The oak dining set illustrated on this page is from the early twentieth century, when the head of a lion was a popular decorating motif. In the century or so before this came in to us for repair, it had seen extensive use and suffered from many of the typical complaints associated with great age–quirky joints, sagging mid-section, missing parts, worn out appearance. We were the MASH unit for this old warrior.
Following the oak dining set is a mid-twentieth century maple living room set modeled after the colonial styling so popular during that era.
Each corner is slightly different, clearly hand carved. This is almost a combination of the lion head and another popular symbol from that era, the four winds.
This was indeed in rough shape. Each seam on the top is highlighted by the dust settled in the slight depressions caused by shrinkage. The leaves were long gone, the center leg had obviously been repositioned more than once.
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These two photos show the table after stripping, repairs and the sanding preparatory for finishing were all complete. The light colored toe on the back right leg in the photo to the left, is a replacement of a missing section. The three leaves you see below were all fabricated by us for this table. That is much more difficult than it might seem or than it would be on a newly constructed table. The ends may no longer be square, the extension slides may not be aligned, the side skirts may have a deceptive angle. Any of those factors can throw off the alignment of the leaves.
Here you can see the table after the finishing is complete. Here again there are challenges that are not revealed by these photos. There are two steps we took that we will describe. The first will be obvious as soon as we mention it. The aged oak and the new oak are not the same color. The new oak will eventually mellow into the warm tone you see on the old. We needed to artificially recreate the appearance of age so that the table would look uniform, as it does. We will describe the second step we took with the next set of photos below.
The dramatic effect of the shaped surfaces, the lion faced corners, the claw feet, the columns, and the leafy details, all stand out due to the application of a highlighting glaze. Adding the glaze is like adding eye shadow, it assures that those attractive features look their best in any light.
The same highlighting glaze that was applied to the shaped features was applied everywhere else. While there are no shapes on the flat surfaces to create shadowing, the porous oak grain captures the glaze in all the tiny pores. This dramatically accentuates the features of the oak's natural grain pattern. This photo also displays how well the old and new wood can blend together when the skills of our craftsmen are at work.
Like most maple furniture made in the 1950s, a half century later the finish was worn and the glue joints were failing. Every seam had to be taken apart and reglued. We used biscuit joints on all the flat panels–the leaves and tops and shelves of the tables, the seat and arm table of the chair. The leg and arm and back joints, as well as the biscuited joints, were all glued with a high strength marine epoxy to ensure that this job would not need to be done again.
The original rock maple color had been replaced with this rich, dark red cherry color previously. In addition to regluing, we touched up and re-coated the finish on all three pieces.
You might wonder what the purpose of that chair might be. The design suggests that there must have been some expected use. To most of our modern minds, that use is just a guess. This set was designed in an era when corded table top telephones were coming into widespread use. The telephone could sit on the arm table, a note pad and a pen could be in the drawer beneath, and under the seat the phone book could be stored. A telephone chair!
Due to the many pieces and many joints of the Windsor style phone chair, we will feature the work required to return it to a strong and attractive piece of furniture. The joints that were obviously loose when it arrived were quickly taken apart as seen to the left. Below, after just a little more effort, all the rest came apart as well.
Below is seen the first step in re-gluing the seat. The two "center" pieces were biscuited and glued. Due to the curvature of the seat, applying pressure to the seam all the way to the back was a challenge.
This is the next gluing step, getting the right side added. Since the chair was not being stripped, it was more important than normal to ensure that all the seams lined up.
This photo and the next were two stages of the same gluing step. This was the most difficult of all steps because so many things needed to happen quickly. The left bump was glued in place first, then the spindles.
The second stage of this step was to glue in place the top arm so that the spindles underneath would all be properly aligned. There is a bit more to it than that, but this is the condensed version.
While the last series of photos may have included the most difficult step, this and the next are what the eye will pick up first if a mistake is made. While the glue is setting below, the upper back is glued in place and must be aligned just right.
The final gluing step is to glue the legs and stretchers in place.You can see the level on the seat––it is so easy with splayed legs to glue a twist or slant in place.
Gluing is done! Prepping for the finishing coats is next. The chair was throughly scuff sanded, where seams were not perfect, extra sanding and coloring were required.
When each piece was glued and sanded, some recoloring was needed, then the application of some fresh finish coats. Our attention lapsed and we didn't get photos of the finishing of the chair. You can see how well it turned out from the photo at the top. This is the underside of the triangle table top. We are applying a coat of water based semi-gloss finish. Yes, this is the underside. We believe details are important. Finishing the underside gives the piece added life.
A lot of TLC went into the work on this set!