Cresting Grain Direction

Last year – that seems so long ago – when I posted about the five facts of fretwork mirrors, I received a few emails asking about the different observations. The most asked about was observation #4, grain direction of the cresting.

If you were left wondering about that particular observation, here’s the scoop. There is a better glue connection when matching long-grain to long-grain, and an end-grain to long-grain connection lacks a significant hold. Long-grain is found on the face and edge of a board. Ends of boards have – wait for it – end-grain.

Woodworkers back in the period knew this as well. If not, I doubt their businesses were successful, or long-lived. Therefore, mirror crestings and other parts (aprons and ears) on period fretwork mirrors would not have been attached to frames by the end-grain. As a result, if you see a period mirror displaying a grain pattern that runs up and down as  opposed to side-to-side, that cresting, apron or ear is most likely a veneer over a substrate. The substrate’s grain runs side-to-side.

After looking at many of these period mirrors, or looking glasses, I’m left wondering if woodworkers in the period understood about balancing veneer. It seems that most of the mirrors that show a veneer on the face of crestings and aprons, also have braces attached to the backs of those parts to help keep them aligned.

Not only is the grain of the cresting in the left-hand looking glass running side-to-side, it has cracked, too. Compare that to the image below. Would you draw the conclusion that looking glasses with veneered cresting and aprons are better designs?
Interesting how the substrate has cracked on this period looking glass, but the veneered front has not.

— Glen D. Huey


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