This term comes from the upholstery trade; brass tacks are the finishing touch and final job of an upholstered chair, settee, sofa, lounge, etc. as well as leather covered trunks. So ‘getting down to brass tacks’ is the last part of the job.
Here is a link to the website selling decent traditional brass tacks. This link shows about the brass tacks.
My artwork [above] from 1994 was used by the site, I contacted the owner, proved I did the art and he sent me these tacks. While they are not completely accurate, the originals were cast one piece, these brass tacks are the best available on the market. They do pass the magnet test, which is a way to determine if the shanks are iron or steel.
If you are making 19th century accurate reproductions such as leather covered trunks, an upholstered piece of furniture or a brass tack knife sheath [the clinch looks correct] these tacks fit the bill. I highly recommend them.
I first received an email with a photograph of a walnut table leg, early nineteenth century [client said 1860's, I think it is 1840's] dining table from Virginia and was asked if I could make one as the 5th [center] leg was missing. I said ‘yes’ and got a couple more photographs with a tape measure in the photograph. Another email or two and I had other dimensions I needed.
I then made a scale drawing of the leg and worked on that until it looked correct and then proceeded to make a full size paper pattern of the leg. With the help of Richard MacDonald [Master Wood Carver, who loves to turn] turn the leg from the pattern.
I then ripped the waste wood on the taper of the octagonal part, to a square taper.
Next I layed out the octagonals with a white pencil, easier to see on walnut than a graphite pencil. I planed the first one by hand then decided to use a chisel to quickly remove the excess then my two small coffin smoothers [one set coarse, the other set fine] to smooth out the rough chisel marks.
A card scraper finished up the flats and it is ready to go. Yesterday when the client called I had just finished up the work, it will be picked up today and be on its way to Texas. They have a furniture restoration guy there that will cut it to length and do the finish work.
A fun project, the rendering took a bit of time but was well worth the effort and the customer was happy, just picked it up.
because of nails in all of the joints. Nails do nothing to increase the strength of the chair, but do weaken the wood where the nails were used. This chair belongs to a friend, it was ‘unfinished’ furniture, table and chairs in oak. Why the original manufacturer used nails is beyond my comprehension.
Not being able to disassemble the chair to deal with the break or perhaps replacing it, it was necessary to repair in place. I clamped the stretcher then cut a small mortise across the break to receive a loose tenon to strengthen the fracture.
The depth of the mortise is to the end of the cross stretcher. This is an inherently weak joint, exacerbated by the through nail weakening the joint even further. The above picture shows the break spread open to receive hot hide glue.
I used 192 gram strength ground hide glue from Joel at Tools for Working Wood, high quality ground hide glue; 1/2 teaspoon glue, 1 teaspoon distilled water. This is the smallest batch I make, put it in the glue pot, the pot on the stove and when the water jacket boils over, the glue is ready in minutes.
I used a tourniquet and a couple of wood end cam clamps as well as a wedge of pine between the front legs to close up the fracture, not the easiest clamping job, but I accomplished the task.
Using a flat chisel I pared the excess oak away to bring the tenon down to the curve of the stretcher. Then some shellac with yellow ocher and burnt umber to get the color match and a bit of beaumontage to optically hide the fracture and joint around the loose tenon.
Cursing the inappropriate use of nails.