Friday, July 29, 2011

The Desk that Rose From The Ashes

 This is a story about a desk, that thought it was a Phoenix.  You see, sometimes a fire destroys things, but sometimes it gives something the opportunity to be even more beautiful when it comes out, then when it goes in. Such is the case with this desk.  Time has a way of causing things to get a little shabby looking, and this desk was no exception.  But when it survived a house fire and was scorched,  it was sooooo shabby that the owner of the desk decided it was time to get it fixed up and beautiful again.  So they brought it to us and the phoenix-ifying began.  In the first picture you can see all the parts it was in when we got it.  The one pedestal was still mostly together,  and the frame for the top was together, but everything else, the drawers, the cubbies, the side panel,  were all in pieces.  The desk had to be stripped  and then sanded, giving extra attention to the scorched areas.   The owner of the desk chose a dark stain color which also helped to hide the appearance of the scorched, fire damage areas.  We also replaced the leather writing area which was gone.  The desk owner chose the color of the leather from a selection, as well as the gold embossed print around the edge.  The most important step in the process of applying the leather is prepping the surface.  We have to make sure it is as smooth and as flat as possible, any bumps will be felt through the leather's surface.

The desk looks beautiful now that it is done.  One would be hard pressed to see where the fire damage once scarred it.  It is ready  now to be taken home and given a place of distinction in it's new residence.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fabricating a Carved Settee Leg

 From time to time we have something come to us that not only has a broken leg, but the broken off part is completely gone!  Now usually we like to put any broken off parts back onto the piece, as then the wood is all the same age, and it will continue to age at the same pace as the rest of the item of furniture.  But, in a situation like this, where the broken off piece is completely gone,  we have to start from scratch and do our best to choose wood that will blend with the rest of the piece.
 In this case,  we had a beautiful Settee come in with one of  the more decorative front legs broken off.  The Settee is made out of mahogany so we put together some small pieces of matching mahogany and attached
them to the leg, as you can see in the first picture.   You can see in the second picture that we have taken some of the excess wood off and have drilled holes along the inside curve of the leg to make hand carving a bit easier.  Next a template of the leg shape was attached to the leg, for more refined removal of excess wood.  You can see in the 4th picture that all the excess wood has been removed and the fine shaping is ready to begin.
 The leg carving turned out very well.  It looks almost exactly like the other two on the settee.   Now it is off  to the finishing department.  It is their job to make the epoxy line disappear and of course to stain and finish the entire settee.  It is not particularly often that we have to do this kind of work, but fortunately we have the guys with the skill to pull it off.   Do you have a job you think is impossible?   Bring it to us, clearly this job was not enough of a challenge, so your impossible repair might be just the challenge they need!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sun Room Settee Gets a New Seat

 This lovely settee brings to mind porches in summer and sipping iced tea.  Or maybe a sun room and lemonade! Unfortunately years of sitting on it had weakened the wicker seat.  It was still together, but one by one the strands were breaking so it was only a matter of time until someone sat on it and fell through.   It was brought to us as a preventative measure, so that no guests would have to suffer the embarrassment of breaking their hostess's furniture!
 We came up with a simple solution which would not require a complete re-weaving of the seat (which would have been cost preventative and very time consuming).   Instead of re weaving,  we created a hoop in the same shape as the seat itself.  Onto this hoop supports were fastened across in key areas, and then our sturdiest cane was used to weave a grid.  This hoop was then 'sewn' to the settee's original seat frame.

In the photo below you can see the grid we wove, and the original spiral patterned wicker still underneath.   Pretty neat solution right?  The owner of the settee has a cushion which sits on top, so the grid will be hidden.  This cushion was what allowed us to add structural support to the seat, without having to follow  the original weaving style.

Do you have a unique furniture problem that you need help finding a solution to?  Bring it to us, we would love to help!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Custom Cut Dowels

I just wanted to show you one more way that craftsmen here at our shop go above and beyond to do the best repair work they possibly can.  We are currently working on repairing an antique settee which had to be completely taken apart, then put back together.  Each of these joints had dowels holding it together.  Now most shops will to one of two things, they will either re-use the old, often worn out dowel, or use a standard, pre-cut,  2" dowel for all the holes, just like those in the first image. Now these may seem to you like perfectly reasonable ways fix a loose or broken joint, so let me explain to you why we like to do things a little differently.

