Rare Victorian - Metal-Clad Furniture Patent – An Alternative To Brass
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Metal-Clad Furniture Patent – An Alternative To Brass

e w whitlock patent Metal Clad Furniture Patent   An Alternative To Brass

tinvictorianchair 268x300 Metal Clad Furniture Patent   An Alternative To Brass

Paul Tucker found what I believe to be the likely explanation behind this metal-clad armchair that was discussed several posts ago. Paul ran into a patent filed by Erastus W. Whitlock.

A drawing included in the patent application depicts a metal-coated bed post whose core is made of wood.  The purpose of the patent was to declare a new alternative to solid metal (brass) beds and furniture.  Brass furniture had a very pleasing appearance but was very expensive to manufacture, lacked rigidity, and when transported was very likely to sustain knocks and dings.  Per the patent application:

e w whitlock patent Metal Clad Furniture Patent   An Alternative To Brass

Therefore it follows that to provide articles of the class specified, which while having all of the pleasing and decorative qualities of brass or analogously-formed articles also have that solidity and rigidity which is not present in tubular articles as usually placed upon the market, and at the same time to furnish such an article at materially less cost than such tubular articles, constitutes an important advance in the art.

… In practice I have found that lead-foil is well adapted for the purpose, This foil may be placed, usually in sheet form, upon the core in any desired manner, as by pressure-for instance, hydraulic pressure-in which case the metallic sheet-and the wood are immersed in a tank or tube of water and the parts hermetically sealed, so that the water will not get between the metal and the wood, Whereupon the water is placed under the required pressure, thereby forcing the metal or foil into all the crevices and shape of the wood and completely covering the wood and fixing the foil rigidity hereto.

I would assume that this chair was manufactured by applying the process described in Whitlock’s patent.  Thanks, Paul, for the heads up.

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3 Comments
  • woodwright - September 1, 2008

    Leaves me wondering how the wood was hermetically sealed to keep the water out?
    Wood and water are never a good combination. Water causes wood to swell, glue joints to come apart etc.
    Lead is very soft and malleable especially if in thin sheet form and could conform to anything.

  • RareVictorian - September 2, 2008

    yeah, sticking it in a tank and then forcing water on it … that tends to be preceded by wood and metal not yet sealed, submerged in water together. IT seems you’d be sealing water IN with the wood.

  • woodwright - September 4, 2008

    I’m thinking/ wondering if it wasn’t sealed/ done in a bag of some sort to keep the water away from it. Similar to today’s vacuum presses. I have a vacuum press I use for veneering and doing laminated/ curved work – they work phenomenally well. The way it works is glue is applied to the substrate (or ground), lay veneer on the sustrate, cover it with a caul, then slide it into a large (mine is 4′ x 8′) heavy duty (6 mil) vinyl bag on top of a platen (a vinyl sheet with saw kerfs in it to help evacuate the air). Seal the ends with a special air tight sealing system. There is a hose connected to a nipple on the bag which connects to a vacuum pump. Turn the pump on and it sucks all of the air out of the bag (very much like the food vacuum sealers used to freeze/ store food to preserve it) – but on a much larger/ heavy duty scale. Once all of the air is removed – you have atmospheric pressure pushing down on the bag and what is inside it. Atmospheric pressure is 14.7 lbs. / sq. inch x 144 sq. in per sq. ft. = creates almost one ton of pressure per square foot. Immense pressure evenly distributed – it does a super job and is fascinating to watch. You can create laminated / curved work with it also by creating a curved form – glue the laminations, the press will force the laminations to the shape of the form, when the glue dries it will hold the shape of the form (with a minor amount of springback). I suspect the lead sheet laminating was done much the same way, but instead of using atmospheric pressure it used the weight of water probably pressurized. Water weighs about 8 lbs./ gallon – so a large volume of water could apply a great deal of weight especially if pressurized, and could conform to any shape. That’s my best guess anyway. I’ve never seen a piece of furniture that has been treated this way – but it’s no surprise if it wasn’t a big seller. First you had to make the item of wood, then you had the added cost of the lead sheets, plus the added labor of applying it. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for one – I’d like to see a piece in person to examine it closely. woodwright

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