French Walnut Country Buffet, 2, Excavation

FRENCH WALNUT COUNTY BUFFET

Follow along with our interim report for our client’s French Walnut Country Buffet:
Previously, we began with Assessment

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Our “before” images are our reference documents!

EXCAVATION

We removed the doors, and then the top of the buffet.

DOORS OFF

The hinge mechanism is second
generation; we know this because of previous bores, shown right.

We believe the decorative hinge set is likely
19th century.  It is a very cool hinge!

The hinge mounts are bolted
all-thread eye-bolts, above and right.
They are not a matched set,
and are even a bit jerryrigged.
It is likely they the are much
more modern, likely 20th century.

Some hinges show the need
for reparation; all will be
thoroughly inspected for a tune-up.

Doors off, we can see the carcass much better.

The right-facing door has splits and will be repaired.

TOP OFF!


The top is a great example of restoration people not working with the piece!
This beautiful buffet was dovetail, peg and mortice/tenon and paneled construction.
Sometimes these connections loosen after a couple hundred years, and shims of various sorts (and other traditional woodworking methods) solve the problem.
However, the last restoration people decided to drive nails in the top in three places, above.  In doing so they also broke two pegs, which we will replace.

With the top off we could see into the carcass, and easily assess the drawers skids and central structure, above.  Drawer skids are wearing, and worn skids eventually wear the drawer and you get sticky tacking.  Some skids were previously replaced.

I also allows us to assess the corner connections.

The top off, above, we can
also assess the underside.
Two sliding dovetail tenons are part of the mechanism which holds the top in place.

Punky wood and old pest infestations are easily seen.

We will try to extract nails such as the one shown right, and infill with wooden picks.  A cosmetic repair on the top might be a shellac burn-in.

The underside tells the story of the buffet’s long life.

The right-facing sliding dovetail easily releases, which we expect it to do,
with a few gentle taps.  Long ago hide glue was used for additional security.

The left-facing sliding dovetail was stuck, and we would have left it in place if we did
not have to remove it to insert keylocks on the large cracks on that end.
Gently persistent,  Mitchell finally made the wood move, and we uncovered the
reason why: someone had decided to nail it in place!
Thankfully this did not rip the underside of the top but simply bent over.

We knew the top was warped before the excavation, and it is unlikely that we would try to repair the warpage.  Laying the top on a flat table we
were able to run a metal straightedge and show how the top warps differently from one end to the other. If you look carefully at the images shown above and right, you can see the warped reflection curve in the table top!

Next post, we begin to repair the top! (Live when published.)
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Written by Kate Powell, ©MPF Conservation.
May be printed for your own use ONLY, not for use on blogs without permission.

Posted in antiques, conservation techniques, French Furniture, Interim Report, pest infestation, preservation, process, reparation, restoration techniques, wooden objects | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

French Walnut Country Buffet, 1, Assessment

FRENCH WALNUT COUNTY BUFFET

Our client’s French Walnut Country Buffet was created in the mid to late 17th century.
The finish, likely original, has not been tampered with any modern finish materials…
It has a lovely patina that we will preserve and enhance.

FIRST IN-STUDIO ASSESSMENT

An in-studio assessment begins as we are readying for the excavation.
Every side is photographed; everything we notice is detailed.
Many overall images are taken so that if we open up the buffet and find something unnoticed we can see it in an image from before we disassembled the buffet.

Our “before” images are our reference documents!

Some of the obvious items we assessed in their home.
Everything might not be repaired, and everything is discussed prior to reparation.

We have a relationship with our client
to inform and come to agreement about protocol.

The buffet is built with two interior shelving areas.

Above, the largest, uses the center door and the right-facing door;
the interior has shelving and support issues.
The center door hings will be thoroughly checked once they are off the carcass
for possible compromised areas… this “tune up” is a wise thing to do when a piece
is in the studio because it is better to repair issues when everything is apart.
The right-facing door has compromised hinges, and a split in the frame.
We have the missing escutcheon, thankfully.

The drawers are a great example of damages that may not be repaired at this time, however, during excavation we are certain we will find compromised drawer skids!

The left-facing interior shelving area is the one which has the large opening where the outside panel has slide backwards leaving a huge crack.  We will repair this and examine the hinges for stability when the door is removed.

At some time the interior shelf was removed and a plywood shelf was inserted;
the stanchions were compromised.  This will be repaired.

As stated above, the drawers are a great example of damages
that may not be repaired at this time.

To show all the repairs in this buffet would be monumental;
we will offer a sampling of the many preservation/conservation repairs performed.

Next post, we excavate (disassemble) the carcass.
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Written by Kate Powell, ©MPF Conservation.
May be printed for your own use ONLY, not for use on blogs without permission.

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Business Etiquette


It goes without saying that clients should be treated with respect and decency.
I know we strive for that, and also try to keep on top of updates even though few clients ask for them, because progress on pieces is usually interesting to owners and curators.

