Friday, December 21, 2012

The Most Famous Carpenter

Our shop will be closing down for the next 11 days to allow us all to celebrate Christmas.  I was thinking today about how we are all craftsmen here,  workers of wood.  It is a very very old profession,  in fact old enough that Joseph raised his son Jesus as a carpenter.  I wonder what it would have been like being a carpenter all those centuries ago.  Would anything be the same?

Well, obviously the medium is the same - Wood.  Maybe we work with different species of wood or different ages of wood, but it is still wood.    They would have used Cedar, Poplar, Pine and Oak, just as we do today,  but we never see items made out of species such as Almugwood which was used to make the pillars on Solomon's Temple or  or Shittah which the Ark of the Covenant was made out of!

The tools used is what really makes me curious.  I wonder if  they were like Egyptian hand tools or more like the Roman hand tools as they were in power when Jesus was born, or possibly were they like the Greek hand tools?  Or the Persian hand tools?   Joseph and Jesus would have had access to axes, chisels, hand powered 'Drills', lathes, saws, planers and files but  I am sure all of those were quite a bit more primitive then we have now!

Some things haven't changed very much.  A chisel is still a chisel.  But the drill has certainly changed a whole lot!

Nearly 4,000 years ago, the Egyptians were using hide glue for their furniture adhesive.  This is proven by hairs found in Pharaoh's tombs and by stone carvings depicting the process of gluing different woods.  Hide glue is still in use today for wood gluing and we probably use it nearly once a week at our shop.   So that is another similarity.  But we do have many other glues now which work faster and create an almost permanent bond in fact we use a two-part Epoxy nearly every day.

Our ancient Israelite woodworkers Joseph and Jesus, have the wood to use, the tools to create their piece of furniture, the glue to hold it together, what might they have used to finish it with?  Here at our shop we use fancy water based stains and finishes, but I know they didn't have those in Jesus's day.  I do know that Tung Oil and Linseed Oil have been used as furniture finishes for a thousand years.  Perhaps they used an oiled finish? Tung Oil comes from the nuts of a Tung tree and Linseed Oil comes from pressed flax seeds.  We will still use both of these types of finishes when we do restoration work of an older piece.

So many things have changed since Jesus was born and Joseph taught him his trade, but so many things have stayed the same.  I love that someone so important that we still celebrate his birth hundreds of years later, began his life as a humble carpenter.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Reconfiguring a Newel Post

A longtime customer of ours brought this old Newel Post in to us for stripping and some modification.   In it's original location the stair rail wrapped around it in such a way that there were three places where the wood had to be cut to fit the rail.    

 In it's new home in our customer's house these cutouts in the wood would be very odd.  The post was also about 3 inches to tall.    Once the piece was stripped we cut three inches off the bottom of the post and saved this wood for the repairs on the top of the post.  
Using the wood we saved from the base, we filled the three voids on the top of the post.  This ensured that all the woods would match.  We wouldn't have new wood mixing with old wood.

These areas would have to go on the lathe to be shaped so we actually cut a portion of the decorative top off.  We had to be strategic about where we made this cut, so that it wasn't visible to the general viewer.  This means we needed to make the cut under one of the turned curves.
The Newel Post repairs turned out very well.  It will be much more functional in it's new space and could really be a centerpiece bit of architectural woodwork.

Friday, December 14, 2012

'Bird's Eye' Dresser Set

 This set of dressers looks like it has really taken a beating!  The tall dresser doesn't stand up straight and the drawers are completely falling apart. The short dresser isn't in much better condition.
 In addition the 'birds eye maple' veneer is flaking off of the sides of  both dressers and the tops of the dressers have water damage to the finish which is worn very thin.  These dressers needed a complete over haul.   They started out with having the old finish stripped off so that we could get down to the raw wood.  Once this happened we began on the extensive repairs.  All the drawer joints had to be taken apart and glued back together.  Some of the drawer bases were broken and needed to be replaced.   The drawer glides had to be worked on so that the drawers could slide in and out smoothly.
And then we have the veneer issues to deal with..
 The old veneer was so badly damaged that we had to replace it most of it on both of the dressers.  Both tops received new veneer treatment as well as the sides of both dressers.  Bird's Eye Maple veneer is a very high end veneer with namesake 'eyes' scattered all over creating a beautiful ribbony appearance.
Once the many repairs were done the dresser set was stained with a Honey Maple stain and finished with a Satin sheen finish.  While we would have put any color/sheen combination that our client wanted onto this set,  we are very happy they chose the way they did.  Honey Maple and Satin are truely the perfect combination to highlight the gorgeous Bird's Eye veneer.  We couldn't be more happy with how this set turned out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Elegant Little Side Table

