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Period furniture makers gather in Pennsylvania

The Society of American Period Furniture Makers hosted its annual mid-year conference June 23-27 at the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster, Pa.

Will Neptune gives a joinery presentation at SAPFM’s mid-year conference.

Conference coordinator Steve Latta, a woodworking instructor at Thaddeus Stevens, says the event drew a large turnout from all over the country, particularly from the East Coast.

“We had about 90 people signed up, which is what we limit it at. These folks were mostly from the East Coast, but some traveled from as far as California, Maine and Georgia.”

The non-profit organization draws a membership from individuals who are enthusiastic about and dedicated to the preservation and reproduction of American period furniture.

“This group is a crowd of gifted craftsmen, advanced enthusiasts and professionals who are into the hobby of woodworking. Many are retired. We have a lot of engineers, lawyers and people from other professionals taking this very seriously as a vocation. Some are doing it professionally, but the vast majority are not professional woodworkers,” Latta says. 

The conference is designed to help attendees brush up on knowledge and skills regarding period furniture craftsmanship. Latta says the typical schedule includes various workshops with a finisher, an ornamentation person and a case/joinery person. This year Will Neptune taught case construction; Mary May held a workshop on carving a Philadelphia high chest, and Mike Pekovich, art director for Fine Woodworking magazine, presented on wood finishing and applied finishes.

“We broke the group of attendees into three smaller bodies and rotated them from various classrooms and shops so everyone got to see the same presentation three times in a much smaller format,” Latta says.

At a formal dinner on Saturday night, members were allowed to bring images of their work to share in a slideshow presentation. On Sunday, mini-workshops presented techniques such as coopering, sharpening and making inlays.

About 90 period furniture enthusiasts attended.

“Sunday morning was for more of a group as a whole. We brought in a formal speaker, who this year was Josh Lang, one of the furniture curators at Winterthur Museum, who gave a discussion on Philadelphia furniture. Afterwards, Mike Pekovich did a two-hour presentation on how to photograph your furniture. Both did an exceptional job.”

Attendees were offered an optional trip to the Philadelphia Art Museum and Chester County Historical Society.

Next year’s mid-year conference is scheduled at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem, N.C.

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This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue.

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