Jeff Segal Cabinetmaker - Handmade furniture in the Arts and Crafts tradition

English walnut plinth

Walnut plinth - front view Walnut plinth - cornice and frieze detailWalnut plinth - door panel detail

Walnut plinth - arch detailWalnut plinth - three-quarters viewWalnut plinth - skirt detail

Walnut plinth - moving plinth into cloisterWalnut plinth - installing model

Plinth for Dulwich Picture Gallery in solid English walnut

This large piece of furniture is on public display at Dulwich Picture Gallery, a Grade II*-listed building in South London by the architect and collector John Soane, which was England's first purpose-built public art gallery when it opened in 1814. It was commissioned by the director and curator as a plinth for a fine model of the building by Rosalind Hudson.

The stripped-down classicism of the plinth reflects Soane's own architecture and furniture designs and takes its cues from the Georgian elegance of the gallery, which houses a world-famous collection of Old Masters.

It's built in solid English walnut (juglans regia) grown within 50 miles of Dulwich at estates in Hampshire and Berkshire. English walnut is nowadays a relatively rare and costly wood , with a lovely range of colour and an intricate figure that shows off to great advantage in the panels for the doors and arches.

The exhibitions at Dulwich change several times a year and the plinth needs to be moved from time to time to different parts of the building. It incorporates a clever system of hidden retractable wheels, steered and braked by handles that are stored inside behind the locked double doors at each end. When the end-panels at the base of the plinth are removed the steering handles can be slotted into the wheel assembly, allowing one or two operators to gently lift the 150kg weight and manouevre the piece safely around the gallery.

You can read a detailed log showing how the plinth was designed and made in my construction diary.

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