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Friday, June 26, 2009

Renaissance Revival Secretary Desk (ca.1870)

Assembled desk after removing the finish I am currently in the process of applying the finish to the Renaissance Revival bed that I have been working on and have decided to hold off on showing photos of the project until I have photos of the completed project.

With this in mind I thought it time to write my first post on the Renaissance Revival secretary desk that is a companion to the bed. It is obvious that both pieces belong to a set and were made by the same manufacturer in the same time period. I have learned some additional things concerning these pieces as a result of removing the finish from the desk. the first is that the joinery work was still created by hand. This was a time that saw the mechanization of many things once done by hand, but there are several element of these pieces still created by hand.
The second thing I noted is that these pieces have definately been worked on previously and that the finish is by no means original. The finish that would have been used on pieces like these originally would be a French polish. This is the finish that I will be putting on the pieces.
The Desk is made primarily of Walnut with Poplar as a secondary wood. The use of poplar means tha this piece was made south of Pennsylvania since Poplars do not grow in northern climates enough to use as a secondary wood. In the north pine is traditionally used as a secondary wood.
the finish on the desk was in the same condition as the bed so I removed it. Once the finish has been removed I will make any necessary repairs, replace broken locks, replace the felt on the writing surface, and apply a new finish to the entire piece. Here are some photos of the removal of the finish:

A shelf with the finish removed next to one with the finish intact.

Repairing a crack in the finialRemoving the old felt from the writing surfaceThe writing surface with the felt removed and the finish removed from the lidTwo drawers before the finish was removedA close up of the crackled finish on one of the drawers A view of the side of the desk before the finish had been removed.A close up on the side of the deskThese are the supports for the desk lid. Removing them revealed that the one on the left came from another piece of furniture. My feeling is that this is not original and that when repairs were made and a replacement support needed, the cabinetmaker used walnut tha was at hand. In this case he ripped the piece from a larger baord with finish and gold paint on it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Clamping outside the Box

When repairing the appliques to the walnut bed I am currently working on, I needed a way to clamp the parts while they were gluing. Clamping parts with irregular shapes can be challenging. In this case, the solution was to place the appliques on a board with wax paper (to keep the pieces from gluing to the board). I then used screws as hold downs to secure the pieces in place and bring them together while gluing. the screws also held the backs of the appliques flush against the boards. the process worked and the pieces are re assembled now. I have included some photos below. The first applique in the series is walnut while the grapes and vines are molded paper.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

More repairs on the walnut bed

Before getting to the repair work I thought I would share some more information about the bed.
In addition to the walnut bed, there is a secretary desk with bookcase that goes with it. The secretary deck will be worked on after the bed. The desk shares the same design elements and woods as the bed. the reason I am mentioning this now is that when removing the hardware from the desk I found on the backside of one of the drawer pulls a date. The pulls are constructed of the same compressed paper that was used on the grape and vine motif on the bed. the pulls are also of grape bunches. The date appears to be a stamp in an oval. It looks like the stamp also had a manufacturer name but that has been obscured. I checked the other pulls and several of them also had oval stamps on the back, but none could be read. the Date on the back of the handle either reads 1870 or 1876. In either case, these dates put the bed firmly in the Renaissance Revival period. Below is a photo of the stamp:

Here is a collection of photos of some repair work that I have done:
Attaching loose molding to a side rail.
Wedging a gap in the headboard.The same wedge after it was carved down.Gluing loose joinery on the foot board.
This is a picture of replacement hardware for the bed. The replacement did not fit very well so they nailed the bottom in place so that it wouldn't move. After removing the nails I wedged the gaps beside the hardware to keep it in place. This is structurally more sound as well as looking more attractive. After the glue dried I carved the wedges down so they were flush with the rest of the wood.

Carving new molding for a foot

On the Headboard for the bed I am working on the foot terminates with molding that sits on the floor. the molding is a cavetto (concave) stacked on Ovolo (Convex).

The Molding on one of the feet had been worn down or broken off so the first step in replacing this was to remove the broken wood and glue on a new patch. Below is a photo of the new patch being glued onto the foot:

After the glue had dried I was left with a solid block of walnut which I carved down by hand with chisels and gouges. Here are a before and after photo:

When the piece is finished I will stain the foot to blend in with the rest of the piece.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Renaissance Revival Walnut Bed

My current project is the restoration of a Renaissance Revival walnut bed. The bed is between the size of a full and queen size bed. here is a photo of the bed after the finish had been removed.

The Renaissance Revival movement in furniture lasted roughly between 1860 and 1880 and came into popularity in America after the civil war. It was part of the larger Victorian era and followed the Rococo Revival Movement (1840-1865). Most people refer to this style of furniture simply as "Victorian" which is understandable seeing as how there were several movements within this era which overlapped, and also that furniture makers seemed to borrow design elements and blend them making it difficult to attribute a specific movement to a specific piece.
One of the design elements present in this bed is the applied ovolo molding on the foot board and side rails. The presence of this molding is a key characteristic of the Renaissance Revival movement. In addition, the overall architectural feel of the design matched with its massive proportion also indicates Renaissance Revival. Rococo Revival tends to have curviness as an overall feel. As one movement transformed into the other, design elements were carried over and utilized often making it hard to pin a specific piece down to one particular style. for example, the use of the carved fruit and vine motif on the head and foot board is characteristic of the Rococo Revival movement but is also seen in the Renaissance Revival movement.This bed has enough design elements to place it firmly within the Renaissance Revival movement.

The finish on the bed has a crackled look to it which is probably a result of the use of linseed oil to "feed" the finish. This practice, which is still seen today, is thought to rejuvenate an old lifeless finish. Despite the short term effects, this leads to a softening of the finish since the oil often doesn't dry and eventually the finish below softens and collects dirt, cracking the finish to form this pattern. Below is a photo of the finish:

In Some Cases the finish can be sanded down and then re distributed on the wood through the use of alcohol. Unfortunately, This finish was so damaged that removing the finish was the better option. I also saw several indicators on the piece that this was not the original finish.
Before Removing the finish , I repaired part of the molding on the top of the foot board:

The Fruit and Vine molding are applied to the face of the foot and head board and are actually made from paper or wood fiber. Because of this, care is needed when removing the finish. I removed the carvings from the piece for this reason and also to more easily repair cracks in the carvings.Here are some photos of the Foot board before and after the finish.


In future posts I will detail the repair and refinishing of the piece.

Archetectural Turnings

A builder I work with is restoring the facade of a store front and needed some turnings duplicated because the original turnings had rotted and been repaired too many times. Because of the length of the turnings, it was necessary to turn them in sections. I ended up turning the large tops and bottoms in groups and then the long thinner sections separately. After the turnings were finished, the sections would be ripped on a table saw into quarter turnings and then put in place by the builder. Here are some photos of my part in the process:

The original turnings

Close up of a larger section with ogee molding.

A large turned section.

Several of the Larger turned sections with ogee molding.

A closeup of two of the sections that will be separated later.