Curious Conservation, The Baker High Chest

Randy S. Wilkinson discusses the wood species on a high chest, made by Benjamin Baker, c 1760 in Newport, RI. It is made of mahogany and a mystery secondary wood. Is it chestnut as the curatorial record stated, red bay as found in the Baker account book, or something altogether different? Find out in this short informative video, filmed at the Whitehorne House of the Newport Restoration Foundation by Gina Tangorra.

Wood Identification Class

Wood Identification in Context – The Fallon & Wilkinson Experience


Last month I had the opportunity to attend what I think is a unique experience in learning about wood. There are other wood identification short courses out there, and we occasionally teach them at Penn State, but this one included a unique perspective that I wanted to experience. It is a two-day course…in the first day, the class is a hands-on laboratory of whittling wood samples and grappling with the concept of transverse, radial, and tangential planes of view.

But the second day, the class moved to the campus of Yale University, where a collection of antique furniture resides. Tad Fallon and Randy Wilkinson, as professional furniture conservators, have had the opportunity to help the museum staff identify and verify several of the pieces in the study. In the class, they lead the students through the same thought process they go through when looking at pieces that are worth thousands, even millions of dollars. And it is a real learning experience, indeed.

All in all, this was one of the best, if not the best, learning experiences I’ve ever attended, with a value far higher than the cost of the course. And I was at a disadvantage, not being an expert on antique furniture like the other students, who were mostly antique furniture appraisers and collectors. I’m thinking of learning a little bit about our furniture forebears, and attending the course again next year.

If you’d like to learn more about wood identification in the most interesting context possible, consider putting the course on your schedule next year.