First off, we like to use a maple dowel which is much harder and therefore much stronger than a standard pre-cut dowel which can be made out of any number of woods. When you are not sure what wood the dowel is made out of, it is tough to know how strong it will be.  Using a maple dowel is going to allow the dowel to withstand much more abuse without breaking.

We also measure each dowel opening on the piece we are repairing and then custom cut the dowels to fill the maximum amount of that opening.  This way we do not end up with hollow areas in the joint, which is the biggest problem with pre-cut dowels.  As you can see in the photo above, we have cut dowels into all different lengths, some quite a bit longer than others.  Imagine if holes which go with those longer dowel pieces were filled with a standard shorter 2" dowel instead.  There would be gaps in the wood which would cause the entire joint to be weaker.

Custom measuring and cutting dowels is definitely an extra step which can bee seen as a bit of a hassle.  But the extra work is so worth it when you consider the structural strength that is gained with a perfectly fitted dowel.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New Gilding on a Refurbished Coffee Table

 This is something we don't talk about all that often on this blog,  Gilding.  I suppose that is because we don't to it all that often!  This coffee table belongs to a set with an end table and two lamp tables.  This one is the only one with gilding though, so it got some special treatment.  I don't know if you can see very well from this first picture,  but the gilding has turned yellowish and is peeling off all over the place.  

After we refurbished the 4 pieces from the set, we applied a gilding paste to the accents on the carved decorations.  The paste is made out of metals of different colors that resemble various precious metals.  So this isn't real gold on the table, no guests will  be make a profit by flaking it off!  But it looks pretty good doesn't it?

The craft of gold leaf gilding in which leafs of gold are applied to objects for ornamentation, goes back over 4,000 years to Northern Africa where gold foil was applied to wood to give the appearance of being made of solid gold. Some of the finest gilding, however, took place in early 18th century France when Louis XIV desired to show his power through the gilt works of his time, establishing France’s leadership in the decorative arts.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Another 'Modern Furniture' Cautionary Tale...

Most of the furniture we work with here at the shop are antiques or good quality newer furniture,  but from time to time we get a piece in which makes us sad for our client, and mad at the maker.  You see, so often when modern furniture is made, there are shortcuts taken in the building process which the buyer is oblivious to.  We have had coffee tables come in that are completely made out of cardboard!  We often have pieces arrive that are pressboard or 'particle board' covered in veneer, it is like a wolf in sheep's clothing.  

This time we had a bed frame come to us for stripping.  It was a sturdy looking bed frame with a dark finish.    We put it through the stripping chemicals with no problems and all the finish came off just as it should have.  But then, when it was put in our 'neutralizing bath', we discovered something very sad.  The curved 'sleigh' top of the footboard began to bubble up and stretch as you can see in the top photo.  It was only then that we discovered, that the curved section had been made out of particle board and then covered in paper that was printed with a wood grain on it.  The glue holding the paper on failed and the paper could easily be pulled away from the particle board.   

This means that in the building process, the makers decided to have a curved particle board section pressed into the shape they wanted, instead of having actual wood carved into that same shape.  They chose to do an inexpensive short cut.  Unfortunately it is not inexpensive to fix the mess that has now been made because of that short cut.  The hard thing here, is that so often, there is no way to easily determine whether short cuts were made, before buying a piece of modern furniture. 

The best way to ensure that the piece of furniture you are purchasing is going to me made out of wood, not wood dust, paper or cardboard, is to buy older furniture.  The older it in the safer you are, but just as a point of reference,   Particle Board was introduced in the 1950s,  became widespread in the 1960s, and since the 1970s it's use has been refined, but is still commonly found in furniture of all levels of 'quality'.   If you are planning on purchasing modern made furniture, make sure you do your research.  If you went out to purchase a car, or a home, I am sure you would ask all kinds of questions to make sure that you were getting the best item for your money.  Do the same thing when you go out to purchase your bed frame, dinning table, hutch, etc and you will at least have smaller odds of getting a piece of junk.  

