Friday, June 29, 2012

A Resurrected Parlor Organ

We have been going through some of our old film photos and scanning them into our computer.  This beauty came up in the stack and boy did it bring back memories.

This Parlor Organ was in pretty decent condition when it came into our shop.  It didn't really have any missing pieces or significant structural damage.  The key reason it's owner brought it to us, was because it was black in color.  He thought it was painted and wanted it stripped and refinished.   We would have happily performed this service for him... but instead we suggested to him an even better rout to go.

You see, once we raised the music stand, we could see a beautiful walnut veneer underneath which gradually faded to black as it got closer to the edge of the stand.  We realized that this Organ was actually coated in an original shellac finish.  Shellac will oxidize and darken with age,  and on this piece, it had oxidized so much that it looked like black paint.

So we used our special chemical blend to clean the shellac. This cleaning/revitalizing process is extremely labor intensive and requires a significant amount of elbow grease.    But all that work produces a beautiful reward.  Once we had rubbed and rubbed and rubbed, the shellac came back to life and began to glow again.  We love being able to preserve a historical finish such as this.  It isn't always feasible but when it is, we sure like to take advantage.  This Parlor Organ is one example of a restoration job done very right!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Danish Open Box Weave

I haven't featured anything from our weaving department, so I thought I would give you a post about that today.   This Rocking chair was just completed this morning as is waiting for it's owner to pick it up.

The rocking chair has what is called a 'Danish Open Box Weave' on it's back.  This is a really unique weave as it features not only a cool design, but an interesting material.  The design is interesting as it is a loose (open) weave and let's a lot of light through it.  It would not be sturdy enough for a seat which is why it is only used on the back of this rocking chair.  The seat has oval springs which support an upholstered pad seat.

The material used is called 'binder cane'. Binder cane is sliced from the outer glossy skin of a rattan pole, as is the narrower sizes of cane for woven seats. Binder cane is distinguished from standard seat cane by its wider dimensions. Binder cane is usually used to bind off the outer perimeter of hand cane seats but it is also used on open frames to create a number of very attractive woven patterns. Binder cane weaving patterns are quite numerous. The standard is the herringbone or twill pattern, there are also diamond and multiple diamond patterns, diagonal cross patterns, basket, arrow, zig zag, square and multiple square patterns.   

The binder cane naturally starts out a very light color as you can see in the 'after' photo.  With time, it will yellow and darken in color, as you can see in the 'before' color.   Because of the glossy 'self finished' outside surface it is very difficult to color cane material.  The best way to do it is to use an aerosol spray, but you do risk it cracking and flaking off.  We only recommend coloring cane material if you chair is part of a set.  Otherwise, just let time do it's thing.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Serving Table Gleams

This lovely little serving table came to our shop recently needing a little tlc.   The finish was looking very shabby and the protective glass top was broken and gone.   If you have been reading the blog for a while, then I am sure you know what we had to do first.   We stripped that old finish right off, using our state of the art water based stripping system.
 Or next task was to complete some minor repairs to the frame.  Some of the joints had come apart so it was really quite incapable of holding glass as it was supposed to.  After we did our prep sanding our clients came by and we 'tried on' stain colors until they were happy.   We always do this for our customers so that they get exactly the look they are hoping for.

The color they went with is called 'Provincial' and they chose to have us apply a 'Semi-Gloss' finish over the top.  That color and sheen look stunning on this table.  It really allows the beautiful 'book & butt' match veneer to gleam.  We love it when the wood and the stain come together to make such a great pairing.  This table does have a glass protective top, which will keep the veneer from getting water rings, etc and should serve to persevere the finish.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Smoothing the Grain Pattern

 Today I want to show you one of our little 'tricks that we use in finishing.  Often, our clients want a perfectly smooth finish on their furniture. Wood naturally has texture to it.  If you have furniture hade out of wood with open pores, then you will see little divits wherever those pores are, even once the finishing process is complete.  So to smooth this texture out for your clients, we can do something called a 'pore filler'.  That is what you see in this first picture.
This paste fills in the grain and once the excess in removed you will have a perfectly smooth surface, as you see in this second picture.  The pore filler does leave color in the grain, so it is important to choose a product that gives color you are happy with.  So you would choose a darker filler if you are using a darker stain, or a lighter filler with a lighter stain.

