By Emma Philip, Curator of Fine Art
The large bookcase (actually a pair of two bookcases originally – see below), was made in 1757 by Thomas Wood of London. Each of the lower cabinet doors is veneered, inside and out, with rare specimen veneers from all over the globe.
Over time and with changes in environmental conditions, these veneers have moved and lifted in places and some are very fragile indeed, and one of the doors was so warped that it had jammed closed. In order to stabilise them for the future, Tankerdale are lifting and relaying or filling the veneers where possible in order to maintain the structural integrity of the doors and prevent any further losses.
Here you can see where fillers have been applied which match the colour and tone of the wood. After this first phase, the filler is then sanded down and varnished to match the finish of the rest of the door.
The veneers have been used in a variety of ways to achieve different effects. Take for example snakewood (otherwise known as Piratinera guianensis), which comes from Guiana. When used in the direction of its natural grain, snakewood has a striped effect (see below). These vertical snakewood bands appear on many of the cabinet exteriors.
When used ‘end-grain’, in slices across the width of the tree, snakewood has a dotted effect, as seen here in one of the door interior veneers.
Other end grain veneers have also been used to decorative effect by Thomas Wood – below you can see how the outer circular veneers have been created by taking a thin slice across the original timber (in this case probably yew at the top and ebony at the bottom).