Restoration Terminology

BAFRA Glossary of Terms – Antique


A Classical Fleshy leaf decoration of the acanthus mollis, used for example on capitals of the Corinthian order.


A shaped and often decorated length of wood applied beneath the bottom framing of a drawer, table top, chair, seat etc.


A decoration of flowers, fruit, trophies and figures in symmetrical foliate scrolls or strapwork derived from the Middle East. When human figures are incorporated properly, known as Grotesque work.


The lowest part of an entablature, the moulding beneath the frieze; also used of mouldings round a doorway, window, mirror, or picture frame, sometimes shouldered or eared with projections at the corners.


A narrow moulding of semi-circular form, sometimes carved, used particularly for glazing bars and the closing edges of doors (see also beading).

Ball and Claw

A common carved decoration of the feet of cabriole legged furniture from the early 18th century, inspired by the Oriental Pearl of Wisdom gripped in a dragon’s or eagle’s talons.


An ornamental inlay, generally in contrasting wood, laid cross-grain or diagonally, or in other materials such as ivory of brass. Herringbone banding or mitred form was used on walnut from the early 18th century.


See Astragal. Also used of moulding of small repeated roundels (i.e. beads). Properly called pearling.


A horizontal member used constructively to support another part e.g., the leaves of a dining table.


The angled cutting of an edge, particularly of a panel or mirror plate (see also chamfer).
Birdcage Device on four columns used to mount a table top on to a tripod base, allowing a circular movement.

Block Foot

A cube-shaped foot, generally used with a square untapered leg.


Repeated bell-turning, much used on 17th century legs and stretchers.


Bole clay of varying colour according to the period, which was mixed with glue size and applied over gesso to prepare a ground for gilding.


Foliate and figural marquetry or turtle (tortoise)-shell and brass (and sometimes pewter, mother of pearl and ivory) made fashionable in France by André Charles Boulle (1642-1732). The term Première-partie is used when the ground is brass and Contra-partie when it is turtle-shell.


The shaping of the front of a cabinet or chest of slightly convex or segmental shape, often called “sweep-front” in the 18th century.

Bracket Foot

A flat two-piece symmetrical foot, set at a corner and shaped like a bracket at the outer edges.


The front of a cabinet or chest etc., whose ends are recessed. A recessed centre is known as a reverse breakfront. The term “wing” bookcase is also used.

Bun Foot

A 17th century type of depressed ball shape, attached with a dowel.


Joint A simple glue joint between two surfaces.

Cabriole leg

An elegant leg, most popular in the first half of the 18th century, formed of a convex curve above a concave one and resembling an animal’s leg.

Camel back

A settee with serpentine-shaped top rail to the back.


A thin slide to support a candle stick extending from a slot and found particularly beneath the mirrored doors of 18th century cabinets where reflection would enhance the light; or a circular support swivelling from beneath a drawing-table etc.


The top of a column or pilaster, frequently carved following a Classical order.


A bevelled edge, usually at 45◦ and applied to solid members such as legs. Sometimes “stopped” with another bevel.

Chequered inlay

Lines of inlay with alternating light and dark wooden squares.


Properly a nautical wedge, but used of the framing joint across the ends of a table top to secure and stabilise the boards.

Club foot

A foot popular in the early to mid 18th century and generally used on a cabriole or turned tapered leg which swells to a depressed circular pad, often resting on a wooden disc, when properly termed – Pad foot.


A small half-round moulding often applied to the edges of drawer fronts and doors.


A thin banding or moulding applied round a leg etc.


A mixture of resin, whiting and glue size, used to make mouldings such as picture frames.


A scrolled bracket or truss; or a table attached to a wall, the top supported by such a bracket.


A projecting moulded ledge finishing off the top of a piece of case furniture, sometimes embellished with dentils etc.


An ornamental decoration set in the centre of the top of a mirror, cabinet or chair back etc.


A small rectangular block used in an equidistant series along a cornice. Taken from the Ionic and Corinthian orders.


Making a turned depression in the top of a table, candle stand etc., with a view to saving objects from slipping off; of the shaping of the wooden seat of a Windsor chair for comfort.


In jointing two pieces of wood together at right angles, one of a series of wedge-shaped projections on one piece which fit into corresponding slots on the other. A half-dovetail has one sided angled and the other straight; a lapped-dovetail does not extend all the way through on one surface.


A small wooden peg used in joinery for securing a mortice or tenon or other joint.


A hinged extension flap to a table, dropping vertically when not in use, which can be supported horizontally by a swing leg, a fly bracket or a loper.


A heraldic shield for a coat of arms, extended through its shape to the pivoting metal guard over a keyhole, and the keyhole surround itself. A metal-edged keyhole surround is known as a Thread escutcheon.


The vertical or sloped front or flap of a cabinet or bureau, hinged at the bottom edge to form a horizontal surface when lowered, generally as a writing surface.


A narrow flat band or moulding between two larger mouldings or flutes.

Finger joint / knuckle joint

A wooden hinge with a metal pintle used to support the fly bracket of a drop leaf table or the swing leg of a card table.


