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.

Slant top secretaire restoration, Part 3

I mentioned in my previous post that the hinges for the slant top portion of the desk would be the most involved part of the restoration. The hinges had been replaced a few times and the hinge shape had changed as well. This not only left random holes but large shapes carved into the shelf and the lid.

It looks like these replacement hinges were a bit of a rush job. The mortise that the hinges are set in is too large for the hinge and the person doing the restoration may have used one chisel to remove the material. It also looks like the hinge may have been installed incorrectly, which then caused a portion of the lid to break off when the lid was opened. This is all speculation, but I like to put myself in their shoes and see if I can find explanations for the things I find.

As you can see there are a couple of different sizes carved into this piece and that along with the damage done to the edge of the lid told me that I need to repair these and not just put new hinges in there.

This is where the project gets challenging because I have to remove material and then splice in new material to make the piece stronger. In this case, I need to remove a section where the lid broke and also remove the material around the old hinge mortise. I then splice in the new material. When I cut these pieces I have to pay attention to grain direction, grain orientation, grain consistency (is it clear straight grain or curvy). In the case of the broken lid portion, I saw that the edge showed the flat sawn side and the flat top showed the quarter sawn. For the hinge pieces, I looked at how the quarter sawn grain ran and oriented the new pieces to mimic that.

Here you can see the flat sawn “cathedral” grain along the edge. This picture was taken after I had shaped the new material with a block plane, spokeshave, chisels, rasps and sandpaper.

In the picture above, you can see that I cut the mortise along the grain and oriented the patch so that the grain followed the surrounding grain. Once the piece was glued I then used a block plane and then sandpaper to bring the material down to level.

In my next post I’ll show the rest of the process of cutting in the new hinges and coloring and blending the repairs.

Small Oak Serpentine Dresser

So, my glacial progress on these first restoration and repair projects has been a bit disheartening, to say the least, but I’m within spitting distance of finishing the small oak dresser, so here we go.

This is the 2nd project in a group of about a dozen that I’ll be working on in between my day job and getting my workshop insulated (which I will write about in another post). It is an oak dresser that originally came with a mirror. The mirror may be in the group of mirrors that I received with these projects, but I have not tried pairing them yet. The dresser is likely early 1900s or, less likely, late 1800s. The drawer fronts and top are solid oak and the interior is in good shape. The casters are original wood wheel and brass and the drawer hardware appears to be original as well.

Serpentine front small oak dresser. It’s in pretty good shape except for some burns, water stains, and other discolouring.

The dresser was not in bad shape but required some work done to the damaged top, so I got out the card scrapers to remove the burns, then filled the shallow divots with shellac which I coloured to match the rest of the top. Some alcohol and a scrubber got out most of the rest. I then put a few coats of shellac and then some dark wax (Kingdom Restorations). Clare, a tutor at the Chippendale International School of Furniture used to say, “Dark wax can hide a plethora of sins.” In this case, it helps even the tone across the top.

I also needed to replace a damaged runner. This was the only “woodworking” needed for the project.

Damaged runner on the bottom.

I then cleaned out the corners of the panels of the frame and panel sides. This may seem like a nit-picky thing, but in this case, I wasn’t going for a heavily patinated look. Getting rid of the black gunk in the corners just sharpened the edges and “youngened” it up a bit.

I replaced the old casters with reproduction casters from Van Dykes Restorations. The new casters are beautifully made and all I needed to do was plug the old holes, then drill new holes for the new casters.

New caster wheels were just a wee bit larger than the old ones, but the larger wheels roll more smoothly over carpet or rugs. The new casters also have ball bearings – very nice.
This picture shows a hole that has been plugged and is ready to be drilled for the new caster.
This shows that on one of the back legs there was some separation between the different sections of the leg, so I used the glue squeeze out from the peg to put those back together.

While I was working on the casters I noticed that when they were making this dresser, they used a table saw or similar to cut the mortises for the side rails.

On this side you can see the kerf of the saw, so it looks like it took 2 passes to get the right width for this tenon.
For the two top short drawers, the saw just went the entire length.

After this I noticed that the stiles for the side panels were starting to separate so I cleaned the old hide glue out and cooked up a few ounces to re glue.

The hardware was not in horrible shape but a few of the bail pulls were either missing rosettes or the rosettes were damaged so I searched E-Bay and found some nice ones and also found some that I liked at Van Dyke’s Restorers. Even though I found some knobs there as well, I decided to keep the original.

Old knobs and new pulls.

One thing I didn’t replace (yet) is the missing escutcheons for the two top drawers. Why, I can’t even begin to say, except that brain farts are real.

I just have a few fiddly bits to finish up like the escutcheons and runner blocks for the drawers to keep them from jamming, but other than that this has turned out to be a very pretty and usable piece of furniture.

Don’t look at the missing escutcheons!
Before re gluing the sides.
Top turned out beautifully. The cigarette burns and other stains came out very well. There is one divot that I didn’t fill because it was wide but shallow and I figured it was not very noticeable. If I had this to do over again, I might put the time into filling and colouring it, but probably not.

I’ll probably take a look at some brighter, shinier hardware for this one, but I doubt that I’ll go with it. I like the darker hardware on this. I will probably post some pictures with the brighter stuff though, just for comparison.