 This may seem at first like just a simple little side table, perfect for hiding your tv remote.  And, with just an ordinary stain and finish, it could have stayed an ordinary little side table.  But, when it came time to choose the stain color, our client chose an elegant dark finish called 'Jacobean'.  It is an almost black color with a hint of red.    In the bright morning light that we took the 'finished' photo in, you can really see that red stand out.  Pair the elegant stain color choice with a lovely satin finish and your simple little side table turns into an elegant eye catcher!  Now this table with it's lovely turned legs isn't just for hiding things, it is for standing out in a crowd.  What a difference the finish makes.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Wegner 'Wishbone Chair' with Danish Cord

These beautiful danish chairs were designed by a man named Hans Wegner.   He was most prolific  between 1944 and 1963, this particular chair began being produced in 1950.  Wegner said of his work "I have always wanted to make unexceptional things of an exceptionally high quality'"  The key designs of his work are known for taking traditional elements and pushing them to the extreme.   He certainly achieved his goal with these 'wishbone' chairs.  The inspiration for this chair design was a traditional 'Ming' Asian chair and while the inspiration is present in these chairs, they are still truly unique.  The back legs are steam-bent into a curve that tapers to join a circular steam-bent back rail.  The joinery was difficult but resulted in a strong, lightweight chair.

These chairs came to us with a pale yellowish finish on them, and a worn out seat.  We removed the seats and stripped the old finish off.  They were then painted a Matte White, which is perfect for our client's beach side home.  The seats were woven with the traditional danish chord and it was woven in a 'diagonal cross' pattern.  It is actually an unusual design characteristic of these chairs to have danish chord in a diagonal cross pattern.  Danish chord is usually woven in a basket weave.  Just one more way that Wegner made his chairs a little bit unique.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Refurbished Ladies Chair

This intricate crest belongs to a dainty little ladies chair. It is so small that by our standards we would think of it as a youth's chair.  But then people are a lot bigger now then they used to be!  Now it is just the right size for an occasional bedroom chair  or for sitting in when you are putting your shoes on.  

The chair came to us with broken cane on the back.  Enough was broken that we really couldn't repair it, we needed to completely replace it.  It was woven with a 'blind cane' method, so the holes that the cane goes into don't go all the way through to the back.  This is much more challenging then regular hand cane.  Once the cane work was done, the 'blonde' looking natural cane needed to be colored to better blend in with the chair.

We also refurbished the chair.  This means that we refreshed the existing finish rather then applying a new one.  Depending on the method used, refurbishing isn't always a job that requires high levels of skill, but it does require high levels of labor.  For this chair we chose a wax color that would fill in where the old finish color had worn off.  This wax is applied by hand, left to dry, and then polished by hand.  This polishing process is quite labor intensive and not for the weak of elbow.  And in addition, this chair has so many little nooks and crannies that the polishing task was bumped up several notches in difficulty.  No one wants a glob of wax stuck in one of those pretty carved leaves!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Fixing Water Damage on Furniture

The holidays can be so damaging to our lovely table tops!  A water cup gets left on the table to long and creates a ring.  A table decoration gets over watered and creates a bigger ring.  A hot serving dish gets put down without a trivet and leaves a big white square.    What do you do?  Do you replace your table?  Do you try and hide it from now on with a table cloth?  No, and no!   White water damage marks on your table can be repaired.  I can give you some tips to try at home, or you can bring it to us and we can do the work for you (you have better things to do,  like drinking eggnog and shopping and skiing!)
The 'do it at home' method is going to take quite a bit of elbow grease.   You will also need a piece of soft cotton, like an old T shirt.  Thirdly you will want to purchase some Liberon 'Ring Remover'.  We sell it here at our shop, or you can get it online.   Take your piece of cotton and make it into a ball that is smooth on one side.  One side will be your handle, the other (smooth side) will be your work surface.  Apply the ring remover to the 'work surface' side of your cotton ball.  Smack it with your hand a few times to spread the product through  the cotton and then start rubbing your water ring.  You want to rub the wet cotton forcefully cross the water mark in the same direction as the wood grain.  This process will take some time, and quite a bit of pressure, but the ring will disappear if you are patient.  Remember, I said the 'do it at home' method is going to take elbow grease!  The heat caused by the friction works with the chemicals in the ring remover to pull the moisture up out of the wood.  Once you are done, the ring will have disappeared.  If you have a shinny spot afterwards,  you can either rub the rest of the table or a coat of wax will even the finish back out.  Just don't do both projects on the same day!  You might not be able to move your arm for a bit and those gifts won't wrap themselves!

If all of this work just makes you want to run and hide behind your pile of yet-to-be-wrapped presents, then bring your project to us!  We have many different ways of dealing with damaged finishes and will find the perfect solution for your waterlogged problem.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Woven Basket/Box Modification

 This is one instance where certain pets did not get along with the furniture they were living with.   The pet certainly won this fight!