Repeated half-round concave channels used on Classical orders and found particularly on columns, pilasters, friezes and legs. Counter or stop-fluting: where part of each channel is filled with reed of wood or brass.


A horizontal Band, flat or convex (pulvinated) and often decorated, properly between an architrave and cornice but also used of the framing beneath a refectory or side table.

Gesso (It. = chalk)

A mixture of whiting and glue size applied to wood to provide a smooth or low-relief carved surface before painting, gilding or lacquering.


Decorations of a surface, especially oak, with repeated small carved-out semi-circular depressions.


Decorative patterns or figural designs made up of pieces of different coloured woods etc., set into cut-out sections of the ground wood.


The cutting of one side of a piece of wood with a number of deep close-set parallel slits so as to bend it.


A strip or block of wood fixed on the carcass either side just above a drawer (generally a top drawer) to prevent it from tipping downwards when open.


A strip of superior timber added to a board, such as a dustboard of inferior timber, where it is most visible.


A bar extending out of a slot to support a table leaf or bureau fall etc.


The oblique bisecting line at the joint of two pieces of wood, generally set at right angles.

Mortice and tenon

A joint of two pieces of wood where a square or rectangular projection cut on the end grain of one (tenon) fits into a socket of identical size cut into the other (mortice). Through-tenon: where the mortice is cut right through a piece of wood.


An elongated octagonal shape similar to a rectangle with chamfered corners.
Ormolu Cast of bronze ornaments or mounts with fire (mercury) gilt surface.

Paper mâché

A durable and malleable material made from paper or cardboard and glue-size, popular in the 18th and 19th centuries for architectural mouldings, boxes and smaller items of furniture. Also known as Carton Pierre (Fr.)

Parcel Gilt

A surface which is partially gilded to highlight features.


A tall block, sometimes with a stepped base, used to support a statue or vase (see also plinth). Also used for the cupboards flanking a serving table in a dining room.


A Classical Gable of low pitch, used as a cresting on mirrors or cabinets (triangular, segmental open, broken, scrolled or swan neck).


The usual term for the shaped moulded edge of a circular tripod table top or tray from the mid 18th century, with alternating serpentine, curved and incurved sections, copying the shape of early silver salvers.


A pin, generally of metal, on which a hinge turns.


Properly the low square block supporting a Classical column, but also used of the solid board on which some case furniture rests instead of feet (see also pedestal).


A bolt with a rounded or decorative head which passes through a drawer front etc., and secures a bail handle etc.


A low shelf under a dresser or buffet on which flagons and pots were kept.

Quadrant hinge

A hinge with two long arms rotating on a short pintle, often used at the top and bottom of a cabinet door, or in similar form of a card table flap or fall-front.


The cutting of a log radially to achieve maximum figure and stability.


A horizontal framing member in joinery, such a seat rail, back rail etc.


The inclination or slope from vertical, for example of a chair back (see also splay).


A right-angled recess cut in the edge of a piece of wood, or formed by two pieces, to house another piece such as a panel or drop-in seat.


Repeated half round convex mouldings used especially on round pillars or legs and sometimes in flutes.


A circular applied or inlaid decorative motive.

Rule joint

A stopped hinge joint used on table leaves, press doors etc., involving a long ovolo moulding which leaves no gap.


A strip of wood fixed to the carcass either side on which the drawer runs.

Scrolled foot

A carved foot curving outwards from the bottom, popular from the mid-18th century. Also known as a French foot.


A convex curve flanked by two concave curves: the sinuous shape used in a horizontal plane on better furniture of the Rococo period (see also bombé).

Shoe or shoe-piece

A shaped horizontal bar used on many 18th century chairs, fitted round the bottom of the splat over upholstery and tacked through into the back rail.

Spade foot

A square tapered or “thermed” foot, generally used in the late 18th century on a tapered leg.


The triangle space formed between the curve of an arch and its square framing. Without the arch the shape is that of a bracket.


A slender turned baluster, often decoratively used in rows.


A vertical board, usually flat with shaped sides and often pierced or carved, used in the back of a chair between the top and seat rails.


Originally of a window recess or reveal: the angled taper of the sides, when curved, this is termed “flared”.

Spoon back

A 19th century chair whose back resembles the bowl of a spoon.


The front of a cabinet or chest that is flat and not recessed (see also breakfront).
Stretcher A horizontal member or rail which connects and braces legs, sometimes used decoratively, such as cross-stretcher or arched stretcher.


A thin decorative inlaid line of brass or contrasting wood, generally in veneer.

Table clip or “fork”

A two-pronged, (generally brass) clip which slides into sockets to link two table leaves. Other similar methods were patented.

Tongue and groove

A joint in the same plane formed by cutting a groove along the centre of the edge of a board, usually along the grain, to house a corresponding tongue rebated in another board.


A Classical motif of superimposed thematic emblems such as military or musical.
Tunbridge ware A small-scale mosaic of various coloured woods used geometrically or pictorially, popular in the 19th century and centred on Tunbridge Wells, Kent.