William Francis Brown
Chester County, PA
Chester County Pheasants
Watercolour by my dad,
Samuel Potter Brown III
(click on photos when you get to the site)
Scenes from my shop.....
When you buy handmade you are buying the time, talent, heart & soul of the creator
My furniture is hand made in my two small shops in rural Virginia and Camden, Maine.
I grew up on a tree farm in Chester County, PA, and served an apprenticeship in the shop of E. Townsend Moore in Darling, PA (near Media). Moore was a curator at the Historic Wintertur Estate and Museum outside Wilmington, Delaware. He had learned from Robert Treat Hogg who was part of the two centuries long legacy of Chester County fine furniture makers. Chester County furniture developed a unique style that stemmed largely from the 17th century Welsh, English Quakers, and Dutch settlers. Certain unique design features include use of line-and-berry holly inlay, paneled chests, and wonderful regional William & Mary period detail. Except for painted pine pieces and my windsor chairs, I use exclusively the abundant and traditional local hardwoods: cherry, maple, and walnut. The Philadelphia makers, two hours ride to the East, were producing some of the finest furniture in the world. That has been another strong influence, especially on my highly carved rococo pieces.
I've been making and learning about period furniture for over 30 years. My pieces have been selected for museums and historic sites, including James Madison's Montpelior and Historic Jamestown. Rather than exact precise duplications, I prefer to make what I call 'historically informed' pieces. Unless requested by a museum, my furniture is not an exact reproduction, but will incorporate design motifs and joinery that is representative of my favourite 18th and 19th century furniture. I enjoy scouring museum archives and studying originals for ideas, patterns, moldings, inlay designs, & proportions. I enjoy sketching details of the Chester County pieces I see in homes and exhibits in my home area. I think that with time one develops a trained eye. I see craft as being a combination of knowledge, skill and intuition all working together. It takes time and work to gain this. But it's fun work, a passion for excellence and beauty. This is the basis for my furniture. My work is representative of what an 18th century maker could have made, using similar hand-cut joinery and detail, but each piece is my own design and truly one of a kind.
It can take 6 months or more to make a piece, depending on the complexity and amount of carving, etc. I use exclusively the old dovetail and mortise & tenon joints cut by hand, not using jigs or machines. In my opinion, the right look cannot be matched by machines. Surfaces are hand planed and hand scraped, resulting in subtle variations that reflect light, which is what we value in the originals. This is labour intensive, but appreciated by discerning furniture lovers.
I primarily use oils for most of my finishes. Linseed and other natural oils accentuate figured woods nicely. I often use pigment dyes for typically end with many thin coats of rubbed shellac or a silky thinned varnish for more protection on a table top. My goal is to maximize the natural character of the wood, create a hand-made texture and chatoyance, whilst avoiding the plastic look common to factory furniture. My pieces will last generations and will age gracefully, gaining the lovely patina of our favourite antique originals.
Prices are determined by a simple process: Hours spent making the piece multiplied by $4 an hour. 50% deposit prior to starting; 30% prior to finish application (can take up to 2 weeks for a proper finish, curing, hand rubbing, etc.), remainder due upon completion before delivery or pick-up.
Except for museum & historic site reproductions, where exact copies are desired, my furniture is one of kind, based on traditional design elements.