Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New Finish For A Conference Table

Bad Touchups 
Before Any Work Is Done

This conference table had suffered the fate that so many damaged pieces suffer..... a bad touchup job.  At some point, someone tried valiantly to touchup the minor flaws in this finish, but unfortunately they just lacked the skill that is required.   As a result, there were odd, pale, opaque areas dotted all over the table top.

The solution to this problem was fairly straightforward.  We began by stripping the old finish off of the table.  The two pedestal bases were stripped separately from the large oval top for ease of movement.  After the table was stripped, we sanded the entire table and legs with our special two step process.   The table then got a coat of stain color in a special blend of teak and cognac.  The table was finished off with a Semi-Gloss clear coat.
 No more splotchy finish for this conference table, instead it now has a beautiful, even, custom color which will reflect the professional atmosphere at our client's business. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Personalized Trunk

I have said many times before how much I like restoring trunks.   No two trunks that come through our doors look the same.  There are often key similarities which help to determine age, quality, maker, etc.  But each trunk we see is different.  Partly due to manufacture, partly due to time and experiences.  This trunk has had 'G.W.M  Oakland CA' printed in black on the left side.  

Imagine for a moment the scene at the airport where everyone is standing around the conveyor belt waiting for their piece of luggage that looks unique but also somehow exactly the same as everyone else's.   To make sure one's luggage is easily spotted, people will tie bright bits of ribbon or string on the handles, or buy a bizarre bright color of strapping to wrap around it.  Now lets go back 100 years to the station, or dock and imagine that great pile of trunks that have just come off the train, or ship.  You would want your trunk to be easily recognizable.  So you stamp your initials and hometown prominently on the side so that everyone knows that that trunk belongs to G.W.M of Oakland, CA.

Despite it's travels, this trunk is still in good condition.  There were no major repairs that needed to be made, and it's current owner was fine with a worn, aged appearance.  We did need to remove that horrible carpet from the inside though.  Trunks were originally all lined with paper, and occasionally with cloth.  This one was paper lined and the lid paper was still in ok shape, but at some point someone had a not so brilliant idea of lining the box with shag carpeting.  Unfortunately this meant the nice wooden tray no longer fit in the trunk.  So we removed all that and sealed the inside.  Then we cleaned the entire trunk and treated it with Tung oil.  This oil will protect the wood and metal and really gave it a beautiful deep luster without giving it a 'new' appearance.    

Monday, May 14, 2012

Restoration of Gilt Mirror Frame

 This beautiful mirror frame came into our shop with considerable damage.  There were large obvious areas,  as well as minor breaks and chips all over.  Someone had clearly attempted to repair it,  and then realized that they just weren't up to the job.  So they brought it to us!  What a wise decision!

I am going to show you a series of photos, each of a different area of significant damage.  In this first photo you can see where a leaf tip had been broken off.  When it came to us, someone had used bondo or putty and had tried to reshape it,  giving it a sort of 'pine cone' look.  That clearly did not match the rest of the mirror.  Our first task, with any of the repairs on this frame, was to create a solid, accurately shaped repair with bondo.   This shaping takes a good eye for what would have originally been there,  as well as good hands to recreate it with tools.

 The next task once all the bondo work and carving was dry and set, was to color the repaired areas.   With older frames, the traditional way of decorating was to apply a red oxide base under the gold leaf.  This red gave the leaf a brightness and brilliance.  Without the bright red color, the gold leaf would have ended up a bit more pale or washed out.  We re-created that by using a liquid shellac and red oxide powders directly over the bondo.

The next step, after the red oxide is to re-create the gold leaf.  Since this mirror used a gilding paste as a 'faux' leaf,  we did the same.  We can recreate any different shade of gold, which is pretty important when restoring old pieces such as this.  The paste was applied by hand over the red.

The final step in the restoration of this mirror was to 'antique' the gilt paste on the areas we repaired.  I would love to tell you more about this step, really I would.  But....  I just can't.  That would be like giving away a secret recipe, or the location of a buried treasure. I just can't do it.  But,  if you think this mirror looks as gorgeous as I do,  you are welcome to bring your mirror in.  We will work all our magic, and even use the secret sauce,  if the job requires it!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Beautiful Red Tin Trunk

I was so excited when I saw this trunk come through our doors.  Even before we worked on it, it was in beautiful condition.  We rarely see trunks come to us in as good a shape as this one was, with that red paint still preserved.  In fact, this trunk is in such good condition, that it still has it's original keys!  We never see that!  From what I can decipher, based on the style and materials used on this trunk, the trunk was made in the mid 1880s.   I am sure it was owned by someone who loved it and took great care of it. It was not left outside to rust or have the wood rot.  It never experienced a horrible 70's painted 'makeover'  and I can hardly imagine that it was ever used as a plaything by little children.

So this post is about a little job today, not a big one.   We sometimes need to completely restore a trunk, and take it all the way down to a bare box,  such was not the case here.   With this trunk we cleaned the exterior with a mild cleaner and steel wool.  We drove in and cleated a few nails where they were missing. And we oiled the entire exterior with Tung Oil.   This brought out all those beautiful reds in the metal, gave a glossy shine to the bright orange wood, and protected the entire trunk from future damage.

So for those of you who think we just take on enormous jobs,  this beautiful trunk is proof that we are happy to work on whatever project comes through our door and we will do our best to make your treasured piece look it's best.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Many Challenges of Laying Veneer

 Veneer work takes a great amount of skill, even if you are just laying one piece.  But to successfully lay down 24 pieces?  That requires mastery!  And that is just what our 'veneer-man extraordinaire' did on this armoire side panel.   There are so many challenges with applying veneer to a surface, but when you do a job such as this one, with so many pieces of veneer, which all have to match perfectly, the challenges multiply quickly.

First off,  the base surface has to be perfectly smooth.  Any bumps or valleys will effect the way the veneer adheres and could create air bubbles.  Air bubbles are a big problem and lead to the veneer cracking and flaking off.

Next, when each piece of veneer is cut,  the cut has to be perfectly straight so that when you joint the pieces together, there are no gaps in the wood.  And, you have to make sure the the angles are the same so that the grain runs the same way and the seams between the pieces disappear.

Then, each piece of wood has to be aligned perfectly so that the center seam runs straight, all the way down the panel.  This requires lots of very careful measuring, marking, re-measuring, re-marking etc!

And finally, on this panel there is that gorgeous center diamond pattern.  For that you have to take all of the challenges I just told you about the other pieces, and multiply it!  That center diamond has to be cut perfectly, measured perfectly, aligned perfectly, glued perfectly, clamped perfectly.  If it is off, it will throw off the look of the entire panel.

The good thing is that we actually have craftsmen here at our shop who can do this picky, meticulous work, and do it well!  They are like woodworking superheroes.  They can make broken things 'unbroken', they can make ugly things beautiful, and they can perfectly align veneer!