The material on this  box was actually woven in a big sheet and then wrapped onto the box.  There is braid holding down it's edges and seam. It is almost impossible to find this kind of woven 'cloth' and to re-weave the damaged areas on this
box by hand would have been very tricky

So instead our client went for a more creative route.   Instead of repairing the woven fibers, we covered them with some custom made medallions.   While we were cutting, we also made a much nicer lid.   Our client does her own 'faux painting' so she is going to add all the finishing touches to this project.   We think this box came out looking very cute!  Hopefully we can convince our client to take some photos for us, once her painting project is done.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Re-Weaving a Wicker Hamper

This wicker hamper was shipped to us from out of town.  We have gotten several out of the area clients lately who think so highly of our work that they are willing to pay the postage.  This vote of confidence makes us very happy!  

What makes us sad is that someone used this lovely hamper as a stepping stool.  Just so you all know, you should never, ever use your woven furniture for standing on.  It is very sturdy stuff, but doesn't like shoes.  We once had a chair come in that actually had a high heel shaped hole in the seat!  Oops!

Fortunately we can re-weave broken items like this.  We had to straighten out the metal shelf support and then weave a brand new shelf.  As you can see, there were also lots of little broken strands on the hamper and on the decorative 'back splash'.   With little breaks like this we just weave in a new strand, rather that re-weave the entire basket.    The new fibers come in a pale 'natural' shade.  Since the entire hamper is not being re-woven we will need to make a custom stain color and use it to touchup the repaired areas.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Chair for Upholstery

Before, During, After
It can be difficult to see just how beautiful the 'before and after' photos are, when a chair is missing it's upholstery.  But let's give it a try.   This lovely old 'shield back' chair came to us after the upholsterer had stripped it down to the frame.  This step is important because we can not work with the chair if there are still shards of padding hanging on.  We need to be able to access the wood without any hinderance.    Once the upholstery is stripped off and the chair is brought to us, we strip of the finish with our water based stripper.  It goes through three different liquid processes to get that wood sparkly clean.  
After this, any repairs can be done.  It is important to get those repairs done while there is no cloth on the chair.  With the cloth on, the joints become covered and impossible to reach.  After the repairs it is time to prep sand the chair and apply the stain and finish.  For this chair, our client chose an English Oak stain with a Dark Pine toner.   This color combination is going to look very nice with the golden blond colored upholstery she has chosen.  Now that our work is completed,  it goes back to the Upholsterer for the final step.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Oak Mission Style Desk

This beautiful oak mission style desk came to us for restoration and water damage removal.  As you can see from the photo below, the top surface has a significant amount of water damage.  The white haze appears when moisture penetrates  the
finish but does not get all the way down to the wood.  We started out by using a 'no blush' product which can sometimes fix this problem with just the spritz from a can.  We then sprayed the entire desk with a 'dark pine' water based stain.  This really helped freshen up the overall apearance of the desk.
We also applied a 'retarder' product which eliminated the remaining moisture damage.  Over the retarder we gave the desk two new layers of finish in a lovely 'satin' sheen.  As you can see, the desk looks much better.
 It has a new brighter appearance and the moisture damage is almost completely gone.  This process doesn't always work to remove water damage. Sometimes more labor intensive approaches need to be taken and sometimes the whole piece actually has to be stripped and refinished.  But in this case, we are very happy with the result of our method!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Rotten Porch Rail

 This set of porch rails came to us so that the many layers of paint could be stripped off.  Simple job right?  Well, we got the paint of (simple but not easy!)  and discovered a whole new set of problems.  Years and years of water damage left many of the joints rotten.  The paint was so thick it had actually been holding the rails together.  Without the paint, the rotten joints fell apart.
 You can see in this picture how blackened the wood had become.  We ended up needing to rout out all the worst sections and replace them with new sturdy wood splines.  A spline is a piece of wood, usually inserted on the underside of a repair, that will strengthen the wood around it.  You can see one of the splines we did,  in the picture below.
 The spline repairs were put in with epoxy which is the strongest glue we have.  The epoxy soaks into the surrounding wood and is so strong that to get the wood apart it has to be cut.  We also filled all the rotten nail holes with epoxy.  This way we cold re-assemble the piece and the nails would have something to bite into.
The porch rails were re-assembled and while they aren't particularly pretty, they are much sturdier and the repairs we performed should last a very long time.  The owner of this rain is a faux finish expert so she will be taking it home and painting it herself, using exterior quality paints and finishes.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cardboard Covered Trunk

We work on a lot of trunks.  I mean, A LOT of  trunks.  Right now we have 4 trunks, plus 2 chests in all in different stages of restoration.  We have a really old, all wood trunk, we have a metal trunk, and we have two cardboard covered trunks.  Now I know  cardboard sounds a little flimsy, but trust me, this is a very sturdy trunk, and large enough to fit a grown person inside.  
Around the turn of the last century, trunk makers started using cardboard to mimic leather for their less expensive trunks.  They would still use leather handles, and fancy metal corner caps and nail detailing, but the main covering would be cardboard.  This way a person with a more limited budget could still get a really nice piece of traveling equipment.

