Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Heywood Wakefield Restoration

This is a project I've been working on, off and on for a few weeks now. It's a Heywood Wakefield Encore dresser. I found this (much in need of repair and refinishing) Dresser at one of my favorite local haunts. Didn't realize the back and the bottom was in need of replacing until we started loading it up. As of now, I have the bottom removed and the back (what was left of it) removed. The back and the bottom inner pieces (two 1/4" pieces of birch ply inserted in a tongue and groove solid birch/maple frame) were curling up because of over exposure to some type of moisture, so they will be replaced and re-inserted and then the bottom will be re-atatched. I will use the old back piece for a template to make the new one. I'll also save the old piece of the back with the serial numbers and finish type on it. I have restored many Heywood Wakefield pieces since I have been doing this and perfected a mix for both the Wheat and the Champagne finish. I mix all of my own stains and toners. I only use a certain type because it doesn't mask the grain. (there are about 3 variations of each of these even coming from the original factory and one of these is a little more opaque. I usually prefer (as do most) the lighter version of this because it doesn't mask the beauty of the solid maple graining, so this must definitely be taken into consideration when refinishing) I don't think there are many people in town who completely understand these finishes. It took much trial and error to perfect and there are many steps involved, but the results are beautiful. I have brought many of these back from the dead. This one is especially involved though. I have the top and the sides ready to finish. They have been stripped sanded and all of the gouges (and there were many) raised out and sanded. Here are some pictures of the progression so far. I will post more up as I get further along, so feel free to check back if you like.

Side View Before stripping

Back view before restoration

After stripping

Drawer after sanding with toner applied

Drawers after applying final finish

Bottom of cabinet before removal/restoration

Bottom of cabinet after removal

Top of cabinet after sanding/repair

Back of cabinet before removal

back of cabinet after removal awaiting new backing

This is as it sits now. I am in the process of making the pieces to fit into the bottom and the back. I will probably just add to this post rather than making a new one, so be sure and check back here in a few days if you want to see the progress.

Almost Completed (First Update)

Here are the bottom pieces cut, put in place and clamped to dry

And the bottom piece section put back in place

The back section cut and put back into place...

And finally, the whole piece toned, finished and put back together

All it needs now is for the two broken feet to be made (thanks Tony), put into place and finished and it will be complete. This has been quite an involved restoration, but it is always rewarding to see something like this come back to this. Now, hopefully, with the proper care, it can serve someone for a long time to come. I hope this didn't boar anyone to tears.


  1. Excellent job, I wouldn't mind if we *had* to keep it :)

  2. Wow, Hank this is beautiful, just as all your work is. I am so amazed at the work you do. You have truly found your gift and you are blessed to be able to use it and enjoy the results!

  3. thanks, Rebecca. It's good to know it's being enjoyed.

  4. That is really quality work!! Can I ask what type of stripper you used? What was the progression of
    sandpaper you used, i.e. 150 to 1500? It look great man!

  5. I have an 1870 Wakefield Earth Closet that I thought I could get to re finish,but bad health, age, and some thieves stealing all my tools, I'm finding myself of not finishing it. I'm in search of someone that might be interested. In 30 years plus of dealng antiques,it's the only one I've come across. My intention is to find someone that is willing to purchase and restore. Dealer friends have told me that I might find one in a museum,but... Right now I'm only interested in a proper person to do the proper job. For the most part, it is complete with few bottom boards that need to be replaced. The original finish is gone,and some tongue and groove needs regluing. If you think about it, it' not too bad of a job, just time consuming, but well worth the time for something considered very rare

  6. @ Dennis, sounds like a very interesting project and piece. Unfortunately, right now I am only in the business of restoring and don't have the funds to purchase anything. @ Candice and Gregory, I use a flow over system, professional grade stripper. Normally the job/piece dictates the grades of sandpaper I use. For all you DIY people, it's real easy to learn..... it only takes a few thousand hours. I would suggest not using anything heavier than 150 grit (and that is if it is in very rough shape and it MUST be solid wood, otherwise I woldn't touch it with anything coarser than 220). Really, though, I would have to suggest bringing it to me to finish, as this is how I make my living : )

  7. I found your page searching for people's formulas to replicate the Champagne finish. :) I have a lamp table that needed the top done. I work in a woodworking shop (we do very high end architectural millwork in the NYC residential market....mainly veneer over MDF base)...I am the office manager. :) So that being said, my gang is supervising my efforts so far in the finishing room. I think they are entertained by my wanting to do this project. :) I see lots of info for the DIYer up against finding 'over the counter' products to do the job. I have access to a professional finishing crew/chemicals and products and am hoping to match the color exact to the piece. I was told our finisher can do it! hahaha We also use the Sherwin Williams Kemvar system here and have 2 spray booths. I'm not against having him spray if needed, but I would like to do as much of it as I can myself. So I found afew people's formulas and printed out to give him to review hoping he won't have to reinvent the wheel. I know he probably knows nothing about H-W so I figure the explanations of how the original colors were achieved, etc might help him figure out what he will do. Anyway, hope it turns out well and I'm really enjoying working on it. I told my boss....since I am part time and currently only work M-TH...that if I get good at sanding I might want to pick up Fridays in the shop! ;) We'll see how I do! Your piece looks fabulous!