Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lessons in Sawdust and Sanders

The flat sander I am used to.
 This post will probably give a few of you a good laugh.  Especially if you are at all familiar with various types of sanding tools.  You see,  I (your faithful blog writer)  usually happily observe the other employees of our shop going about their projects and then go back to the office and write about them.  I don't usually do any of the work myself.  Unless that is, I have a project of my own that I want to get done and I am to impatient to squeeze it in between the more pressing jobs that our customers bring to us.    Then, and only then, do I dare go back and pick up a tool and try to use it.   I usually learn some amazing lesson which usually has a humbling nature.  Such was the case when I decided to sand my 130 old trunk last week.  I had successfully pulled all the old rotting metal off the base, and so the next step was to prepare all the wood to be re-stained.  Since I was not working with a completely smooth surface, I could not use the flat sander which I am by now quite comfortable with.  Instead I used a 'flapper wheel' sander which works much better over uneven contours.

Covered in Sanding Dust!
 What I learned was very interesting to me, and gave the guys at the shop a very good laugh.  You see,  the flat sander I have used on previous projects has this handy thing called 'Dust Collection'.  As the tool is used,  the sawdust created by the sanding is handily sucked up through a hose attached to the tool and it just disappears.  This flapper wheel sander does not have this handy resource.  So, while I did think to cover my mouth and eyes,  by the time I was done sanding the top of the trunk my unprotected hair had turned a completely different color because of all the dust,  and I had the sander's version of a 'farmers tan'  on my arms.

The lesson I have learned from this is...

1.  It is better to let one of the guys do this step because they don't mind getting covered in dust quite so much.

2.  If I absolutely have to do the sanding on this trunk (in order to get it done faster) next time I should come wearing coveralls,  a mask, gloves, goggles and some kind of a bandana over my hair!  And I should not expect that I can simply walk into the office and begin work afterwards!

Considering that I still have quite a bit of sanding left on this trunk,  which  of those two options would you choose if you were me?
The partially sanded top of my Trunk

I would love to hear from you, some of the more entertaining things that have happened to you while working with wood.  Can any of you top my 'sawdust colored hair' story?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Duncan Phyfe, An Old Design, with a Built-In Flaw

 The Duncan Phyfe table design is a beautiful, graceful design that first originated about 1795.  With it's sweeping Egyptian lines,  Greek Lyre Motifs and graceful Urn Pedestals,  the style perfectly accentuated the era's interest in all things ancient.  The style died out about 1830 and was nonexistent for about 100 years.  Then in about 1930 there was once again a great interest in the Duncan Phyfe design and it went through a great revival.  It is now 70 years since that revival.  Modern replicas are still being made and sold in stores today.

We often get these classically styled pieces in our shop, and usually they all come to us for the same reason.  The sweeping curved legs aren't the most sturdy design and they tend to break off just after they join with the pedestal.  We actually have two such tables with just such repairs needed, sitting in our office right now, and we have another table in our 'completed' racks that just had the same kind of repair done.

The reason this design breaks so consistently in the same area,  is that since the leg is cut into a curve,  the grain runs across it in some areas, instead of up and down.  A normal, vertical grain line is much sturdy and less likely to break.  the cross grain line of a Duncan Phyfe leg is more susceptible to pressure and can snap.

The good thing is,  we have all the tricks and tools to get these legs back together, looking as good as new, and just as sturdy,  if not more sturdy then before the break.  If you have one of these lovely pieces,  which has it's own crack or break,  bring it to us.  We would be happy to restore it to it's former glory.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Color Touchup on a Table Top

 This beautiful table top had a finish that was failing in spots.  In one spot on each side, it had bubbled up and separated from the stain underneath.  The owner of the table had tried to fix the problem which caused the finish in those two sections to come off, and left a whitish area around the damage.
We have some pretty expert touchup men here at our shop to do the job.  In this photo you can se the repair mid way through.  What makes this job almost easier for us is that the particular sections that have the damage, also have the most variegated wood grain, which helps hide the areas we have to touchup.

