Monday, January 31, 2011

A Break on a Bedpost Disappears!

Here is a little something for my readers which again demonstrates the considerable range of abilities here at our shop.  I know you can't tell from the pictures, but this is the footboard of a queen sized bed.  It has a wooden rail across the base and it used to have a decorative turned stretcher above the wooden rail, between the bet posts as well.  The stretcher broke off, leaving an ugly ragged break point.  In the picture to the left, you see we began by cutting out the broken wood, and filling it with a plug.  In the center picture you can see we smoothed the plug so that it was flush with the bedpost, and contoured it to match the curved shape of the surrounding area.  In the picture to the right, you can see the bedpost after we have color matched the repaired area.  As you can see, the damage disappears!  Pretty neat right?!?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Superheroes Rescued by Super Craftsmen!

We have had a rash of small, child sized rocking chairs come in lately, each with their own unique needs.  This one is made in a classic spindle and bentwood back design. It was getting on in years and the glue was weakening.  Then some little boys played superhero on the rocker and all the weak glued joints came loose, a seam in the seat came apart, and the bentwood back cracked. So then it was, Craftsmen To The Rescue! 

Since the young superheroes didn't have very deep pockets, we needed to fix the rocker as economically as possible.  We fixed the split in the seat, we re-glued all the spindles and repaired the damaged bentwood back.  We would have liked to strip the chair and soak the bentwood back. Then we could have properly repaired and re -shaped it. But instead we just re-glued it and left the shape pretty much how it was when it came in.

So this little chair has been put back together, rescued from the accidentally overwhelming might of the young caped crusaders, and ready for any damsels in distress to pine away in it.

Hopefully someday we will be able to complete the job and make the finish shine like the Silver Surfer.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Beautiful Child's Seagrass Rocker, Completed!

 Work just finished on this adorable child sized seagrass rocker.    The owner of this chair is now in her 90's and rocked in it when she was a little girl.  She wanted her grand children and great-grandchildren to be able to enjoy it, so she brought it to us for restoration.  We took all the weaving off,  and brought it down to just it's basic structure.  Then started weaving it again, from scratch.  You can see the entire progress on our flickr page here...   It looks pretty good again, now that the weaving is finished.  It looks like it should go on a miniature porch, with miniature dogs at it's feet!

I love children's Rockers.  I had one when I was a child and at the time it seemed pretty great to have a seat of  my own, that actually fit me!  This rocker is so unique, I have never seen one like it.  I hope that many future generations can enjoy it and appreciate it's unique beauty!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Paper Trunk that Fooled Us

 This is quite a unique little trunk.  Smaller than your average steamer trunk, I can imagine it would fit men's clothes,
much better than the volumeous women's clothing worn generations ago.  This trunk has the look of aged painted leather, and our task was to clean it then restore it.  Unfortunately, right away when we began cleaning it, we discovered that it was not covered in leather after all, but Paper!

We stopped cleaning immediately and asked the customer to come in
and look at the trunk to decide what course of action to take next.  The customer does have several options at this point.  The top will need a coat of laquer to keep the paper from deteriorating further.  They could choose to laquer the entire trunk, and leave it's appearance as is,  or they could choose to paint it which would give a huge range of possibilities
for the trunk's appearance.  They could go with a simple, all one color paint, or it could be distressed to mimic age.  Or the Leather look that is currently on the trunk could be re created.  I am looking forward to finding out what they choose. And I will be sure to let you know.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Humpty Dumpty Broken Chair Leg

 Someone  certainly took the time to customize the appearance of this chair to their liking!  I think it is great when people are able to express their individual style through their furniture. Unfortunately for them, someone also got a little vigorous with one of the front legs and it broke off into 5 pieces!
It required multiple clamps and quite a bit of carefully done epoxy to put it all back together.  This chair leg wasn't quite as bad as humpty dumpty, but it was close.  As you can see there are still pieces of wood missing even after the ones we had been given were glued back into place.

 Here you can see the finished result of the glue job we did.  As you can see, the voids where wood is missing, have not been filled, and the pale colored break line is still visible.  The owner of this chair decided that it's being sturdy was important, but that it looking brand new, wasn't essential right now. And that is just fine.  We can do as much of a job, or as little of            a job as the customer wants.

The work is done.  You can barely see that there is a break on the left leg, even with no touchup!  The repaired chair leg is so sturdy, it is prepared to withstand many more years, and many more decor choices  .