Once the process of applying and removing the pore filler is complete, we can continue with our regular staining and finishing procedures.  The pore filler simply serves to make a perfectly smooth surface.  It also helps to enhance the natural grain pattern, since that color is left in the pores.  As you can see this buffet top has come out beautifully with this process.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Bridal Cedar Chest

This beauty is actually a project that our Finisher completed for his future bride. Such a romantic and old-fashioned gesture.  Just like this Cedar Chest.  The first step on this project was of course to strip the old worn out finish off.  After that was done, our Finisher could actually see what was going on with the wood underneath.   It turns out that the beautifully 'book and butt' matched Walnut veneer on the top was cracked, chipped and flaking off so badly that he needed to replace it all.   But he is a finisher, not a veneer master, so he went with one piece of really spectacularly marbled walnut veneer instead.  He did a terrific job and it came out beautifully with not a bubble anywhere to be found, and matched the walnut veneer on the face perfectly.

Besides the veneer repair, the other really interesting and unique thing he did to the chest was in the finish itself.  Which makes sense, since this is his area of expertise!   He actually used two different custom stains, one for the walnut veneer, and one for the rest of the wood.  The Walnut veneer received a mix of Dark Pine and Jacobean.  Jacobean is a very dark, almost black shade.  The rest of the cedar chest (legs, trim, etc) received a mix of  Dark Pine and Natural.

After all that stain was applied,  Our Finisher took some extra steps to make this cedar chest even more exotic.  Using a gold gilding paste, he accented the spiral shaped trim on the face,  all of the medallions, the hollows on the legs, and the trim all the way around the lid.  He didn't want a bright, stark gold look though, so over the gold gilding paste he used a Dark Brown Glaze, which almost 'antiqued' the gold.   Over all of this,  the custom stains,  the gilding paste, and the glaze,  he applied a water based Semi-Gloss sheen finish.   The cedar chest now looks like a beautiful jewel,  very appropriate as a gift for his future bride.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Secret Finish On An Old Rocking Chair

The owner of this rocker came in with the intention of having it stripped and refinished. This is an example of one of the rare instances where we do our best to persuade the customer to take a different approach. The alligatored finish on the seat of this chair is not a worn out aged finish, but a very intentional decorative design. She was easily persuaded  to save the original, and we simply cleaned waxed, and polished the chair.
While the chair looks beautiful, and we were clearly able to preserve the finish,  the customer really just didn't feel happy with the black.  So she brought it back to us to see if there was anything else we could do to keep the chair's historic quality, but not have the chair black anymore.   

We could see a little bit of a greenish color under the black, and where the black was more worn, we could see little areas of green.  So we decided to try and remove just the black by scrubbing by hand, without having to put it through the stripping system, which would have removed everything!  Once we got below the black layer, we could see a beautiful old green painted finish appear, and a very cool red 'alligator' painted finish on the seat.   What also emerged was some striping over the green paint, and what looks to be an old decal on the center of the back.   Once we successfully removed all of the black coating, we cleaned the rocking chair and then proceeded to wax and polish it.    Waxing and polishing is very labor intensive work, especially on a piece such as this with all those spindles and stretchers.  But, it really is the best way to make an old finish look beautiful again, while still preserving the historical value of the piece. 

The chair really looks beautiful now, and we have succeeded in making our customer happy.  We retained the original historical value of the rocking chair, while getting rid of the black she so disliked.  Of course,  this chair's own unique history helped us achieve that aim.  Without that beautiful green and red layer hiding under the black coating, we would not have been able to accomplish our goal. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Working On A Piece Of History

We have the honor of working on all kinds of family heirlooms here at our shop, but not often do we get to work on pieces of history quite this old.  You see this is not just any Windsor Chair,  this is an original Windsor Chair from approximately 1770.  Which makes this a very old chair!  Because it is so old, we didn't do very much to it.  We simply cleaned, waxed and polished it, leaving the original finish in place.
To help you understand why this chair is so special, besides it's age, let me tell you just a little tiny bit about the history of Windsor Chairs.   'Legend has it that King George 2nd, seeking shelter from a storm, arrived at a peasant cottage and was given a multi-spindeled chair to sit on.  It's comfort and simplicity impressed him so much that he had is own furniture-maker copy it- and the Windsor vogue was born' according to the Treasury of American Design and Antiques by Clarence P. Hornung.