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rocking Chair with Carved Back Panel

 We recently had this rocking chair come in to our shop for repairs.  One of the stretchers had broken which in turn caused the one of the rockers to break off as well.  While this kind of thing happens fairly often, and we get broken rocking chairs in all the time,  this particular rocker has such interesting styling, that I became very curious about it's origins.  Now, you all get to see what information I have found out about this piece.

The first thing to note, is that there is a very unique sticker on the underside of the seat.  Most antique furniture has no markings by the maker, they simply relied on us recognizing their unique style.  But this chair gives us a very good clue to it's age and maker via the sticker.  You see, around the beginning of the 1900's through the 1940's  Grand Rapids Michigan had a furniture making Heyday.  So the sticker on this Rocking Chair tells us that the chair was made in the early part of the last century.

What really drew me to this rocker originally, was the carving on the back.  I had never seen something like it until this Rocking Chair came in.  The figure on the back seems to be a Spanish Explorer,  and from comparing images,  it is most likely Cortez or Ponce de Leon.  The seat is also round with little notches carved out giving in a drum like look.  In trying to get a better idea of the age of this chair, I found several similar chairs, each with an oval or square carved back and almost all with a round seat and all being given an age at about 1900.  This one seems to have the most intricate carving on the  spindles, stretchers and legs though.  Below are some examples of the other chairs I found. 

Pretty neat right?  I would love to find more designs from the era, but to be honest, I have to say, the carving on the rocker in our shop is still my favorite.

If anyone can tell me anything about the armor that is demonstrated in the carving on the rocker in our shop, I would love to hear about it!  While the helmet looks like Cortez,  the square collar is unlike anything I have been able to find thus far.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Beautiful Table, With A Special Stain

I have a beautiful dining set to show you today!  This set with a table, two leaves, five side chairs and two 'captains' chairs had been refinished at some time by a company other than ours.  The woman who owns this set remembered in her childhood it being a beautiful color of brown and wanted to get the set back to that color.  We were able to come very close for her.

As you can see, the color now is just beautiful.  We used a stain that you just can't get anywhere other than here, that is because it is supposed to be a 'walnut' stain but when the manufacturer mixed up our batch, he left one of the colors out, so we call it 'Mistake Walnut'.  It is a great color and we think the manufacturer should start offering it as part of their regular line up!

On top of this water based stain, we applied our water based finish in a 'satin' sheen.  This is actually the most popular sheen among our customers.  And reasonably so, it gives a bit of shine, but not to much maintenance.  And whether you choose Mat finish or High Gloss finish, eventually, maybe 10 years down the road, they all end up Satin anyway.  All the rubbing and polishing, and subtle scratching brings a Mat finish up and a High Gloss finish down.

What do you think of our 'Mistake Walnut' stain?  Do you like the color or do you think that mistakes are mistakes for a reason and we should have send the product back?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Teething Dog Vs. Antique Rocker

This platform rocking chair just came in to our shop, after having been the object of a teething dog's attention.  This is just one section of the damaged area.  There are scrapes and gouges all over the base of  this lovely old rocker which would usually cause the owner of a piece damaged like this, to throw up their hands in tearful frustration and then put the chair in some corner or Attic out of the way.
Fortunately the savvy owner of  this rocker brought it to us.  We have done work like this before and will be able to fix it up beautifully.  As you can see, this buffet leg had  similar damage, when it was attacked  by a hungry household pet.  We had more than one option as far as how to fix it, but the owner of the piece chose to have us make a new leg.  You would never know it had been so badly damaged would you?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hand Woven Radio Weave

In my last post, I told you about the challenges we had with a radio weave/box weave on a machine caned chair.  Interestingly enough,  we are doing another radio weave/box weave, in the same week!  It is not a particularly common pattern, so this is pretty neat.  Of course, it couldn't be just an ordinary box weave,  it is a box weave on a rattan frame, instead of a normal caned seat frame which has holes drilled into it to weave the fibers through.

This means that each strand has to be wrapped around the frame and twisted around a tiny hidden nail to secure it in place.  And the strands at the top  have to be threaded between the two rattan poles and then wrapped around the nail which is even more tricky.  

One of the things that makes hand caning so interesting and special is that instead of a perfectly even weave, where each hole is almost the exact same dimensions (as it would be with machine caning),  with a hand weave there is some variegation to the pattern.  This give each individual chair it's own special look.