Charles Sandford

The barley sugar twist, or barley twist, is a classical example of turned timber, typified by a single (one-start), double (two-start) or quadruple (four-start or "rope twist") spiral. It's most commonly seen in period or reproduction furniture, verandah posts, cabinetry, window detailing and balusters.

The technique for crafting barley sugar twists dates back to Jacobean times, although we can now do it much more efficiently with modern tools and machinery. Its lasting popularity in Melbourne has a lot to do with the fact that barley twists were a common feature in Victorian architecture and furniture. We're often asked to replicate windows for Victorian terrace houses, verandah posts and turned legs from old cedar chests of drawers, which have been damaged or gone missing.

A sample barley sugar twist in our woodturning workshop.

There are many variations on the barley sugar twist, including intricate hollow "double helix" shapes, and they can be crafted from all kinds of timber. Usually the style we create and timber we use is determined by the style of object we're replacing or architectural style we've been asked to match.

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