By 1730 the Windsor Chair had begun to make it's way to the American Colonies, where furniture makers immediately began perfecting the design, and making it a quintessential American chair. The best known version of the Windsor chair is called a 'hoop back' chair.  This is the same version as you can see in the photo above.  This particular style of chair gained prominence right around the American Revolution and was the style of choice in the homes of many founding fathers including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson,  John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.  In fact it was so popular during this era that cabinetmaker Francis Trumbull was commissioned to make over 100 of these chairs for the Philadelphia State House where the Declaration of Independence was drafted in 1776. 
If you look at the chairs in this engraving by Edward Savage (circa 1776) of the signing of the Declaration, you can see the very same hoop back Windsor Chairs being used in that State house,  as the design of the chair we had in our shop.  That is exciting!  While I am sure this chair we had in our shop was not in Independence Hall,  it was certainly from the same era.  There are several great websites that do a great job of explaining the important place that Windsor Chairs had in the history of the United States.  One of those sites had this great paragraph.....

Looking back through American history, Windsor chairs can be seen in many notable places as documented through paintings. As a matter of fact, George Washington himself fancied Windsor chairs - with a recorded 27 Windsor chairs at his Mount Vernon home.  Thomas Jefferson is said to have written a draft of the Declaration of Independence while seated in a Windsor. When the Declaration was signed in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall on July 4, 1776, the assembly sat in Windsors. Washington’s officers sat in Windsor chairs at Fraunces Tavern in New York City to listen to his farewell speech. In more recent history, Henry Francis du Pont, the founder of Winterthur Museum in Delaware, had 250 Windsor chairs in his collection.

For more from that site check out this weblink...

Other interesting pages you might want to check out are here...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Restoration of A 1900's Armoire

 We are moving along on the restoration work of an 1900's French Armoire.  I don't know if you can understand the scale from the photo above, but is is a very large, tall, impressive piece of furniture.  Unfortunately someone left it stored where it sat in water and the intricate veneer work became damaged as you can see in the two following pictures.  These photos capture just a small percentage of the really quite extensive veneer damage.
 Any veneer that has turned grey and lifted away from the base wood, has been damaged by the water.  It turns brittle, discolored and has to be completely replaced.  Because of all the precise angles at which the veneer was originally cut,  this made our repair job much more difficult.  We had to exactly match the original cuts and angles, any error and it would stand out like a big reg sign.
 Besides all the veneer that had to be repaired,  some of the doors and panels were warped or swelled, because of the water damage.  In some cases we needed to plane the edges down to fit into their frames,  in other cases such as in the photo to the left, we had to re-soak the wood and clamp it down as it dried, so that it would dry flat.   We also had to completely replace the veneer on the doors which was lengthy work.

Now that the repairs are just about completed, it is time to move on to the next phase.  The entire piece has to be prep sanded, stained and finished.  Our client is coming in this weekend to choose her stain color and I am looking forward to seeing what she decides to go with.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Hexagon Table Gets A Makeover

 This hexagonal table came to us with badly damaged veneer on the top.  We had to do extensive and delicate repairs, but it came out remarkably well.  The veneer had lifted and pulled away from the table top, all along the dark grain lines.  Each of these 'lifted' areas had to be glued back down and clamped flat.  It is really quite difficult to get the glue down under the damaged veneer, without breaking it or making the damage worse.

Once all the veneer repair was done, it came time for refinishing.  We had already stripped the old finish off before the repair work.  So at this point, we needed to do our prep sanding so that the wood was in optimal condition for taking the stain.  After that was completed, we stained the entire piece with a Dark Pine stain, and then covered it with a Satin sheen finish.  The beauty of using one kind of wood for the majority of the table, and then a different species of veneer for the center, is that you can stain the entire piece with the same color, but it will have an 'accented' look because the wood will take the stain differently.