Small elm bedside stand, Part 2 “Scars to your beautiful”

Part one is here.

Even though I didn’t start working on the top first, I’m going to talk about it here first because the biggest decisions I had to make about the restoration were related to the top.

First, a couple more pictures of the damage.

A few observations I made right away were that the damage was deep. I wasn’t sure how deep, but I would soon find out. The second was that the boards that make up the top were very different and there was no attempt to arrange them in a way that blended the grain. That is just a lost opportunity with something as beautiful as elm. The feathery grain is distinctive and makes it one of the most beautiful of all the woods.

The feathery grain is what makes elm so distinctive and beautiful.

I did also notice that the sides of the piece also showed the lost opportunity as the boards were not arranged for either side. I’m pretty sure this piece was made in an automated shop. Either that or the assembly line that the workers were on didn’t allow them the time to make these types of decisions.

As I looked at the fire damage, I had a couple of options running around in my head. If it was too deep I could take enough material off of the top to make it flat and then laminate some new elm on top. I could also take out material just from the portion of the top that was damaged (the left 1/3 of the top) and then laminate new material in. I dismissed this last one right away because that would have left a long line down the top where the new and old wood meet. I decided that I just did not want to introduce any new material to the top if I could help it, so I got out my hand plane and my scrapers and got to work.

At this point I was really worried that the damage had gone too deep.
Put some alcohol down to see what the grain would look like after finishing. Still a long way to go.

After working on the top for a while, I really started to worry that the damage had simply gone too deep and that I would have to laminate material on to the top. But I did actually reach a point where I felt that the damage was not the first thing you would see.

The damage to the left side meant that the edge was more rounded over than the undamaged side, so I just rounded over the undamaged side and called it a day. When I run my fingertips over both sides, it is not distracting, and you can’t really see that the edge is not as sharp as it could be.

I don’t have a lot of pictures of the colouring process, because it was more of a matter of colour matching the different boards than it was to match the top to the rest of the piece. But eventually, I got to a point where I could leave it alone and work on the rest of the piece.

Leaving it alone for now.
Using the door to match the colour to.
Before and after.

I’m happy with how it’s turned out so far, and any further tweaks I feel need to be made can be done with wax.

Now on to the rest of the carcase.

Small elm bedside stand, Part 1

I’ve started my next restoration projects so I’ll begin here by introducing you all to the one that’s in the worst shape. The elm stand as a whole is not in terrible shape, but the top has substantial fire damage. I’m not yet sure if the top can be repaired or if it will have to be replaced. I’m hoping I can save it.

My first project of 2022. A nice little elm bedside stand.
Significant fire damage to the top.
Can this be repaired? Tune in next week, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel!
Can’t really see it from here, but the panels are severely warped. They are solid elm.

It will get new hinges, pulls and knobs. I’ll also be replacing the casters, which are missing, with good brass and wood-wheeled casters.

The bottom is pine and is heavily warped. I doubt that I’ll put much effort into this part and will probably just replace it.

Is the bottom worth keeping?

There will be some minor repairs to the feet and legs, but nothing to write home about. My next posts will cover the repairs in detail.

Slant top secretaire restoration, Part 6 – final

Last post on this project as it is finished and ready to go back to its owners. Lots of before and after pictures, but you can find the entire process here.

Before…
And after.

Replaced all of the hardware (locks, hinges, pulls, escutcheon).

Slant top secretaire restoration, Part 5 1/2

Just wanted to post a quick update on her foot surgery. The procedure was a success and she is already standing and using her new toe.

Before the operation.
With her splint.

All the major repairs and restoration are now complete and I’m now working on the sides and some of the egg and dart moulding. Very close to being done.

Slant top secretaire restoration, Part 5

So, even with all the physical repairs that I’ve done on this piece, the portion of the restoration that has taken the most time and required the most precision is the hardware. I have replaced the slant top hinges, the slant top lock, the large drawer locks, the front door hinges, and the front door lock. The front door hinges took the longest of anything because they require the most accuracy, with the slant top hinges a close 2nd.

When I started this project, I wasn’t even sure that I’d be able to find the hardware I was looking for. I began my search on eBay and found some great hardware (for future projects), but nothing that I could use on this project. I then went to Van Dykes Restorers and found some very good possibilities for the hinges, but eventually moved on to Hardware of the Past (before they closed shop) for the escutcheons and the lock for the slant top.

Slant top lock replacement.
New lock in situ.

The hinges for the slant top were worrisome on many levels for me because not only was I repairing damage from previous repairs, but I then needed to fit and mount new hinges.

Can’t really see it from this angle, but the damage to the slant top meant that the hinge screws were about to tear out.

I had thought about leaving the mortises for the hinges and just trying to find a hinge the same size, but that was a no-go. There had been quite a few repairs and I wanted to make sure that my repairs were on solid ground, so I mortised out a lot of the previous repairs and then laminated in patches for the hinges as well as the damage to the edge of the lid.

That looks a right mess there.

I wrestled with the idea of laminating a strip all the way across the lid, but that would have been an unnecessary removal of a lot of original material.

