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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Walnut Victorian Spool Bed (ca.1850) Part 1

A recent project I have started is to refinish and adapt a Victorian spool bed made of Walnut to fit a standard queen mattress. before getting into the process of converting it, a little history.

Spool beds were originally seen in the 17th century and were made on a treadle lathe powered by a foot pedal. As the 17th century changed the 18th, tastes changed and the spool bed went out of fashion.

With the invention of a lathe powered by steam (or Water) the process of turning became a lot easier in the 19th century as lathes could produce and mass produce turnings quickly. Not only could this be done, but multiple cutter heads could be installed to make a spool turning effortlessly. The result was a resurgence in the popularity of the spool bed as early as 1840 but concretely by the 1850's. These beds are commonly referred to as " Jenny Lind" beds after the famous 19th century Swedish opera singer, who made her debut in America in 1850. Typically, a Jenny Lind bed has rounded corners and is constructed a little differently than the bed I am working on. While I put a date of 1850 on this bed, I believe it was manufactured later, even as late as 1900. I also believe it was turned by hand rather than by a machine with multiple cutter heads (the turnings are all a little different showing the hand of an individual creating each turning one at a time.)

The bed that I received had a Walnut head and foot board that measured 4 feet in width making it what is called a three quarter bed. The original rails had been replaced by longer ones made of pine. The owner of the bed wished to use it as a queen size bed, meaning that head and foot boards needed to be widened by 12 inches (at least).

Rather than cutting the bed or re-turning spindles, we decided to take another approach which was to create a new head and foot board set which would work in conjunction with the original. In addition, we would make new side rails for the bed which could be used with the original head and foot board set or with the head and foot board extenders. Rather than further confuse you, I have provided some drawings of the bed below made with Google SketchUp. But first, some photos of the original head and foot board set.

The head board:
The foot board:
Using SketchUp, I originally sketched the bed with the new rails to show how the finished product would look as a three quarter bed (When drawing the sketches, I decided to leave out the detail of the turnings to save time. The overall feel of the bed is still visible).
Second, I designed the head and foot board extender. This piece is identical on either end of the bed. The original head board fits into the notches in the extender and locks in place using the bed hardware.
These next two sketches are of the bed fully assembled with the extenders in place. The first image is looking at the foot board and the second shows the bed from above.

Before beginning the construction of the extenders and the side rails, I decided to get started with the head and foot board. The first thing I did was to remove the finish. the next two photos show the head and foot board without a finish.

Unfortunately, the original hardware for the bed could not be used with the extenders, so in order to prepare the head and foot board for the installation of the new hardware, I needed to patch the mortises for the old hardware. The next two photos show this process.

If you look at the photo above of the headboard with the finish removed, you will notice that several of the vertical spindles are missing. All of the spindles are accounted for and most came out when the finish was being removed. One spindle was broken and needed to be repaired. Below are some photos of the broken spindle and it's repair.

The broken spindle (the end to the right is broken).
Here is the replacement patch I turned out of walnut. It will replace the spool furthest to the right and will be doweled into the next spool.
The repaired spindle.
This will be a significant project so I have decided to cover it with several posts. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Quarter Sawn Oak Draw Leaf DiningTable (ca.1920)

A piece I recently completed for a customer was an English table made from quarter sawn Oak. The style of table is called a draw leaf table as it has leaves which are stored beneath the table surface. When the leaves are used, they are pulled out and sit level with the table surface. This table was probably manufactured around 1920 and has quarter sawn Oak veneer on the top and leaves. the legs are solid oak and are turned and carved into what is called a barley twist. below are two photos of the table as it came to me. the first shows the leaves in and the second shows the leaves pulled out.
While no information was available on the manufacturer of this table, I did find the exact table online with a reference to it being sold by a furniture store originally. I believe these tables were made to be sold wholesale to furniture stores, who would then put their names on the table. To support this idea, I did find the label below on the inside of the apron. the label indicates that the table was made sold in Bradford, England, Just West of Leeds.
The top of the table needed to be refinished and the joinery for the base was very loose. Below are some photos of the work that I did on this table.

