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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Walnut Eastlake Side Chair (ca.1875)

The Completed Chair

Recently I restored and repaired a Walnut Eastlake Chair. I put a date of 1875 on this chair but in truth chairs like this were made throughout the United States for most of the second half of the 19th century. It is probably from the fourth quarter of that century and has design characteristics that are associated with the American form of the Eastlake Movement. A search of the label Eastlake on this blog will shed more light on that movement.

I have written about and repaired chairs like this in the past but I thought this one was interesting especially because of the repair. The seat is made from hand woven cane which is woven into a Walnut seat frame. The left side of the frame (facing) had broken along the perforations made for the cane to pass through, which are the weakest part of the frame. The common repair for this is to glue the broken piece on and screw it as well between the perforations. 

This repair works for the short term but more often than not I have seen it fail again after a few years. I decided to try another approach which I have outlined below. But first, a few photos of the chair as it came into the shop.

This photo shows the damage to the seat frame from below.
The first step was to remove the seat frame and the loose components of the chair for repair and gluing. The front stretcher had a crack in it which separated completely. This photo below shows that stretcher being repaired.
This photo shows the seat frame removed from the chair. The broken portion has been removed from the frame on the left.
The individual components of the seat frame are seen knocked apart here with the broken piece on the right.
I used a new piece of Walnut to patch the broken section. The idea was to glue a new piece of Walnut on to the seat frame, but to cut the seat frame back beyond the perforations so that I would have a good solid surface to glue to . The new piece would have all of the perforations in it which I would drill at the end to match the originals.  The new Walnut piece I started off with is seen below.
I followed the general out line of the break on the seat frame and moved it back so that it would completely clear the perforations. This curve was cut to the shape of the seat, but it was cut freehand. The two sections can be seen below after the cut.
Using double sided tape, I adhered the part that I would late discard from the patch to the top of the broken frame component to be used a s a template. This can be seen below.
Using a pattern bit on the router table (the pattern bit can be seen behind the wood. It is blue!) I routed the seat component so that the curve was identical to the unused portion of the patch. After this was done I separated the two pieces and threw away the new wood. The two pieces can be seen in the two photos below. The curve that was cut matches exactly.

The portion of the new wood that was intended to be used as the patch now fit the old wood perfectly. The seat frame and the patch can be seen test fitted below.
This photo shows the patch being glued to the old seat frame.
The two pieces adhered after the glue had dried.
Once the patch was glued in place, I then used the component from the opposite side of the seat upside down as a template to cut the inner curve of the patch. This can be seen below in the next two photos.

This next photo shows the patch with the inner curve cut to match the inside of the original. I was also able to copy the spacing for the perforations onto the new wood while the two sections were adhered with tape.
The completed patch. One last detail was to round the inside edge of the patch so that it would not be sharp against the new cane.
This photo shows the chair after it was reassembled. The patch is on the left and is touched up so that it matches the original finish on the seat frame. The following photo is a of the seat frame in detail.

These last three photos show the completed chair with a new woven cane seat. When I picked up this chair from Chris Frear, my caner, she informed me that she was going to be retiring from chair caning from here on out. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Chris for all of the beautiful work she has done over the years for me and the rest of the local community. She always gave me a perfect new seat and she did so with a smile on her face! Thank you, Chris!

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