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Masterful Veneer Work & Painting Skills

 I recently spent some time learning  how to cut and apply veneer for a small table I have been restoring as a personal project.  I thought by doing the work myself, I would gain a better grasp of what the craftsmen actually do, here at the shop.  And boy have I been surprised,  each skill I have learned for the sake of my table has been much more challenging then I expected, and given me a much greater appreciation of the skills the craftsmen here have.  So when I saw the work one of them did on the edges of this small table, I was amazed.
All four sides to the table have these very small pieces of veneer, cut at alternating angles, and fit closely together.  There were multiple pieces that had chipped or come off all together.  We recently brought on a new Craftsman and he certainly proved himself with this project.  Can you see in the above picture the little pieces he cut and glued in place?  Those cuts are perfect and the pieces could not fit into their places any better.

After the veneer was attached he evened out the original Shellac coating, so that it spread over the entire side, including the new pieces of veneer.  Shellac and Nitrocellulose Laquer are the only two kinds of finish that you can re-liquify and spread out in this manner.  Had this table had any other kind of finish, we would have had to apply an all new coat.
The table base was then glued back together.  Because wood naturally shrinks with time and a dry climate, there was some gapping in the seams where the sides joined with the legs.  These seams were filled with a very hard epoxy putty.  Of course, epoxy putty is lighter then the wood on this table, and has no grain lines.  So our Master Craftsman stepped in at this point to complete the job.
Our Master Craftsman is a touchup wizard.  He can create a wood grain on just about anything.  Using 7 different colors of shellac (Pine, Cherry, Medium Maple, Universal Walnut, Burnt Sienna, Extra Dark Walnut and Canary Yellow) he is painting on wood grain over the putty areas, making cracks where the wood was broken and glued disappear, and adding highlighting to the new veneer where the grain was not as dramatic as the old.  With skills like this, maybe he should hang his work in a gallery!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Nice Old Trunk Gets Clean

We get to do quite a bit of work on old trunks, and each project, I think,  is interesting and unique.  It seems that people used to personalize their trunks to some degree, so they come to us in all different conditions.  This trunk was painted all over in a seafoam blue/green color.  Even the metal was painted!  The current owner decided the painted, then worn out look wasn't for her, so she brought it to us.   We stripped the trunk for her and it came out  very clean.  The interesting thing about this strip job?  The trunk is covered in cloth!  Yes, apparently we can strip furniture with a cloth covering, and get it clean.  I am pretty impressed with our skills, if I may say so myself!

The trunk's owner is going to take the trunk home as it is.  She is going to sand the wooden slats, then coat the entire trunk with a colored wax.  I think it is going to turn out very nicely.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Three Tables, Three Different Skills

Right now we have quite a few smaller projects in the works.  This side table came in with several broken stretchers between the legs.  This is a new table which was hand made in an 'at home shop'.  It is truly unique.  The legs feature a groove which twists around the leg, creating a hollow section in the center of each leg.  You can see in the photo below the broken pieces which we are re-gluing, and clamping.  Some of the breaks are bad enough that we will have to splice the wood together before it can be re-attached to the table.

This table's lovely veneer top is made with Cherry veneer in the center and Mahogany veneer in a sunburst pattern around the edges.  It was purchased through Macy's on Clearance, but unfortunately the original table leaves were lost before the customer purchased it.  So they brought the it to us, so that we could make new leaves.  The customer asked us to make the leaf with a simple Cherry veneer top, and that is just what you see here.  The new leaf will complement, but not match the rest of the table.  If there was a special occasion where they wanted to use the leaf, they could easily throw a table cloth on, and no one would be the wiser.  But if this was my table, I would surely want to show that gorgeous wood grain off, wouldn't you?
The third table we are working on right now is a conference table.  This one is a unique job as the base is made of  metal, with a veneer covering, and the top is mostly formica, with a wood edge. It came in with a blonde colored wood which clashed with the blue/grey formica.  We stripped the wood to remove the color.  Then the wood surfaces were sanded to prepare them for finishing.  The formica was masked off as you see below.  Next we will apply a water based finish in a custom color we mixed up with the customer.  The color is just slightly more blue than a Black Cherry, and will be coated with a Satin finish.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Different Cane Design

 This nice set of Danish style arm chairs needed a new caning job.  But not the style you most often see.  The most popular style of caning has two vertical, two horizontal, and two diagonal strands forming an octagonal opening.   The design originally used on these chairs had just 4 strands,  two horizontal and two vertical, they were spaced such a way that little rectangular openings were formed.    Generally, whatever style of cane comes off the chair, we want to put back on, as we did here.  I think it turned out pretty neat looking, what do you think?

