through to upholsterers to guilders and furniture makers and apprentices. It is unsure how the fire started, and speculation has led some commentators to believe that it could’ve been deliberate at the hands of a competitor, but we shall never know. What is certain though are two things. Firstly, that the insurance didn’t cover all the losses that the worker’s incurred and Chippendale, had to take to the streets to raise funds to replace all of their tools. Secondly, the saws that were replaced would’ve been acquired from no other than esteemed Saw Maker, William Squire.
Shane at the site of Thomas Chippendale’s London Workshop
One of the most well regarded and documented Saw Maker’s in London in the 18th Century was William Squire. Just around the corner from Chippendale in 1754 and at ‘The Golden Saw’ on Dean Street in Soho, Squire was using some of the best quality materials and producing some of the finest saws. It was the first time that the term ‘spring steel’ was ever linked to saw making, for it was normally associated with clockmaking and the use of steel for making the clock springs. Only the best ever London saws were made of Spring Steel, and hence why we ourselves have carried on this practice today. 1754 therefore was a very eventful year what with Chippendale’s ‘Director’ being published, William Squire opening up at ‘The Golden Saw’ and also poignantly him also creating the most perfect pattern for the handle of a dovetail saw to which we have now adopted as the handle for the ‘Chippendale Saw’ Given that Squire made the best quality tools and was the only really viable commercial saw maker in proximity there’s no doubt that Chippendale would’ve gone to him for his tools and especially so in 1755 when he needed to replace all his worker’s saws after the fire. It is hardly surprising therefore that what with his name for quality tools and collaborations with makers like Chippendale, that by 1760 Squire was able to afford brand new premises at 102 Wardour Street, and in fact died a wealthy man.
William Squire’s Workshop 1760 at 102 Wardour Street
Making The Chippendale Saw
‘A colliding of art, quality and precision’
These are the words, Shane uses to describe the Chippendale Saw. What better way to celebrate Chippendale 300, than to make a saw that incorporates elements of Thomas Chippendale’s innovative design. A saw which has the sumptuous appearance of a Chippendale piece, with its luxurious dual tensioned and adjustable spring bronze back and which furthermore features finely handcrafted fluted brass edges mirroring the stop flutes, both introduced by Chippendale and found on his world-renowned furniture.
Our research in making this saw took us firstly to London, whereby Chippendale set up his workshops and to where just around the corner we located the building that was formerly the workshop of the famous Saw Maker, William Squire. Following on from this we visited ‘Harewood House’ near Leeds which houses Chippendale’s most expensive and extensive commission of furniture dating back to 1767. Here we were very privileged to be allowed by the collections team to look inside one of Chippendale’s most famous pieces, ‘The Diana and Minerva Commode’ What is most interesting and has likely never been picked up on by the untrained eye before is that the craftsman on this piece of furniture has actually overshot the line whilst sawing. The dovetails are in fact in the main concealed throughout the piece, however Shane asked if he could examine a separate side drawer and luckily the dovetails here were exposed. On examining the dovetails of this esteemed piece, Shane was able establish the correct kerf size for making this saw.
Opening Up The Diana & Minerva Commode At Harewood House
Photo Illustrates The Exposed Dovetails And Overshoot
Whilst none of Chippendale’s work was ever signed, we searched the archives and found a signature in Chippendale’s own hand from an invoice earlier in his career, and thought it would a great mark of respect to a man whose furniture and legend has lived on 300 years after his birth. The mastery and true craftsmanship by which Ian Houghton, has hand cut this stamp is undeniable.
Having worked as both a furniture maker and restorer of fine 18th Century pieces, Shane has always been passionate about Georgian design. He believes it to be the pinnacle of making as the craftsmen were truly so skilled. He obviously had a previous knowledge of Chippendale’s work and was always enamoured by his inventive designs, which almost all incorporated elements or carving, for like Shane he was also a master woodcarver.
Dual Spring Adjust
Shane, is an innovator and whist he is passionate about tradition and 18th Century design he is always seeking to make things perform better within these parameters. The Chippendale Saw therefore features his newly created ‘Dual Spring Adjust’ Milled from 2” Spring Bronze, the Dual Spring Adjust retains the blade in a constant two-way tension by the means of an internal leaf spring. Something that has never been seen in a conventional handsaw before, the Dual Spring Adjust benefits the user by allowing an accurately straight cut whilst eliminating the vibration when sawing. A nimble in the hand, accurate and elegant 11-3/8” all-round Dovetail Saw, this remarkable handmade tool has the mechanics of the 21st century, but retains the beauty and traditional look of a timeless 18th century saw and Chippendale piece.
11-3/8” Dovetail Saw
Canted Blade 2” at the heel to 1.5” at the toe
Open pistol grip handle in a choice of high-grade timbers custom made to palm size
0.015” Plate thickness
Luxurious innovative ‘Dual Spring Adjust’ bronze back with stop flute details
Incurvate Spear Top
Struck with ‘Chippendale’ signature
0.002 Set per side
Rip 17ppi / 16tpi
Cost £750 Plus £15 postage UK / £25 overseas