All the work has been completed on this table top repair.  After our Touchup Man completed his portion of the task, our Finisher applied a coat of satin finish over the top of the entire table, and the leaves, so that it has a fresh, beautiful, protective new layer.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Restoration of a Dome Top Trunk

 This trunk once was quite an expensive beauty. The curved top, plentiful nails, and fine hardware make this a high end trunk, often known as a 'Saratoga Trunk'.  But in addition to that, it was once covered in leather instead of canvas which only the finest trunks were. The leather has blackened with age and is peeling off.  We began by cutting off all of the peeling leather so that the wood underneath became fully exposed. We then stripped and cleaned the entire trunk. It then needed to be sanded, and the rusting metal was treated with a rust stop product.  The metal nails on the wood strapping 'bled'  a blackish stain onto the wood immediately surrounding them.  So we treated the wood strapping with Oxalic Acid.  This removed the dark staining and also served to lighten the wood.  This enhanced the contrast between the strapping and the base wood once the trunk was completed.
We replaced the leather handles and customized the leather handle holders. Most often we see the handle holders made out of metal, but these leather ones turned out very nice, and maintained the integrity of the original design.  The trunk came out beautifully. The metal was all painted black, and the wood was stained two different tones. The base wood was stained a 'golden oak' color while the wood strapping was stained with a very light 'natural' stain. We also replaced the leather lid pull at the center front top.

While this trunk did at one time have  a different look,  It's new wood toned finish is beautiful, warm and has plenty of character!  For a more complete set of photos throughout this job check out our Flikr set here...   Dome Top Trunk.

We get to work on all kinds of different trunk styles, designs, quality, and condition here at the shop.  Each trunk provides us with new and interesting challenges, but we sure enjoy each one we get to work on.  Do you have a treasure sitting somewhere in your home that needs a little TLC?  Bring it to us, we would love to fix it up for you.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

An Old Clock Gleams Again

This beautiful old clock's finish had a dark brown tone when it came in to the shop, but that was not how the finish looked originally.  The finish is made out of shellac which will darken over time.  It also will bead up, sink into the recesses and loose it's glossy sheen.  To restore this clock, we didn't strip the old original shellac finish off, instead we put it in our cleaning tanks which got all the years of grime off.  There were a few minor repairs to the decorative leaves on the top which had to be done.  Then the entire wooden face was coated with 3 layers of an Orange Shellac which is as close as we could come to the original color of shellac on the clock.    The new coatings have smoothed the old to some degree but the texture of the old shellac is still visible underneath, which keeps some of the character of age.

The clock of course needs to have the door put back on,  but before that happens,  the inner workings of the clock will be repaired by a local clock company.  Once that is done, this clock will not just look beautiful but it will function properly and sound good as well.

The label on the back of the clock.

The owner of this clock is fortunate in that the original label is still in place.  Gilbert Clock Company used a number of different labels on the back of their clocks throughout the life of their business, which can help to identify what year the clock was made.   The style of this label tells us that the clock was made between 1885 and 1895.

From Antique Clock Price Guide's Site
AntiqueClocksPriceGuide   has a helpful page with photos of many of these labels.  If you have an old clock who's age you would like help identifying, you might check them out. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wall Repairs to our Stripping Area

 The work continues on our stripping area remodel.   After 16 years of consistent use, the Zink backsplash has rusted around the base.  We are just finishing up the task of repairing the sections and working to prevent future rust.  To do this,  we have cut out the rusted areas, leaving odd squares of wall exposed.
 We then filled those holes with an expanding foam.  This was tricky, as there was nothing to contain the foam as it expanded.  To solve this issue, we came up with a creative solution involving plastic, boards and our knees.    The plastic could then be peeled off and we have left an essentially flat surface.
 The walls were then covered with 4x8 sheets of heavy plastic paneling which were screwed into place, then sealed around all the edges.  We also sealed the spots where the screws hold the plastic to the Zink.  Our wall repair project is almost done.  This is a good thing!  Our next task is to prepare the elevated floor area, so that the supports are in the right places for the new stripping tanks.  We are getting so close to having this project completed, hopefully will be putting it to use soon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Old Morris Chair Gets A New Life

