Collectors Weekly: How does Wesley Swanson create believable Windsor chairs?
Stanton: Well, he is a master carpenter, and he’s been doing this for a long time. He also makes pottery and other ceramics as well. There’s nothing wrong with restoring an antique as long as you’re telling people you’re doing that. But he’s crossed over to the dark side, as Curt Avery says, because he’s doing this, and he’s putting a chair through auction and saying, “Well, it’s buyer beware. I don’t have to reveal this. I don’t have to label it as such because that’s the buyer’s business to know that.” He’s really, really good at what he does and he’s passing this stuff at the top houses. Obviously, I think that’s ethically questionable.
When he’s building a chair, he takes a long time and does everything very carefully. He takes perfectly green wood, and he has a way of aging it so that it’s out-of-round as if it’s aged a hundred years. He has a way of rusting up hardware. He’ll buy scraps and parts from people, or he’ll find an old piece of furniture, like another chair. And he can use the wood, nails, or hardware in the new piece that he’s making to make it look real.
But he has made an old-looking Windsor chair of 100 percent new wood. He’s developed techniques for aging paints with blow dryers and things that. It’s hard to spot the fake aging process in wood unless you X-ray it. It’s hard to tell it’s been done to the paint unless you put the chair through chemical analysis.