Every Time I restore a chest of drawers or cabinet that has locks, I take the locks out of the piece, clean them, and, if no key is present, I cut a new key that works the lock. After I cut the new key, I always think to myself "I should have taken pictures of how I did that!". So this time, I did.
The lock in question was a lock out of an English armoire I have been restoring. The piece was signed and dated October 11th, 1902, so I know that the lock is about one hundred years old. The type of lock is called a lever lock, which I will describe below. If you are interested in learning a bit about antique locks, take a look at this article on them:
One of the most important things to have when you are making keys for locks is a large stockpile of keys of various shapes and sizes. I collect old 19th and 20th century keys that can often be re-cut to work a lock. I also have several new keys which look old and are uncut, giving me the widest range of possible cuts to make in the key.
Below is a photo of the lever lock, with the key I chose to work with to the right. This is a reproduction Barrel key that I chose because the outer diameter of the key shaft fit the hole in the lock case and the blade was a little too long, giving me plenty to work with. A barrel key is one where the end of the shaft is bored out so that it can fit over a post in the lock.
Once it was determined that all of the cuts and key adjustments were working I oiled the parts and put the lock housing back in place, putting the lever under tension. I then tried the key which operated the lock successfully. This can be seen in the last two photos below.
In the time that this furniture was made, it was important to be able to lock a piece of furniture that housed your personal belongings. In the 18th century, houses did not often have locks, and it would be an important security measure to keep you chests and wardrobes locked up. In today's world, this is not a necessity, but I feel that it is an important part of the restoration of the piece I am working on. If it is possible to get a lock (or locks) working again I will make sure they operate well.
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Monday, June 30, 2014
Monday, June 16, 2014
The Completed Chairs
the arm chair in particular was very broken and the customer and I decided the best course of action was to remove the upholstery so that I could access the broken areas better and make better repairs. Ultimately this meant removing the back from the chair and dismantling it. Below is a photo of the chair as it came into the shop followed by some photos of the damage to the back legs of the chair.
As far as the date is concerned, being signed in the 18th century would make the chair older than the Empire period by a few years. All of these styles evolved and several design motifs spanned periods, especially when they were short lived. The tendency we have to place a piece of furniture in a specific period is relatively modern, and to the maker and the original owner, it would have been a chair made in the latest fashion. Either way , it is a well made chair that employs beautiful West Indies mahogany and great design.
Once the chair was dismantled, the first step in repairing it was to glue all of the broken pieces in place. These were all centered around the joinery in the back of the chair, in one case where tenons for a seat stretchers meet the rear leg and in another, where the crest rail is joined to the rear leg. In either case, these areas were weakened by removal of wood to create mortises and further weakened with the introduction of pegs, used to secure the joints. At first, these joints were sound and the loss of wood was countered by tenons glued in place. After 200+ years, the glue failed and the wood became brittle, leading to the structural failure. Below are a few photos of the broken pieces being glued in place on the right rear post (The direction is given as if you were facing the chair).
Leg clamped to the fence, the blade is lowered into the table.
The side chair was in far better shape structurally and really all that it needed was to have the finish cleaned and the upholstery changed to match the armchair. Here is a photo of the side chair as it came to the shop.
Here is a photo of the side chair with the finish restored ready to go to the upholsterer. Because I did not need to fix any structural problems on the chair, I left the upholstery on and the upholsterer removed it.
These final photos are of the chairs once they returned from the upholster.