One downside of a cardboard trunk is that when you peel your traveling sticker off, sometimes it takes a bit of your trunk with it.  At least that is what happened in this case.

We began our repairs by filling the ripped areas with a form of putty and then smoothed it so that the trunk surface was level again. We then had to do color touch up work to blend the new patched area with the rest of the trunk.  The real trick here was to not make it perfectly black, but to make it's appearance match the aged look of the rest of the trunk.  In addition to the top surface repairs, we replaced the broken leather handles and straightened out the lock.  We left the traveling sticker on the front and suggest that no one tries to take it off!  It is a cool piece of history, and we would have a new hole to patch!

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Door fit for a Villa

This gorgeous door once guarded the front of a Mexican villa.  Sadly, all the matching doors on the inside of the villa were stolen by vandals.  This last gorgeous door remained, hiding all the damage that was going on within.

When it came to us the finish was in shabby shape and the wood had shrunk so the panels were coming loose.  We began our process by stripping the door.  It came out very clean but also exposed some other problems, which I will go over in a bit.  Once stripped, we took the door apart, which wasn't to difficult a task, as the wood panels were already separating.  There were quite a few things that needed to be repaired with this door,   dry rot
needed to be dealt with, there were cracks in some of the panels,  the 1/4 round beads hiding the shrinkage had to be removed,  and one of the long upright styles had warping which we needed to straighten out.  So quite a bit of repairs.  We got the door back together beautifully though, strong and sturdy and ready to guard another house.

The next task was to give it a new finish.  The door has a 'Cedar' colored water based stain.  We had to do some magic here because the panels weren't all the same color.  So we concocted a 'special sauce' to blend them all.   We also did something called 'highlighting' or 'glazing'.  This creates a permanent shadow in the carvings so that the features are enhanced.  This service is always available and we encourage it on carved pieces.  It is extra though, so not every client goes for it.  But when they do opt for 'highlighting' the piece always looks amazing.  We finished it off with a 'satin' sheen exterior quality finish.  The door could once again stand proudly in any 'villa' doorway and our client was very happy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Imagining the Origins of an Old Bench

 We got this really neat bench in for work recently and it has really captured our imagination.  We are going to be stripping the beat up paint off of it, so it is not the work we are doing that has our imaginations going, but it is the interesting details which peak our curiosity.

It has been in our client's family for many generations so we have a rough estimate as to it's age.  There is plenty of speculation about where the bench came from but the current theory is that it was probably a 'salvation army' pulpit seat.  The shield was probably not always blue, and the carving was likely added later on.

The style of the bench is quintessential 'early american' with it's rustic lines and home made appearance.  And with it's tall back, it does make sense that it would be up at the front of a church for the preacher to sit on, rather then a low back that the congregation would use.  At some point it was likely taken home and the inscription was added.

Of course all of this is just theory, guesses, based on the little information we have.  But that is probably part of why our imaginations have gone wild.  We have just enough information to speculate, but not enough to know for sure.   Do you have any guesses about this bench's origins?  We would love to hear them!  Leave us a comment below!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Matte Finish on a Buffet Server

This is a situation where we needed to strip just the top for our customer.  There were some dents and dings along the edge of the top surface, and they wanted  to switch to a different sheen.  Something less shiny.  So we carefully masked off the rest of this buffet with paper, and then again with plastic.   Hand stripping is not ideal, but since this is a simple surface, without any intricate carving, it made the job a bit easier for us.   After stripping, the top surface was very clean and was ready for us to sand and paint.

When painting a wooden surface it can be necessary to do something called a 'pore fill'.  This is a special material which will make the wood surface smooth and eliminate the little dents created by the wood grain.  This is especially important with open pored woods like Oak, Mahogany and Walnut.  If you have a more closed grained wood such as Cherry or Maple you may be able to skip this 'pore fill' step.

You can see in the third picture our new 'Matte Finish' painted surface.  Having 'pore filling' done on a matte finish is very advantageous as those pores would disrupt that perfect surface.  Keep in mind, matte finishes are very hard to maintain, a little rubbing and the finish starts turning to satin.  Our client was very happy with the finished look of  their buffet,  that is just the result we are always looking for!