How to Make Medieval Furniture

Overview

Homeowners who enjoy the medieval look can easily include medieval furniture in their interior decorating plans. Suitable for any room, the furniture's heavy, bold structure will add authenticity and enhance the overall decor. With planning, effort and basic woodworking and metalworking skills, homeowners can make the medieval furniture of their dreams.

Woodworking

Step 1

Select desired item of medieval furniture to build. Locate a pattern for the piece from a book or online.

Step 2

Select wood desired for the medieval furniture. White oak closely matches the English oak used by medieval furniture-makers. If you prefer pine, select a high-quality fir with straight grain. These woods will enable you to cut boards and carve decorations more smoothly and easily and reduce the chance of warping in the future.

Step 3

Use authentic materials. Examples of medieval furniture---made by hand without electricity---have survived hundreds of years with adequate care. Modern furniture-makers desiring an authentic look in their furniture should use only hand tools as well.

Step 4

Reproduce the heavier, wider and thicker boards used in the medieval ages by salvaging planks and beams from demolished houses. Alternatively, glue standard boards together to create the correct thickness or width. Spread cabinetmaker's glue on both pieces and let it set up to four minutes. Pad clamps with shims; clamp pieces together. Wipe excess glue off the lumber with a wet cloth. Allow joined boards to set overnight before removing the clamps.

Step 5

Use birch or maple dowels to hold furniture pieces together. Clamp wood sections together and drill holes for the dowels through both pieces. Determine the correct lengths of dowel needed and cut them no more than 1 inch longer than the measurement. Slightly round one end of the dowels and insert them into the hole. Gently but firmly tap the dowels into place with the mallet.

Step 6

Follow the directions in selected pattern to build the desired piece of medieval furniture.

Metalworking

Step 1

Find a source for the metal pieces used with medieval furniture, including ornamental and decorative shapes, hinges, banding, lock plates and nails. You can order nails and locks from a commercial supplier and make the remaining pieces yourself.

Step 2

Use the welding torch to heat the metal stock and prepare it for cutting and shaping. When hot, use the hammers to thin the metal if necessary and the saw to cut the metal according to pattern instructions or desired shape.

Step 3

Distress the metal after cutting but before shaping, if desired. Lay metal on the vise or anvil. Heating 3 to 4 inches at a time, strike the surface and edges with the hammer just enough to remove the manufactured, clean edges. Take care not to distort the metal stock.

Step 4

Purchase or make a mandrel---a jig around which a piece of metal can be bent into decorative shapes. Drill 3.5-inch deep holes centered in the steel base section. Place two holes one-fourth of an inch apart and the third hole a half-inch away from the second. Insert pins into the base firmly, but loosely enough for removal and repositioning as necessary. Bend cut metal stock into desired shapes.

Step 5

Use files to smooth and finish metal decorations as desired. Start with coarse files first, and then use finer files.

Finishing

Step 1

Distress the wood for an aged look. Rough the edges with the wood rasp and strike the surface in a few places with chain or bag with nails. If desired, sandblast the furniture to remove soft wood between the grain. Avoid sanding the furniture after distressing. Instead, use a cabinet scraper to smooth the furniture, adding an authentic look and allowing the finishing oil to penetrate more effectively.

Step 2

Cover finished piece with light coats of oil until the wood will no longer absorb the oil. Rub furniture with the soft cloth to create a sheen.

Step 3

Use egg tempera for the most authenticity if you want a painted finish instead of oil.

Tips and Warnings

  • Always use care when working with tools. Keep children and pets away from working area and maintain a first aid kit for emergencies.

Things You'll Need

  • Medieval furniture pattern
  • Hand tools, such as drawknives, spokeshaves, cabinet scrapers and manual drills
  • White oak or fir lumber
  • Cabinetmaker's glue
  • Long bar or cabinet clamps
  • Small piece of wood, such as a shim
  • Clean cloth
  • Birch or maple dowels
  • Wooden mallet
  • Flat stock metal pieces
  • Round stock and square stock metal pieces, optional
  • Combination oxygen-acetylene welding torch
  • Band saw, jigsaw or saber saw with metal cutting blade
  • Heavy vise
  • Two ball peen hammers, one with a 10 to 12 ounce head, one with a 16 to 18 ounce head
  • Block of stainless or cold rolled steel, 1 inch thick, 4 to 5 inches long and 1 inch wide, or width needed to fit into vise
  • 2 round metal pins, each 1/8-inch in diameter and 2 inches in length
  • Medium and small coarse and fine steel files in flat, round and triangular shapes
  • Wood rasp
  • Length of chain or bag partially filled with nails
  • Tung oil or boiled linseed oil
  • Egg tempura

References

  • "Constructing medieval furniture: Plans and Instructions with Historical Notes;" Daniel Diehl; 1997
  • GreyDragon.org: Medieval Furniture Plans
Keywords: Medieval furniture, Medieval furniture making, Medieval metalworking

About this Author

Based in Brazos County, Texas, Jennifer Wiginton has been writing and editing since 1989. She has published two cookbooks and articles in “The Joyful Woman” and “The Common Bond.” Wiginton has two degrees and a Certificate in Homeland Security from Texas A&M University.

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