 Cane fibers naturally start out in the very pale color you see to the left.  They darken over time and become a nice mellow light brown.  It is most preferable to allow the cane to go through this aging process as you will then be able to keep the interesting slight variations in color that cane has.  But if you are re-doing one of a set then you have a problem.  You would have say, 5 chairs that had aged, and 1 chair that had new cane.  So in that case we are able to apply a colored finish to the cane to get it as close as possible to the rest of your set.  That is what we did below to achieve that color.  There is a risk involved in this process though.  The underside of the cane will then dry out at a different rate from the top of the cane which could cause it to crack at a later time.

So a decision would have to me made,  would you prefer the cane to age naturally, and have a longer life,  or would you prefer the chair to match the rest of your set right away, but not last as long?  Tell me what you think, I am curious what my readers would choose!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Modern VS. Vintage, The Great Furniture Debate.

 We have had two different jobs come in this week that make me feel sad for the modern furniture buyer.  I am not talking about Ikea.  That is in a class all to itself.  I am talking about walking into one of these beautiful furniture galleries with the pretty 'living room' areas and 'bedroom' areas, where everything looks like it should be in a magazine or movie.  What a poor un-suspecting buyer does not know is that underneath that pretty exterior, the furniture is actually junk.  This was proved by both the  jobs I am showing in today's blog.  The first one we had come in was a roll top desk.  The Tambour Unit (the actual roll top piece)  had some loose slats and the customer wanted them glued back onto the cloth.  So in an effort to get an appropriate estimate for the customer we took the tambour unit off of the Desk.  What we found was that the glue was so weak on the cloth, that without the desk holding the wood in place, the wood strips fell,  I repeat FELL, right off of the canvas backing!  The glue that was used on this desk was so cheep it couldn't perform it's sole purpose, that of holding things together.
The second item of furniture we had come in that demonstrates the sad level of 'fine furniture' these days is a bed rail to a queen bed.  It belongs to a young couple, perhaps  mid to late twenties.  The bed rail is made of a very unfortunate material.  It is one of the cheapest plywoods out there, it should actually be called 'plyfiberboard'  to be more accurate.  The wood is shredding as you can see in the picture below.  It will continue to shred for the duration of it's use.  Above you can see the repair we did to try and salvage the end of the bed rail.   But you can see the wood chipping away at the top.  It is likely that the wood will continue to deteriorate at such a rate that the customer could be in here every few years to get various parts fixed when the fall apart.   

Again, this modern made furniture makes me so sad for anyone who is purchasing furniture today.  How  would a 20something couple know that when they walk into a furniture gallery that they might not be getting something that will actually last?  They probably thought they were doing a good thing by shopping for 'real' furniture, not at Ikea.  They wouldn't know to find out what kind of wood the bed rails  were made out of, or that some kinds of plywood are better than others.  And would the person who purchased the Roll top desk know to ask what kind of glue was used to attach the slats to the Tabour cloth?  Probably not.  If you walked into a Furniture Gallery, would you expect that you are getting a quality piece of furniture?  Of course you would.  Unfortunately nowadays most often woods used are from fast growing trees, which tends to be much weaker and easily broken.  Or they are not even wood at all, they are made out of MDF or Plywood MDF.  They often have bad gluing practices, or use screws instead of glue which weakens the wood further.  The finishes tend to be very hard but also very thin and almost impossible to repair once scratched.

My best advice?  Buy old furniture.  You will get such better value for your money.  Old furniture has stood the test of time, so you know it is going to last.  Older furniture can be repaired more easily if it does break, but it is also built so much better, that it is less likely to break.  Take an adventure to an Antique store and outfit your house with furniture you find.  Brows estate sales and bring home some interesting treasure that will last and last and last.  Check out an Auction, you never know what bargain priced piece of history you will be able to bring home.   But if you absolutely must buy a modern made piece of furniture, keep our business card handy because we will be ready to fix it for you.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Gorgeous Veneer hiding under Paint

A very large bedroom set came into us for work recently.  It had a carefully done antiqued white paint over the entire set, and the customer wanted us to strip that off.  So we did.  And to our surprise we found something stunning underneath.  It makes us wonder who would ever have wanted to cover this up in the first place?!?
This is what we found underneath all that paint.  Beautiful, intricate veneer.  This will be so beautiful once stained.  I would opt for this to show any day, over even the best paint job.  The drawers you see in the first picture all have a design that matches the one shown in this second picture. Beautiful! 

