The Other John Hall Frames

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by thewoodwhisperer posted 09-11-2009 08:30 PM 5203 reads 3 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

One of my favorite projects ever to come out of my shop is the John Hall Frame reproduction (mine is on the left and the original is on the right). Just as a quick refresher, John Hall was one of the famous Hall Brothers who were responsible for the construction of many of the best known Greene & Greene creations.

Now many of you may remember that I was attending a week-long class being taught by Darrell Peart at the William Ng School when I had an opportunity to handle, trace, and measure the original Hall frame. During that week, in addition to meeting Gary Hall (Peter Hall’s grandson), I had the opportunity to meet Tom Moore, a Greene & Greene enthusiast and docent at the Gamble House in Pasadena, CA. Recently, Tom was able to view and photograph three more frames made by John Hall. These frames are still in the family and needless to say, its probably not easy prying them away from the hands of their owners. Fortunately for all of us, Gary made it happen and Tom was kind enough to share his photos with me. So let’s take a little trip back in time!

Carved Frame1
The first frame is being referred to as “Carved Frame”, for obvious reasons. The frame seems relatively simple, which is just as well given the wildly pronounced grain and the carving on the top rail. The wood looks to be pine or maybe some wild douglas fir. What I find amazing about this piece is how John Hall let the wood guide his carving. At first glance you might not even notice its there. I imagine its much more obvious in person. Tom reported that the wood appeared to have been “liberally wire brushed for deep texture”. This carving style seems reminiscent of the wall panel carvings I observed at the Gamble house itself. I remember taking note of how the carver (one of the Hall Brothers I assume) utilized the natural grain lines in those panels and this frame clearly exploits the same natural properties of the wood. Here’s an excerpt from Tom’s observations:

“The top rail is carved, although it doesn’t show up dramatically due to the coloring. The full carved scene shows three clouds, one over the full moon, and five large birds (seagulls?).”

Carved Frame2 Carved Frame3 Carved Frame4 Carved Frame5

Island Paradise1
The next frame is called “Island Paradise” and appears to be another straightforward frame. Judging from the ray fleck and grain pattern it looks to be of quarter sawn white oak. Remember that the Greene Bros. (and certainly the Hall Bros. as well) took a great deal of influence from the Arts and Crafts movement and the stylings of Gustav Stickley. So its not surprising to see white oak show up here. The joints on this frame appear to be pegged with white oak and I do see a few design features (cloud-lift-like elements) that are also present in the original Hall frame that started me down this whole path.

Island Paradise4 Island Paradise2 Island Paradise3 Island Paradise4

The final frame is called “Tender Memories” and is named after the painting within it. The most striking thing about this mahogany frame is how similar it is to some of the Gamble House frames: Gamble House Virtual Archives DA-005 and DA-002. The big question on my mind is when was this frame made? Was it before, or after the Gamble House project? Were these Gamble House frames actually built AND designed by the Halls? Fun questions to ponder. The frame features an inner frame made of walnut and Tom speculates that the outer frame was made before they knew exactly what would go inside it.

Tom and Gary disassembled the frame to see how everything was held together. Here’s Tom’s account of the event:

“We disassembled it to see how it was done. What a surprise. In addition to the Citizen newspaper, there were free floating strips of cardboard and small pieces of wood, most a bit smaller than a wooden match, that served as shims. The frame is similar to the one in the Gable House but the Hall frame is portrait while the Gamble is landscape. In addition, the Hall splines are mahogany, while the Gamble splines are brass.”

TenderMemories3a TenderMemories4a TenderMemories5a TenderMemories2a TenderMemories6a

So after pouring over the numerous photos I received from Tom, I really started to wonder about the story behind these creations. While beautiful in their overall design, the fit and finish is not exactly at the same level as the pieces that adorn the various Greene & Greene houses. Being a woodworker myself, I can envision a few scenarios here. These frames could have simply been intended as practice. Perhaps they were done to iron out a particular technique or to play with unusual proportions. Were these just the “oops” projects? Maybe they were presents made for family members in between the paying jobs. After all, our family members tend to be a little less picky than our customers. Even without an accompanying story, these frames are a sight to behold.

I have never been much of a history buff but I just can’t seem to get enough of the Greene and Hall legacies. My Hall frame reproduction adorns a wall in my kitchen and every morning I get to appreciate it as I prepare my cup of joe. It serves as inspiration and a reminder of why I work with wood. The passion that went into John Hall’s work is the same passion that drives all of us, regardless of our skill or experience level. So I encourage you to exercise that passion as much as possible. Get into the shop and create! Just remember, even if you screw something up its not the end of the world. Give the “oops” projects to friends and family members and move on. You never know, your next creation could be your masterpiece!

-- For free video tutorials and other cool woodworking stuff, check out

5 comments so far

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4124 days

#1 posted 09-11-2009 09:58 PM


Thank you for sharing.

The second frame that has the accentuated grain patterns looks like the Jin-di-sugi that was popular at the time of the Halls and the Greenes. The principal exponent of this technique was John S. Bradstreet (1845-1914). However, he included an over-carving technique that was stunning and not oft duplicated. Other Arts & Crafts era craftsmen used this technique.

The jin-di-sugi (jindai-sugi) technique was generally done with cypress. The wood was buried and aged, burnt, or treated with harsh chemicals, e.g. lye. Then the grain was revealed by scrubbing with wire brushes and picks. Other grainy soft woods can be used, such as pine and cedar.

I use this technique primarily on Southern Yellow Pine, to produce accent wood pieces for my rustic creations and to mount art pieces. Since I am using pine, I refer to my technique as Yakimatsu (burnt pine). I sometimes accentuate the grain patterns by using a background liming color that I make from milk paints. Natural yellow ochre is my favorite.

Thank you for giving so much to the woodworking community.

-- 温故知新

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4296 days

#2 posted 09-12-2009 03:35 PM

Thank you Mark.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View a1Jim's profile


117090 posts in 3573 days

#3 posted 09-13-2009 03:50 AM


-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 2922 days

#4 posted 11-04-2010 01:06 AM

Still have a fascination with Greene and Greene /Hall furniture…


-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 3920 days

#5 posted 11-04-2010 03:45 AM

I am surprised I missed this post when it was put up. Nice job Mark, I may try a few of these for Christmas presents.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics