Friday, May 21, 2010

Pull up a Chair

I've said it many times before to different clients that a chair is not always a chair in the sense that you know what to expect in the refinishing/repair of it (the same could be said for a table or credenza).

There seems to be a very common misconception that just because it is a chair (maybe because it is small), it should be less work than a table or any other various larger pipeces of furniture. This couldn't be further from the truth.

They are generally a little more time consuming and difficult to properly design and build, and build to last. The same often times holds true with the restoration and refinishing process of these beasts of burden. These are very delicate items, that over time, with all of the stress and strain we tend to put on them, are truly tested to thier limits. Many times when they come to me for a 'little tlc' or a 'touch up', many times unbeknownst to the client, they are in need of much more. After many years of experiencing this, you know more what to look for, but it has taken many years to get to the point where I recognize the tell tale signs. They are obvious to me now, but to many they are not. This is just an example of such a case. Just had a really good oppurtunity to shoot this one step by step, so I took full advantage of it.

This is one of those chairs (from the 60's I would hazard to guess) that is made of a sturdy white oak (good material by the way) and made to resemble walnut in color.
This could, in my opinion, sit along side any other high end modern designer chair and be quite comfortable with itself once the restoration is complete.

It came in originally just needing a tune up (there were a couple of obviously loose dowels, but the whole chair seemed a bit shakey), but I felt like the finish was pretty worn and gunked up over the years of use it had, not to mention some heavy scratches, so we collectively decided to refinish.

I will normally try to match what would be the natural aged patina of the original finish without all of the gunkiness and build up so you can actually see the woodgrain (in certain cases it is masked only because it is the nature of the original finish). I do this by using and mixing my own stains and toners again with many years of trial and error to perfect this process. (sometimes using a toner rather than a stain so as not to go too dark or too deep).
So..........after a stripping and a good sanding, it became more apparent that the dowel joints on this piece were very loose and in several more places than we'd originally thought (Again, this is not uncommon for a chair of this age) so I began loosening all of the joints to completely separate them so as to get the glue in all the right places, otherwise you are wasting your time and efforts. This also is a very delicate process. You don't want to break the joints, just separate, clean and re-glue/clamp them, also taking note here not to get glue on any of the surrounding surfaces (taping) as this can block out any finish/stain you try and apply later making it appear blotchy at best.
I have included many pictures here to show the clamping/glueing process. We also discovered that there was some ply separation at the arm, so I fixed that as well (thanks to the handy glue syringes I keep around). After all of this we were finally able to complete the sanding, apply the toner, tighten up all of the screws and add the new walnut buttons to cover the screw holes and finish with a nice satin clear coat and a final coat of carnuba wax.
This probably sounds very difficult and was too detailed/verbose. The truth of the matter thgou, is this is still the simplified version.

I hope you enjoyed the snapshot of this restoration. Hopefully it will help more in the understanding and appreciation of chairs in all of thier many forms.

dowel joints for back outer rails

inner dowel joints for front to back rails (see arrows)

dowel joints for rails from front to back under arms (arrows)

dowel joints for front rail left to right

ply seperation on arm of underside of chair damage/repair/clamp (with and without flash)

Toner applied after final sanding (with and without flash)

new buttons applied after screws tightened with grain aligned
(several angles with and without flash)

top angle with toner applied (so you can see arms)

several angles with finish applied

wax applied

And finally the chair put back together

Monday, May 17, 2010

Projects and Side Projects

Sorry I have not posted in a while. I guess from my point of view, that is a good sign. What with all of the BPE recordings, record makings (our new record is set to be released in June or July andI'm very excited about it) , BPE and Saddle Tramp shows, I get very little time to do this. Not to mention my main purpose for this outlet, the realm of furniture restoration and refnishing of mid century gems. (which as of late has been very busy and ever growing in the sense of restoration proper). I have had many challenging and sometimes perplexing, mind altering experiences in the furniture business. (one of which was a rosewood Finn Juhl credenza with a badly bowed top and carcass, having to be steamed and clamped several times to straighten, but with the original design (as much as I love Finn Juhl) in my humble opinion, being slightly flawed, needing to be re-structured to support it's own weight.) I have definitely had my work cut out for me and am continueing, even after 15 years to learn more about something I truly love and realize more and more that there is always more to learn. You truly can 'never step in the same river twice.'