Monday, October 27, 2008

Restoration Work

What does a furnituremaker do when the immanent collapse of capitalism threatens to turn his telephone into a paperweight? I like to take the opportunity to get to the restoration projects I’ve been collecting. Though many furniture guys turn up their collective noses at restoration work, I have a real fondness for working on old pieces; in the past twenty-seven years I’ve worked on over two hundred. I like to see how they were made, what’s good and what’s bad about them; it’s the bad part that usually delivers them up to me.

There’s an artfulness required for good restoration work that sometimes goes far beyond what’s necessary for new work. The artfulness is born of respect for the work and the piece; a knowledge of arcane woodworking and finishing techniques; and a judgment of how far to take the work without damaging the value or the spirit of the antique.

Take this Chinese camphor wood chest. It’s not a valuable piece: the hinges and the hardware were changed long before it got to me, and its somewhat inelegant construction has resulted in numerous splits and cracks, and an ill-fitting top. Rather than try to disguise these, I have chosen to celebrate them as part of its charm. The finish was badly damaged; after a gentle sanding and thorough cleaning I used a combination of dewaxed shellac, varnish, and paste wax to give it a nice glow.


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