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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Duncan Phyfe Style Mahogany Sofa (ca. 1930) Part 1

Duncan Phyfe was a Scottish cabinetmaker who lived and worked  in New York City in the early 19th century. Working in the larger Neoclassical style of the time, he created furniture designs that have been widely copied ever since. One design element, the curved out swept leg (as seen on this couch) is so closely linked with Duncan Phyfe that it is often simply called a Duncan Phyfe leg. For more information on Duncan Phyfe and his contributions, check out the following link:


 The sofa I have been working on is made in the Neoclassical style, but is a reproduction that was made some time around 1930. the frame for the sofa is made of White Oak and the exposed parts are all Mahogany. The sofa looked to be in pretty good shape at first glance, but below the surface was a lot of loose joinery and some old repairs that were shoddily done by a previous upholsterer. The sofa also had a very thick,opaque finish on it that was really masking the grain below. Here is a photo of the sofa as it came to me.

The Duncan Phyfe Leg

The first step in working on this sofa was to remove the upholstery. This is no small feat! Not only does the fabric come off as well as all of the stuffing, but the tacks and staples all need to be removed as well so the the upholsterer has a clean surface area to attach the new upholstery. At the end of the day my shoes sounded like tap shoes because of all of the tacks that were stuck in the soles!

After the upholstery was removed, The next thing I did was to remove the finish and make the repairs to the sofa. The Arms, legs ,and back were all loose, so I repaired the loose joinery. Below are a few photos of this process.
Gluing a loose leg.

A piece of the frame was loose and later glued back in place.
Loose joinery where the arms meet the back.
After the repairs were made to the frame and cosmetic repairs made to the mahogany parts, the sofa was sanded and made ready for staining. Here is a photo of the repaired frame. The springs were left in place in the seat so that the upholsterer can examine their configuration.
This next photo shows the frame after it was stained.
These last two photos show the frame during the finishing process. After the finish is applied, I will take the frame to the upholsterer to get upholstered.

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