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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

George III Mahogany Chest on Chest (ca. 1770)

The restored chest on chest

This post concerns the restoration of a Mahogany chest on chest I recently restored. The piece is from the British Isles and dates to the second half of the 18th Century. I have a suspicion that the piece may have been made in Ireland or Scotland, but it is safe to say that it was in the style of British manufacture. As far as Chest on Chests are concerned, this was a really nice example that had suffered several bad restorations in its time, but more on that later. The top half of the chest is capped with a cornice containing dental molding above a well executed frieze displaying patterned blind fretwork. Below the cornice the upper half of the chest has two short drawers above three long drawers, each graduating in size by 1 inch. Above the three graduated drawers on the bottom half is a brushing slide (a sliding shelf used to dust garments). Below the lower three drawers are four robust ogee bracket feet. Besides the well executed ornamentation on this chest, the sheer size of it is sure to impress the viewer. This was a chest made to impress and was made for someone who not only had a lot of clothes, but also a lot of money! 

The condition of the chest when it was presented to me was quite bad, with many repairs needed and a complete replacement of the finish. This last part I did not take take lightly, and tried first to remove some of the over finishing that had been done in the past, but once I got to the base finish I realized that it was a Lacquer that had yellowed in the pore of the chest, making it necessary to completly remove the finish and start from scratch. Below is a photo of the top followed by a photo of the bottom half. This is what the piece looked like when it came to my shop.

In this next photo, you can see the wood coming through the darker opaque section of the over finish, It was as if someone has smeared brown paint on the surface of the chest. The yellowish tint beneath the brown smear turned out to be the yellowed Lacquer finish.
This next photo shows the finish being removed, with the bare wood coming through. The following photo shows the same drawer  with the finish removed.

after the finish was removed, the repairs began. One particular repair that happens in a chest like this is that the board which covers over the dovetails for the drawer dividers becomes pushed away from the sides. The photo below shows this and the following photo shows the gap created in detail.

This gap is caused by the sides shrinking over time. There are boards which are laid across the grain inside the chest which guide the drawer as it moves in and out. Since these boards are running perpendicular, they do not shrink, and they push out against the dovetail cover, causing the separation. Below is a photo of one of the problem boards.
The drawer guides were each removed and cut down so that the dovetail covers could be glued back in place. Once they were cut to size they were reattached. This next photo shows the divider between the short drawers being glued.

This photo shows the guides mentioned before trimmed and laid out for reattachment.
To glue the guides in place, short pieces of wood were wedged in place to hold the guides as the glue dried as seen in the photo below.

This photo shows the board which guides the short drawers from moving side to side being glued in place. The process for holding the board while the glue dried was the same.
After all of the close ups, I thought it would be good to offer a shot of all of these repairs being made. The red clamps on the sides are holding the dovetail covers in place as the glue dried.
Similar repairs were made to the bottom case. In addition, the feet on the bottom case needed to be reattached where they had broken. Two sections of the broken feet were missing and needed to be made. To cut the ogee profile on the feet, I used the table saw to create the cove and refined it with chisels. Below are some photos of the cove after it was cut on the table saw.

Using a piece off of another foot, I cut the profile for the foot. The piece I used is seen below
These next two photos show how the feet remnants were still attached to the case. The photo which follows shows all of the broken sections from the feet ready for gluing, including the two portions I made.

These two photos show the portions I made. Further refinement was made to each foot once the pieces were attached.

This photo shows the broken sections of the feet being reattached.
The next two photos show the new sections I made attached to the feet and refined.


The molding which serves as a transition from the lower to the upper chest was all loose. I removed it, removed the old glue, and reattached it. This can be seen in the next two photos

The cornice had several pieces of missing molding and also many loose pieces of dental molding and blind fretwork. I made the missing molding using an existing section and attached the new section. This can be seen in the three photos below. I also attached a board I made to replace the missing back board that completed the fourth side of the cornice.

This photo shows gluing the molding on the opposite side.
There were many feet of dental molding missing from the cornice. To make new molding I found that the thickness of my table saw blade was identical to the kerf in the molding. I used a backer board on a cross cut sled and cut into it to use the kerf as a guide. A piece of the old molding can be seen lying in front of the backer board in the photo below. The kerfs are lined up. The blue tape to the left is set to where the edge of the next kerf is in the molding. by advancing the kerf  I just cut to this blue tape line, I was lined up for the next kerf. The rest of the procedure was pretty mechanical.
This shows my new piece with the initial kerf lined up with the blue tape and ready to cut the next kerf. I should point out that in these photos I have the molding lying on it's side for clarity. The kerfs were cut with the molding standing on edge.
Checking my work!
Once the first side was cut, the molding was flipped and the second set of kerfs were cut between the first. Here is a finished piece of pierced dental molding.

This photo shows the new section along side the old. The new molding is below the old.
A stray photo, this shows a piece of missing beading that was replaced. The beading surrounds the blind fretwork.
Several gluing sessions were necessary to glue all of the loose molding, beading, and fretwork. The next few photos show some of this.

After the cornice was finished, new cockbeading was made for the drawers where it was missing. This photo is a sample of some of the new/loose beading being glued.

One of the drawers was missing a significant portion of the back board. I included this because the patch I made may possibly have been the largest patch I have made to date! The board is seen below, followed by a close up of the damage, and lastly, the gigantic patch.

All of the runners on the drawers were worn and broken. This photo shows the attachment of new wood to the runners on a few of the drawers.

This next photo, another stray, shows a missing runner on the brushing slide being attached.

After all of that, the next two photos show the upper and lower chest repaired and sanded.

Here they are again after they were stained.

One last piece of repair work that was done during the finishing process was to  make and attach new drawer stops for each chest.

These last few photos show the completed chest on chest. Quite a magnificent piece to grace my shop.

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