A few of the drawers have what looks like a 'book and butt' match style of veneer work.  They are beautifully done, but it is also interesting to me that the original craftsman did not do a true 'book and butt' match, but just sort of a nod to that style.  If it was truly done in this style, then the center diamond's 4 corners would have matched perfectly.  I am curious why he went for this interesting un-even diamond instead of a perfect diamond.  By looking at this drawer, you can certainly tell that this was done carefully by hand, not en-mass as furniture nowadays is made.  What do you think? Do you like the uneven diamond?  Do you think it adds character, or does it detract?  I want to hear your opinion!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Building new work areas

For years we have had the same storage area in our shop which has been growing more and more challenging for us to use.  We had been storing Upholstery supplies which was just a waste of space as we don't upholster anything in house anymore.  We also had quite a bit of Weaving materials in those shelves.  But the weaver has moved to a completely different area of the shop.  
 We needed a space to store our field service equipment, but the shelving unit was configured very badly for that purpose.  So over our christmas holiday we dismantled the old shelving, which you can see partially in progress in the first picture.
 Then came the interesting task of planing and assembling a new storage system designed with our field service equipment in mind.
We moved the storage area to a different (and previously under-used) part of the shop and got to work.  The new shelving unit we just finished late last week and we like it better already.  It is compact, everything has it's place and it is easy to access by the men coming in and out.

Now we have a large area that was occupied by the old storage system that we get to re-purpose.  It is going to be turned into a great workspace. We are hoping to outfit this new space with all kinds of wonderful tools including a table saw, a dust collector,  a jointer, and a nice big work table.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Chest of Drawers with very old Joinery

Today, a very pretty, but dilapidated chest of drawers came in to our shop.   The wood has a nice grain structure which you just don't see in the modern fast growing woods used in current furniture.  But besides the beautiful quality of the wood, there is another thing about this chest which sets it apart as unique, as well as quite old.

The way the joinery was done tells us that this chest of drawers was made between  1870 and 1880.   These joints,  known as  Knapp Dovetail  or a Pinned Joint, were only used during that ten years. We get excited when we see this kind of joint because it is so rare.  Usually dovetails appear as triangular interlocking wedges, not as pegs and holes.

One more interesting  tidbit about pinned joints, we have never had to repair a drawer using that used this type of joinery.  Every piece that has come in has had tight fitting joints with no evidence of prior repair attempts.  It is clearly superior to standard dovetails in it's staying power.  It was not widely adopted because of the long term familiarity people had with dovetails and the belief that dovetails represented true quality workmanship.

The chest of  drawers is possibly made out of a southern yellow pine, but until it is stripped of it's finish, we will not know for sure.  This chest is going to undergo quite a transformation. We will have to do quite a bit of work to give the chest a new life.  I will be sure to let you know how the progress is going.  Now it it time for you to go check all your furniture and see if you detect any interesting old joints!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Our 'Block Work' leg is completed!

In two previous posts we showed you what we had been doing to repair a chair leg which the toe had  broken off of.  We started by gluing a new block of wood on, which you can read about in this post...

 Our next task was to carve and re-shape the block to match the existing leg.  This step is critical in making it so that the casual observer would never notice it was ever broken.  You can read about it in this post....

Now we have the work just about completed. In the photo to the left you can see the leg after it was stained then scuff sanded.  The scuff sanding step is crucial to a smooth finish.  We use a very fine sand paper, 320 grit, to knock off any burrs in the stain, and polish it to perfect smoothness.

The final step, which we just completed, was to to apply two coats of sealer, then two coats of 'top coat' to create a beautiful Satin finish.  The stain we used was an English Oak.  What do you think?  looks pretty good doesn't it?  Would you assume it had ever been broken?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tambour Unit for a Roll Top Desk

We have been getting quite a few roll top desks in just lately.  At the moment we have 5 of them in our shop!  Of course what makes a roll top desk so distinctive is the movable top which is technically called a 'tambour unit'.    Usually these are made up of  several slats of wood, rounded on the front and flat on the back, the flat part of each slat is adhesed to a cloth, making the unit flexible.  They look something like the roll top you can see here...

This Tambour is a quite different though, so it required a creative solution for it's repair.  The front of each slat is made of a flat piece of veneer.  The veneer was then adhesed to the cloth, and a curved back piece was adhesed to the other side, basically sandwiching the cloth.  The veneer on the front was done so well, that when the desk top is closed, each individual piece of veneer perfectly matched the ones next to it and created an entire pattern.  Unfortunately, as so often happens, the cloth wore out.  If we had tried to replace the entire cloth, we would have lost the beautiful veneer work.  So after much contemplation, we came up with the solution you see in the pictures.   We laid the Unit on it's face and adhesed gauze strips along each slat, making sure each piece of gauze made contact with 3 surfaces, the front Tambour piece, and the back slats on each side.   Each individual gauze strip had to be pressed in place until the adhesive was set.  I am looking forward to turning this unique project over and seeing the lovely veneer face again, although this time it will be functioning!