Monday, July 30, 2012

1880's Kitchen Clock Restored

This beautiful 'Gilbert & Co.' Kitchen Clock once belonged to my grandparents.   I remember seeing it at the top of their stairs when I went to visit.  Sometimes when I had 'overnights'  they would wind it up for me so that I could hear it chime.  I loved that sound.   I remember hearing my Grandfather talk about listening to that chime.  He had fond memories of it chiming in the background, while he was on the phone courting my Grandmother.  I was so happy to inherit the clock and all the memories and history that go along with it.  

The clock is very old though and was looking dull.  The beautiful wood grain was almost hidden beneath aged shellac.  As Shellac grows older ind becomes darker and looses it's shine.   If left long enough it can actually become black, especially if it is exposed to smoke or was a dark shellac to begin with.
To restore the finish on this clock we first removed all the clock mechanisms, doors, glass, etc. We then dipped all of the wooden parts into an Alkaline bath.  If dipped long enough the shellac could have come off completely.  But we just wanted the outer layer removed so it was a quick dip for this clock.  

We then were able to apply new layers of Orange Shellac over the original shellac to restore the clock to it's original appearance.   We are actually the only shop in California that is licensed to use Shellac.  It is part of a special historical finishes permit that we have.  This permit allows us to restore pieces such as this clock, and use the original type of finish.  Pretty neat right?

Unfortunately in the life of this clock the glass did break.  That happens to glass sometimes.  To complicate the issue, this glass had a very unusual gold art print on it.  The good thing is, there are still glassmakers out there who make reproduction prints specifically for clocks such as this.  I was able to find a re-production gold print from the very same clockmaker as the original!  

This Kitchen Clock is once again in beautiful condition.  The finish gleams and it now sits proudly at the top of my stairs, right where it should be.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Restored Mirror Frame

#1, A sadly broken frame.  With so many small broken pieces, we had to start from scratch.

#2, The mold we made so that we could exactly re-create the scroll work.  We put this mold over a wooden base for stability.

#3,  The new scroll work has been attached to the frame, now it needs a very skilled hand to match the color work.

#4  The frame is done!  Looking at it now, no one would ever guess that it had been broken.  The new scrollwork matches seamlessly with the original frame.  Each frame we restore here at the shop has it's own problems needs it's own special approach.  But we love a challenge and are so happy with how this challenge came out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

1930's Dining Table

 We just completed work on a stunning 1930s dinning room table and buffet server.  We only worked on the top surfaces, as they were the parts that had become worn and marred with age.  We took the finish off so that we had bare wood to work with.  It was then sanded and and prepped.  This time our 'prepping' required some extra work because our client really wanted the smoothest appearance possible for their pieces.  We used a purplish 'pore filler'  which goes on like putty and then has to be sanded off.  This filler makes the surface really smooth and hides the porosity that is a normal wood characteristic.

We used a 'natural' tone stain on this table, which means all that gorgeous color is from the Mahogany wood itself.  No dyes on this table!  Over that stain we applied a 'semi-gloss' sheen finish.  This finish was then hand polished to bring up the shine.   The hand polishing + the pore filling gave this table a very high shine. It is almost reflective.

The photo below really shows off that 'reflective' quality of the table's new finish.  I can't help but imagine the elegant dinner parties of old that were centered around this dinning table.  It is now in beautiful enough condition again that hopefully it will host many more festive soirees.

Monday, July 16, 2012

African Padouk Coffee Table

Check out the exotic wood on this coffee table!  Have you ever seen such a vibrant red/pink?  It is a rare african wood called Padouk and that is it's natural color!  No dyes or stains were used to achieve this appearance.  When freshly cut, it is a very bright red, but when exposed to sunlight it fades over time to a warm brown.  It is native to central and tropical africa.  It can grow hundreds of feet tall.  Localy, it is used to make canoes and sculptures and furniture.  Due to it's resonant quality it has become popular for western instruments, such as guitars.   It has a bright red sap which is used as a dye for red cloth. The leaves are used in herbal medicines to heal various skin problems such as parasites and fungal infections.  Seems like a pretty diversely used wood to me!

Padouk has quite an interesting history of use, ranging from Biblical Kings to Rail cars.  For more of it's story, check out this link...

This coffee table came to us with an ugly faded finish on it.  The underside was still beautiful, but the surface had clearly faded from the sun.  We are looking forward to choosing stain colors and finish types with our clients.  A natural stain would really allow than exotic color to shine through, but they may choose to tone it down a bit with a brownish stain.  We shall see!   And I will let you all know how the project ends up looking.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fabricated Table Braces

I bet you can't guess what the pieces of wood in the above picture are for!   They don't have a useful function, they are purely a decorative piece. Can't guess?  That's ok, I am going to tell you anyway.

They are decorative corner braces for a dining room table.  Our client brought the upper one to us and asked us to make two more, as she was missing a couple.  As simple as this may seem off hand, it is actually a very tricky job.  It requires the use of different router bits, a jig and a 'forstner bit', to exactly re-create the carving from the original.  The 'forester bit' was used to make that circular indentation, it creates an exact circle, while removing the wood as it carves.    Once all that is set, it all has to be reversed to create the carving on the mirror-image corner brace.   

Of course,  that is just the fabrication process.  We haven't begun to talk about the color work necessary to mimic the look of an aged 'original' finish.  As challenging as all those little steps may be,  we have the people here for the job.  As you can see, it came out beautifully.  These corner braces are now on proudly in place on the dining room table,  and no one would ever notice they weren't original.  Now that is a job well done!

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Dresser Repair

 I often feel like we are 'all the king's horses and all the king's men' here at the shop, trying to put together furniture pieces which are completely fallen apart.   This isn't quite as bad as some other pieces we have had (see our 'humpty dumpty posts here and here...)  but it was pretty close.  This dresser was in such bad repair, that we couldn't stand it on it's feet, and when we moved it back into our work area, there were even more seams coming loose.  This was a case of significant glue failure, fortunately we are able to do something about that kind of problem.
We had much better success then the 'kings cavalry' in that famed story.  To begin with, we need to take apart any joints or seams that were loose, we wouldn't want to glue one part, only to have another part collapse!  So once all loose seams were dealt with, we went about the task of re-gluing the entire piece with hide glue.  Hide glue is the oldest know glue that is still in use today.  It was found in items that were buried in the pyramids! We used hide glue on this piece because that is what it was originally glued with.  Hide glue can last pretty much forever, as long as it is kept in indoor conditions.  If it is in high heat or high humidity conditions (such as grandma's attic) the glue will fail.