This Morris Chair came to us in bad shape.  The finish on the wood was failing and had turned a dusty color or was just worn off.   The casters on the legs ware missing as well.    We began of course by stripping the chair in our immersion system which got the wood very clean and ready for prep sanding.  The chair originally had a dark stain on it, and while the chair's owner could have chosen any stain, they decided to go with something that would have been similar to the original color.   The color they chose is Walnut, and over that it has a Satin Finish.  

After the finishing was completed,  the old holes for the casters were drilled out, filled with dowels and then re drilled so that new brass casters would fit securely.  Now all it needs is a new padded seat and back and it will be ready to grace any room!

Morris Chairs were first marketed in 1866 by William Morris and is one of the original 'recliner' style chairs.  The chairs featured a hinged back, set between two un-upholstered arms.  The angle of the back could be adjusted through a row of holes, pegs or notches in each arm.  Reproductions are still made today, but they generally have a lighter wood stain, and simple oak slats instead of the decorative spindles under the arms.  

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Emptying our Strip Tanks for New Solutions

We like to provide the best possible service to our clients, and as part of that effort, we regularly replace the liquid in the stripping tanks.  This helps us keep the wood we strip as bright as possible.

Since we are 're-modeling' our stripping area,  we decided this would be a good time to empty out or tanks, re-coat the insides, and then re-fill them with new solution.  Here you can see the neutralizing  tank being pumped out into a large tote.  We will also empty out our caustic 'detergent' tank and our water recycling system.  We will also package up all of our 'stripping sludge'.   To keep our company as environmentally compliant as we possibly can,  every safety measure will be used to ensure that nothing potentially harmful is let out,  including the steps of incinerating the used solutions, and burying what remains 200 feet deep in a disposal facility.

Once all of these steps are taken,  our entire system will be fresh and ready for the new, even more healthy water based stripping system to come in.  We are so excited to begin using it in a few weeks.  It has worked very well on all of our test pieces and some of our employees have even remarked that it smells like watermelon!  That will be a nice change from the old egg smell we have been living with for some time!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Out With The Old, In With The New!!!

Gutting the area so we can re-configure
We have a major 're-modeling' project going on at the shop right now that we are very excited about. For years we have been using an extremely fast stripping system that worked very well.  Unfortunately, all kinds of safety measures and environmental health procedures went along with it.   It was a Methelyn Chloride system which you can see in use in the second picture. While this chemical is highly effective,  it required us to instal fancy water recycling systems, and to have the waste specially taken care of, so as not to harm the environment.  We also had to take personal safety precautions so that we did not get chemical burns.  A yellow hazmat suit,  thick rubber apron, face shield, two layers of gloves and boots were worn while working in the area.  We also had to create a plastic wall separating the main strip area from the rest of the room so that the chemicals would not splash onto any other projects we had going on, or harm any passing employees.


We are switching to a new Water Based stripping system which is much less harmful to the person using it, and to the environment.  The new water based stripping chemicals have been a long time coming and we are so excited to be making the switch.  The technology has just become available this year, and we were actually able to work directly with the chemist to formulate  something that fits our needs.  So far we are the very first company to be putting this to work for wood stripping.  

Because this is such new technology, we are actually working with a metal fabrication company to custom design the new tanks that will be needed, to work with the water based stripper.  We are going to be able to get rid of the two tanks pictured above, which are not as efficient as we would like.  The new tank is huge and measures 16' x 4.5'  so we will now be able to strip very large objects with much more ease then before.