William Francis Brown, a native of Chester County, Pennsylvania, learned to work wood from E. Townsend Moore, a former curator at Winterthur Museum and part of a long line of county furniture makers who melded Welsh, English, and Dutch styles. A cabinetmaker for more than 30 years, Brown works primarily with traditional local cherry, maple, and walnut, basing his interpretations on Chester County and Philadelphia antiques in museums and historic sites.
He scours museum archives and studies antiques for ideas, patterns, moldings, inlay designs, and proportions before designing a piece that might take months to finish, depending on the complexity, amount of carving, and other details. He hand cuts dovetail and mortise-and-tenon joints and hand planes and scrapes the wood surfaces.
Brown often uses pigment dyes and linseed or other natural oils to finish his furniture. For table tops he adds thin coats of rubbed shellac or thinned varnish as added protection. He strives to maximize the natural character of the wood, creating a handmade texture and chatoyance on pieces that will attain the patina of originals.
Brown’s work has been featured in Fine Woodworking, Popular Woodworking, and Woodwork Magazine as well as in exhibits from San Diego, California, to Rockport, Maine. He has won numerous awards including the international Veneer Challenge in 2018 and is recognized as a leading authority on 19th-Century carver Edward Halley Bellamy, of Kittery, Maine. Brown’s versions of Bellamy eagles have sold throughout the world to collectors and museums.
Artists appearing in the 20201 Directory of Traditional American Crafts have been selected, and the best of their handiwork has been photographed at Cedar Grove, an 18th Century house museum operated by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Look for the Directory in our August 2021 issue.
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