Fitting the hinges.
Waiting for the correct (flat head) screws and a couple coats of shellac.

I then moved on to the locks for the large drawers. After the comedy that was me trying to remove the original lock from the lid, the drawers were very straightforward.

Replacement locks for the large drawers.

The front doors were the most fiddly of the hardware because I didn’t use the hinges that were there (they weren’t the originals), the doors hadn’t been hung correctly, and I had to repair some significant damage to one of the doors where a hinge had been torn off.

Some damage to the door.
Wash, rinse, and repeat for the other door.
After fitting and coloring.

I mortised the hinges into the doors and into the sides and the doors now close with a wonderfully small and uniform gap all around and the astragal covers the gap between the doors beautifully. I don’t have a picture of that yet, but it’s coming.

After all of that fiddly stuff, the podiatrist is finally in and will fix my lady’s broken toe.

Tune in next time. Same Bat Time. Same Bat Channel.

Oak Coffer Observations, Part Three

This post continues from my previous. One of the things about this piece that caught my eye was the newspaper lining. At first, I wasn’t sure what it was because I was mostly interested in the exterior carving, patina, damage, and hardware. But after we got it home (our place in March, Cambridgeshire) I was able to take a closer look at the interior and realized that my hunch was right, and the newspaper lining was probably old as well.

The first thing I did was try to find a date, which ended up being September 21, 1872. I found a couple of other pages with the same date, so it is probably all the same issue of the same newspaper.

I then started looking at the layout of the newspaper within the coffer and realized that it was used not only to protect the contents of the coffer from snagging on the wood but also as a bit of decoration. This coffer was already 200 years old when the owners decided to line it so it’s likely that splinters and ragged edges would have ruined any fabrics that were stored inside.

I also found where the newspaper was from. Norwich, in Norfolk.

We purchased the coffer near Bury St. Edmunds, which is about 40 miles as the crow flies from Norwich, so in its 300 plus history, it probably didn’t stray far from where it was made.

The coffer was likely made in the mid to late 1600s, although there is no provenance and the construction methods did not change significantly between the 1400s and the 1700s except to include other woods like walnut or pine.

In the next post I’ll talk more about how the coffer was built.

Slant top secretaire restoration, Part 4

This is continued from part 3. I’ve made good progress on the secretaire, and I was going to say that it doesn’t look like it, but after going through my previous posts, I take that back.

With her new bling, but still a broken toe.

I’ve made progress on several fronts (and backs). The back frame and panel is finished. I used some 3/4 inch pine for the frame and 1/4 inch plywood for the panel. I cut the pine into 2 1/2 inch rails and stiles and then got out one of my plough planes with a 1/4 iron.

The plough plane (and 1/4 inch iron) I used to cut the channel for the plywood.

A couple of fun facts about the planes to the right in the picture above. The one with the wormholes I got while on a project (my day job) in Georgia. A co-worker and I were driving to the project site when we saw an antique store and had to stop. I found this toothing plane and even though it’s pretty holy, the blade is in great shape. I’ve used it once (I do not collect tools, I use them. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) but I don’t work with thick veneers – yet – so I haven’t had a chance to really put it to use. Next to it are a pair of match planes from Sweden, made in the 1880s. I had been drooling over them at Allen Snyder’s booth at Midtown Antiques in Stillwater for a while, but then forgot about them when they weren’t there any more. Holly had got them for my birthday present.

Back on topic. The frame and panel for the back was pretty straightforward, so I was able to knock it out in a day. The coloring took another couple of days.

Trimming it down to size.
The water based colors that I use. I learned how to use these while at school and have been playing with colors since.
The back-facing side is almost ready. I just realized that I didn’t take any pictures of the front-facing side.
Ignore the shiny fasteners. I haven’t dulled them yet.

I made the back-facing side darker, to match the back that was on here. The front-facing side, I matched to the color and tone of the case.

I also finished the hinges for the slant front and the damaged portion of the lid.

Splicing in the repairs.
The gaps along each side match.
You can see that I haven’t colored the repair here yet.
Edge view of the damaged area.

The next thing I’ve started on is the front doors. You can see the beautiful bevelled glass that I got from my local glazier, Tom Huisman https://www.huismanglass.com/

During my first fitting of the front doors. I’ll have better pictures of the glass later.

I’ll have more pictures of the glass in the doors in a later post. Right now I’m making repairs and replacing the hinges. There had been several repairs of the doors which ended up with a large mortise cut into both doors.

Deep mortises had been cut into both doors for previous repairs.
Damage as well as the deep mortise.

Because of the deep mortises that had been cut into both doors there was nearly an inch gap between the doors when they closed, so the lock could not reach the other door.

Original (non functioning) lock.

I cleaned out the mortises and spliced in some oak.

I then shaved it down with a block plane, spokeshave, and sandpaper.

Next steps will be to fit the new hinges and color the repairs.

I’m really getting close to finishing this piece, and I’m very excited. Once the front doors are done, I’ll finish my touch-ups of the slant top, as it has become something of a distraction. I’ll have better pictures of the hardware in my next post and talk about where I got it.