Welcome to my blog which follows my furniture restoration business. Please feel free to comment at the bottom of the post, and if you would like a response please leave your email address. you can also contact me directly at info@johnmarkpower.com. And by all means, if you like something please feel free to share it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Waxing Furniture

I thought it might be nice to take a break from the restoration posts and star an new section on furniture care. This post and other posts can be accessed at any time by clicking on the label to the right entitled "Furniture Care".
When customers ask me how to care for their newly restored furniture, thew first thing I tell them is that they can wax their furniture on occasion. When I return a restored piece to a customer I almost always apply paste wax to it. This helps to protect the finish and also evens out the look of the piece. Paste wax only needs to be applied every year or so. I have several pieces that I waxed four or five years ago now that still look great! Even if you never apply paste wax to a piece that I have restored for you this is valuable knowledge because you can preform this procedure on any piece of furniture, no matter what the finish is. It will improve the overall look of a piece dramatically.

The first step is to assemble the right materials. Below are photos and descriptions of the products I use:

1) Minwax Special Dark Paste Wax Minwax makes two different types of paste wax, Special Dark and Natural. For most furniture I use Special Dark because it will darken crevasses and scratches that might otherwise jump out. I use Natural paste wax on plank bottom seats because if there is any wax build up it might rub off on someones pants and natural is better than dark brown! Here is a link to a supplier: www.rockler.com
For those who have a little extra money to invest in wax there is also Harrel's Paste Wax.
Harrels is a blend of different waxes and is applied a little easier than the Minwax and also buffs easier. It is also more than twice the price. Here is a link to a supplier:
2) Steel Wool
As for steel wool. The most widely available is Rhodes American. Steel wool comes in grades from coarse to fine. Below is a chart of the grades and their uses:
The grade you need to by is #0000 this is the finest of steel wool and will abrade the finish without cutting through. below is a photo of the product:

You can pick up steel wool at most hardware stores. Here is a link to a supplier:
3) Cheese Cloth
You will need cheese cloth or a fine cotton cloth to apply and to buff the wax. you can pick up cheesecloth at the grocery store or use an old T-shirt.
Now that you have all of the Materials necessary lets get started!
A good piece to start on would be a chest of drawers. you can start wit the top because it is a smaller flat surface.
1) Abrading the finish.
Take a piece of #0000 steel wool out of the package and unroll it. Then fold it so that the steel wool is about the size of your hand. Once this is done you take the steel wool and rub the finish WITH THE GRAIN!! If you are not sure about grain orientation give me a call and I can explain it. You can apply a fair amount of pressure as you rub the finish. the finish can be abraded in short strokes (especially on the edges) but I usually finish with long strokes.
Once you have abraded the finish with the steel wool it should have an even dullness to it. There will also be dust on the piece. You should remove this dust with a clean piece of cheese cloth before applying the wax.
2) Applying the wax.
Take a piece of cheese cloth and ball it up so that there is a flat side to it. dip the cloth in the wax and get a fair amount on the rag. you should avoid having clumps of wax on the rag. The idea is to apply a thin even coat of wax onto your furniture, not to smear it on.
When you have the wax on the rag begin on the side of the furniture farthest from you. apply the wax in 3" to 4" circles. as you circle on the wax move from one side to the other. The result is that you will have a band of circles that goes from one side to the other. When you have achieved this, go back over the band moving from side to side with the grain to straighten the band into one long band versus a series of circles. Once this is done repeat this process until the whole piece is covered. Do not wait until the end to straighten your circles, because the wax dries and you will see the circles after buffing.
the reason to apply the wax in a circular motion versus straight with the grain is that if you miss a spot you have a dull area. Applying in a circular motion gives better coverage and also fills any pore or scratch better.
Once you have applied the wax wait about 5 minutes for the wax to dry. Once the wax has dried you can start to buff with a clean piece of cheese cloth. buff from side to side with the grain and buff until a sheen starts to develop. You might turn your cheese cloth over periodically to expose a clean surface. the idea with buffing is to remove any excess wax. Once you do this you should see a difference in your finish.
If you see a dull spot that you missed, repeat the the procedure in that area only. It should go away.
After the wax is applied it will be streaky for a little while. the Harrels wax is better at being less streaky. Once the wax has had further time to dry you can buff it again.
In terms of dusting you can remove dust by wiping the finish (and the wax) with a clean cheese cloth.
That is all there is to it. If you run into problems please feel free to contact me with questions.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Completed Chairs

Below are some photos of some completed work I have done recently. the first is a photo of the rocker I was working on. It is followed by some photos of the Gustave Stomps chairs being glued up and the chairs after gluing.
Gluing the replacement carving on the chair bottom
Gluing two of the Gustave Stomps chairs
Another shot of the four Stomps chairs.

Repairing a cracked seat

The photos below are of a dining chair which I was asked to glue up. One other problem with this chair was that the seat had a crack running with the grain from back to front. On a plank bottom chair, this would mean gluing the two sections together, but on this particular chair, the seat had boards underneath preventing the seat from coming together. The answer was to insert a long wedge in the gap, carve it down so that it was flush, and touch the wedge up to look like the rest of the seat.
The wedge was cut at a 5 degree angle on the table saw and several kerfs were cut into the wedge across the grain so that it would bend to conform with the seat.
The chair with the spline inserted in the seat. the joinery was also getting glued up on the chair.A close up of the wedge. you can see the places where the wedge was cut to conform to the shape of the seat.The wedge after most of the excess material has been removed.The seat after it has been sanded and touched up.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Art Nouveau Mahogany Rocking Chair (ca.1930-50)

I recently received a Mahogany rocker that has an Art Nouveau style overall. This being said, I don't feel that this rocker dates to the turn of the century. The construction and condition of the chair lead me to believe it was made sometime between 1930-1950.