Below is a photo of the base of the table dismantled. I cleaned all of the old glue from the joinery. The following photo shows the base being glued.
Here is a photo of the table top and leaves with the finish removed.
This photo shows the top and leaves after sanding. The tape is to block off areas where the grain runs perpendicular to the main sections. After staining, the tape was removed and those areas were stained separately.
Here is a photo of the top of the table and the leaves after they were stained. I finished this top with a varnish and applied french polish to the base.
These last two photos show the completed table. the top is refinished while the base retained it's original finish. I also lined the underside of the top with felt so that the leaves do not scratch when they are pulled out.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Repairing Side Rails to a Mahogany Bed (ca.1900)

Recently I have been repairing two side rails from a Mahogany bed from around the turn of the century. At some point, these rails were cut in half and material was added to make them long enough to accommodate a full size mattress. to attach these extensions, Bolts were used and at some point one of the rails cracked along the holes where the bolts were drilled. To remedy this problem, I installed five butterfly patches going perpendicular to the grain of the rail to bridge the crack and stabilize it. I also replaced a missing portion of the other rail and glued some loose sections. Below are some photos of the repair work to these rails.

One of the ends of the rails was missing a significant portion. I copied this missing part from another rail and recreated it using Mahogany. here is a photo of the rail as it came to me.
After planing the break flat, new material was added to the rail.
Here is the new material glued to the rail.
Using another rail as a guide, I created this template from some scrap plywood.
Here is a photo of the new wood after it was shaped and sanded. It was later touched up to match the existing finish.
Here is a photo of the butterfly patches laid out along the crack on the inside of the rail.
Here are the same patches after they were inlaid into the wood. They were later pared flush and touched up to match the finish.

A portion of one of the rails that had become loose.
Gluing the loose portion back on.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Player Piano Roll Cabinet Part 2 (ca. 1920)

The piece I have been working on recently is a player piano roll storage cabinet made around 1920. I wrote an earlier post on this cabinet and its history. Essentially, rolls were stored on shelves in the cabinet end wise so that the labels could be seen. This cabinet came with several different shelves with some great hand written paper labels applied to them. Below is a photo of the shelves in place. The following two photos show the labels describing what types of music should be stored on that shelf. My favorite is the "duets" category spelled with two "t"s!

The drawers needed a little work. Mostly, they needed material added to the runners. One also had a drawer bottom that had shrunk so that it was loose, so I added material to that as well. Below are two photos of the drawers being worked on.

This photo shows the doors during the application of the finish.
These last two photos show the completed storage cabinet with the new drawer pulls and bun feet.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Player Piano Roll Cabinet (ca. 1920)

One of the pieces I am currently working on is a player piano roll storage cabinet. Player pianos read "music" which was laid out on a paper roll. As the roll was wound from one side to the other, holes in the paper would indicate to the piano which notes were to be played. When a roll was not in use, it was stored in a cardboard box with a label on one end indicating the tune that was played by the roll. The player piano was the record player of it's time and as such a listener could amass a large collection of rolls. to help with this, the manufacturers started to offer cabinets dedicated to the storage of these rolls. Often they could be bought along side a piano and would be finished to match. The rolls in there cardboard cases would be stored on shelves with the ends sticking out so the labels could be read. Below is a photo of some rolls being stored in a player piano roll cabinet.
The heyday of the player piano was from the 1900's to 1929. Two things that lead to the fall in popularity was the rise of the phonograph as well as the collapse of the stock market in 1929. It is hard to be much more specific with the dating of this cabinet, so I figured 1920 was as good a guess as any.

The cabinet is made up of Birch that has been stained to simulate Mahogany. the secondary wood on the cabinet is Poplar. Below are two photos of the cabinet as it came to me.

The cabinet was in good shape structurally, but the finish was in pretty bad shape. In addition, there was some mold growing on the panels of the doors. The knobs had been replaced with porcelain knobs and the casters were missing. After attempting to restore the finish, I decided that the best thing to do was to refinish the cabinet. The customer and I also decided to add bun feet and new knobs as well. below are some photos of the initial work on the cabinet.

These first few photos show the addition of the bun feet. The feet were first mounted on boards to provide additional stability. this also gave the cabinet a little lift allowing the feet to be seen. Otherwise the feet would have been recessed into the bottom and hardly noticeable. Here are the feet mounted on their boards.
This next photo shows the feet installed. They were later stained to match the cabinet.
These next few photos show the cabinet after the finish was removed and then after staining. The stain makes the cabinet look pretty dark, but when the finish is added the color lightens up.

First, the drawers.
Here are the doors with the finish removed.
The doors after staining.
Here is the cabinet with the finish removed...
...And again, after staining!
I will post some photos of the completed cabinet next week.