We take it for granted that modern technologies have all but taken over the manufacturing industry. No longer requiring the skill of a human hand, sophisticated machinery and equipment now largely produce the objects we surround ourselves with. Yet there are certain aspects of craft that technology simply cannot replace — intricate works that still require the dexterity, technique, and talent of an experienced artisan. It is these pieces, meticulously carved, smithed, or stitched in traditional methods honed through the years, that become a home’s irreplaceable heirlooms, cherished and passed down through generations.
Mortise and tenon
In ancient China, woodworkers used mortise and tenon joints to connect wooden furniture or building parts, which made for strong, enduring construction without the need for nails or adhesive. Today, the mortise and tenon is still a popular method among furniture designers, used to create distinctive lines and forms in a variety of furnishing styles.
Even with today’s extraordinarily advanced machinery, elaborately carved motifs on wooden furniture remain exclusively a manual technique. The fine craft of wood carving is an artistic process, requiring a high level of skill and multiple steps that utilize a plethora of specialized tools: from a gouge for curved edges, such as leaves and petals in traditional floral patterns, to an angled skew chisel for trimming seams or sculpting subtle designs.
Gold leafing is common on classical European furniture, created by inserting a fine layer of gold or silver between two pieces of thick leather, and then hammering them into paper-thin sheets. Gold leaf is fragile and breaks easily on contact, so a brush is often used to apply the gold similarly to paint, held on with static electricity. A final step of polishing and burnishing completes the dazzling effect.