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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Arts and Crafts Oak China Cabinet (ca. 1920)

The Completed  China Cabinet
Once and a while we get a restoration job where the piece we are working on really sees a major transformation. Pieces that are painted usually fall into this category. 

A customer asked me to restore an heirloom china cabinet that was a piece made in the Arts and Crafts style in America sometime in the early part of the 20th century. The piece was made from white oak and had some nice quarter sawn boards throughout the piece. While I would not label this piece "Arts and Crafts" in the strictest sense, the use of oak, and the over all lines (minus the bandsawn feet and applied corbels) reflect the American Arts and Craft aesthetic. Of particular note is how the mating surfaces are never flush. for example where the side front glass frame meets the side glass frame, the frame overlaps about 1/16 of an inch. The designers of this did this intentionally to create a very simplistic sense of depth to the surfaces. For more on this take a look at the music cabinet I made in 2014:


At any rate, this piece loosely falls into the Arts and Crafts category, so that is where I am placing it!

The condition of the piece when it came into the shop was that the entire piece had been painted, every joint in the piece was loose, It was missing its lock, escutcheon, and key, and the back had been pieced together at some point with newer material. Here is a "before" photo of the cabinet:

Obviously, the first thing to do was to remove the glass and then the paint and the finish below the paint, leaving the bare wood. After this was accomplished the cabinet looked like this:
The back and the quarter round were discarded and new material was installed in its place, but first the loose joinery needed to addressed. Below are the components that make up the cabinet during the dismantling period, everything was labeled so I knew how to put it back together.

While the cabinet was apart, several panels (like the bottom and the shelves) had separated along the joined boards. they were repaired and glued, as seen below.
These next two photos show the fixed frames that make up the sides and the door being glued together.

After the glue had dried on the side frames, the customer and I decided to introduce an adjustable shelf system to the piece. The brackets which had held the shelves originally had been fixed. To accomplish this, I used a shelf drilling jig to drill the holes on the stiles of the side frames as seen in the next three photos.

Once all of the frames were assembled, the rest of the piece was assembled with new glue. Before I assembled all of the individual parts, I sanded everything which was easier than sanding the piece when it was together. Below is are photos of the rebuilt cabinet and the shelves before staining.

I used a blend of a light walnut and extra dark walnut stain to simulate the look of oak fumed with ammonia. This fuming was the way in which Arts and Crafts pieces obtained there color, although I have run into plenty of pieces that were stained instead of fuming.

These next few photos show the completed piece with the glass installed.

Here is a detail of the key and new escutcheon I installed (the lock is on the inside of the door).

This photo shows one of the two corbels. They were made of a few boards stacked side by side, which were  face glued and band sawn to the curved profile. The band sawn edge was then sanded and veneered with quartersawn oak. The feet were also made this way.

Here are a few more photos taken outside (with a bit of snow in the foreground).

1 comment:

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