Most woodworkers become adept at hiding repairs on their furniture or antiques. But some use this skill to fool a buyer into paying much more for a piece that is actually modern or has been cobbled together from several antique sources.
The forgery trade employed many famous woodworkers, including Charles Hayward (by his own admission in his short biography). And there are many written accounts that explain the forgery trade. And it still goes on today quite actively.
One common ruse is to buy old but inexpensive pieces and chop them up for the vintage wood and patina. Then assemble bits and pieces from several sources to create something that looks much earlier, rare and expensive.
The pull above is a victim of the chop-shop trade. It was culled from an early campaign chest so the wood (oak veneer over tight-grain deal) could be used for something else. The pull made its way to woodworker Richard Arnold, who gave it to me this fall.
And while campaign pieces are typically the victims of the chop trade, they also can be the final result of the ruse, as explained by Bernard Jack in his book “The Antique Story Book” (Etching Hill Press).
Demand for Military Chests was outstripping supply and (the antiques dealer) had several people making them for her. She was sure I could do the work, adding that her local dustman was able to turn out one a week in his spare time. She would supply the Victorian chests and all the brasswork and pay me a fiver for each one. I apologised for being unable to help, saying that I was already heavily committed, but thanked her for the offer. I wonder who owns the chests the dustman made?
So the next time you are in a museum or antiques store and get to examine something rare or extraordinary, keep in mind that there is a shadowy world of woodworkers out there who are corrupting the furniture record we study and replicate.
— Christopher Schwarz
If you want to read more about the world of fakes, check out this article about the Chipstone Collection.