Whatever the date, this is a nice rocker! it has a wide carved seat and looks to be very comfortable. the crest of the rocker has carved White Oak leaves in it and all of the turnings are very nice.
The main repair of this chair was that the rocker had come off. In addition, there was some loose joinery underneath the seat. below are some photos of the rocker being glued on and the finish after it had been cleaned.
The rocker being glued on.The crest rail with the Oak leaf carving.Here is a close up of the carving.Another photo of the rocker with the restored finish.

Four More Gustave Stomps Chairs

Upon returning the two Gustave Stomps chairs I recently worked on I was presented with four more which were in need of gluing. In addition, two were missing a piece that is applied under the front of the seat of the chair. the customer had one, which I used as a template to create the second. Her are some photos of the piece being made as well as some photos of two of the chairs being glued.
The blank cut on the band saw. the piece has a curve to it that matches the curve of the seat. the wood here is Walnut.
The piece (on the top) after it has been cut to resemble the template piece.The piece (on top) after it has been stained.One of the chairs disassembled for cleaning of the joinery.The above chair being glued up.A second chair being glued.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Completed American Empire Tables

Below are some photos of the two American Empire "Pillar and Scroll" Tables I have been working on completed. The first table is the work table with drop leaves. If you look at previous posts you can see how different this piece looked when it arrived. Besides the repairs, the overall color of both tables lightened considerably due to being cleaned. In addition, the grain can be seen much more clearly.

The work table with the leaves up.

The work table with the drop leaves down.

The pedestal or center table .

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

G Stomps & Co. Chairs (1870-1890)

I received two walnut chairs from a customer that needed the seats caned and the arms tightened. I would call these chairs Renaisance Revival due to the date of manufacture and the overall style. After having the seats caned I was gluing the arms when I came across a stamp on the underside of one of the chairs. between the two chairs I could make out that the stamp read " R.P. Burkhardt's Patent Manufactured by G. Stomps & Co. Dayton, Ohio". After doing some research I found out that this company was a partnership between Gustave Stomps (1827-1890) and R.P. Burkhardt and operated under several different names for the last half of the 19th century in Dayton, Ohio. The company operated as "G Stomps & Co." from December 1869 until 1890 when they changed the name to " Stomps-Burkhardt Company. For a Detailed look at the life of Gustave Stomps and some Biographical information on R.P. Burkhardt as well follow the two links below.The info on Stomps is about two thirds of the way down the page. The info on Burkhardt is under the heading of Frank Burkhardt. Here are the links:

One of the chairs with it's arm removed.Gluing the arm back on.Gluing both arms and some loose joinery on the other chair. You can see the new cane in all of these photos.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

More work on the two tables

Below are several additional photos of repairs made to the two Pillar and Scroll tables I am working on.

This is a photo of more veneer being glued down on the base of the two drawer stand. Gluing down more veneer.
The base needed to have some molding replaced. The two pieces in the photo below were used againThe new piece of molding ready to be cut to shape. The new molding in place. I drilled holes for the old nails to go through. they hold the piece together. The molding is sandwiched between the base and the pillar and glued in place.
The base of the two drawer stand being glued.
The top of the pedestal table once it has been sanded and stained.Starting to coat the top of the pedestal table in the bottom of the photo you can see more veneer being glued down.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Cabinet Makers Assistant: Pillar and Scroll Design

Happy New Year! I have been working on two American Empire pieces which I have written several previous posts about. The first is a pedestal table and the second is a drop leaf two drawer stand. In researching these pieces I discovered that they are both part of a sub-category of American Empire which is called "Pillar and Scroll" furniture. This style of design came about during the later years of the American Empire movement and seems to have come into fashion around 1840. This coincided with the publication of "The Cabinet Makers' Assistant, Embracing the Most Modern Style of Cabinet Furniture" written by Baltimore Maryland architect and cabinetmaker John Hall in the same year. In doing my research I came across a reprint from 1944 of this publication and purchased it.

This publication of John Hall's design book in 1840 marked several firsts in the manufacture of furniture in America. First, This was the first design book published in the United States that promoted American designs. This being said, the "Pillar and Scroll" style was heavily influenced European styles but the particular construction methods and overall design of the pieces were something new.

Another first is that this marks a change in direction in furniture manufacture. As it became easier to produce furniture in a mass production setting with the use of mechanical tools like a band saw it became necessary to design furniture that could be constructed in this fashion with ease. The "Pillar and Scroll" style answered this calling. The forms were cut (using a band saw) out of a secondary wood like Pine or Poplar. The Mahogany veneers were then applied to the forms to produce an individual section. Usually there was no decorative carving and pieces could be put together rapidly and efficiently.
Below I have included some pages from the reprint I obtained. they deal with the design elements of the pieces I am working on.
The inside cover of the book.
This page shows different shapes used for the base of tables and the feet. It is interesting to note that Hall designed these pieces to have separate feet. In most of the examples I have seen of this furniture, the feet were cut from the same form as the base. The page also shows some pillar designs.

This page shows dimensional drawings of the base and also some more pillar designs.
Hall refers to these tables as Ladies' Work Tables. The piece I am working on is a mixture of the two. the top half resembles the drawing on the left while the bottom half the drawing on the right. One other point o interest. I notices that on the four bottom corners of the top section, the piece had been turned and then something sawed off. My guess is that they may have originally built the piece with legs and then decided to put on a base instead or that the piece had drop finials like the piece on the right which were later cut off.
Here are two designs for what hall calls Center Tables. The piece I am working on resembles the piece on the right.