Being a small business owner is both a joy and harder work than anyone can imagine.
Owners often do marketing, accounting, management, make endless cups of coffee,
do the dishes, update stock and whatever specialties come with a
particular business, on top of the work we get paid to do!
There is no sick leave and in some economies, no vacations.

Of course there are perks: working together and laughing at shop cats!

Why write this?
The pandemic has made
a mess of normal activities.

New protocols due to the pandemic keep us safe from getting the disease ourselves
but also slow our work day down… even entering and leaving the studio!
We took several days to set up our studio rooms differently.
Every interaction with people who do not wear masks is stressful,
not only because we have to ask and they may be angry about that,
but also because we are at risk in those interchanges.
Literally days have been spent on one or two clients
who refused to believe the pandemic was REAL and whose feelings
and viewpoints may have become inflamed though television and talk radio.

The psychological stress of anyone who has to continue to work under these circumstances, and take deliveries and so forth is that we wonder if we were exposed.
In our case, if one of us gets the corona virus, as a two-person business
(and now with no access to some of our skilled craftspeople), we are literally sunk.

Suppliers can’t get stock which means we can’t get stock.
Suppliers may not know when stock will arrive so we can’t make plans
or tell our clients when we can return to their projects which has made
some clients think we are not good what we do (more stress)!
Then our schedules for our clients are tossed in the air.
Some suppliers are not picking up phones because of
Covid layoffs (some only have owners going in) or staggered hours, so we are often
reduced to writing emails to see if we can get what we need… that takes time!
A lot of our items are specialty so it is not like Amazon can save the day!

When we have to change schedules and delivery dates clients are not happy
and we want our clients happy: most businesses want satisfied clients.
We are not happy either as we may not be getting paid on time!
Understand the supplier’s customers are not happy and they may have had a day of frustrated sometimes angry customers and so many are short with us.

Besides adding stress, all of this adds time to each day, non-billable time
that can take 2-3 hours a day… which means projects can take much longer…
there is nothing we can do about this that is not already being done!

I am going to suggest client etiquette, some of which we are taking with our suppliers,
which would assist us and other small businesses,
and frankly, the peeps that answer the phones at Amazon or Fedex too:

  1. Be polite… and be generous and calm in your emotional responses.  Consider that the other person may be doing the very best they can do and that there are conditions out of their control that may have caused your distress.
  2. Ask a business if they prefer a text message before sending it… for our purposes we do not unless we are coordinating an imminent delivery.  We prefer emails because they can easily become part of a client file and we can see images much better than doing business on a credit card sized screen.
  3. Assume that a business has a reason for their protocol, i.e., we ask for full contact information before engaging our time in estimates and other time consuming dialogues.  If you ask we would be happy to tell you why.  We ask for full name, address, phone number, email, if the person contacting us is the owner, and best time to call. Perhaps you live on the other side of the country and we might recommend another conservator.   We do not sell client information, but if someone is not willing to give us that information then probably they are not very serious about doing business with us and will likely waste our time.
  4. Read emails thoroughly and answer ALL questions, which keeps us from having to delay a proper respobnse because we’ve had to ask for the same info several times… We know everyone is not operating at full capacity as the pandemic stresses everyone, so it is important to slow down and read important communications.  We never send spam so if we write you, it is important to read and answer!
  5. Finally, work with the delays, understanding that delays usually mean in businesses such as ours that we can’t do better than we are doing and that we are also not getting paid if the projects are not completed, meaning we have a vested interest in completion!

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Louis XIV Revival Fauteuil, Upholstery Buildup, Back and Arms

Our client’s Louis XIV Revival Fauteuil, above.
We started, as we always do, with an assessment.
Then patterns were made and the textile and buildup was excavated.
The  frame finish was conserved.
The textile was cleaned and small reparations performed.
The frame was repaired.
The seat buildup (upholstery) completed.

Be sure to run your cursor over images
to see the text where applicable.


Arm Buildup


The arm textile pieces were conserved and stitched in the manner of the seat.

Coir was stitched onto the arm pod.  Jute burlap wrapped the coir and was stitched
into place.  Hair topped the amended pod, and a cotton topper before the broadcloth
was attached.  A thin topper of organic cotton batting was applied under the original textile, which was tacked into place.  The arm is ready for the gimp trim!

Back Buildup

The cleaned and conserved back textile had the same two issues
to be overcome in the upholstery process as the seat:
1) The edges had been trimmed to the edge, giving us no comfortable tacking edge.
2) The edge had thick embedded glue in the tacking margins.

Mitchell stabilized the edge prior to cleaning, and added the olive Dupinoni
silk with which to create a backing.  Mitchell had the same trouble with
the stitching because of the needles hitting the hard glue edges.
The backing allowed him an edge to tug on while applying the back textile later.

The original inside back hair pod was cleaned and shaped.

Into the outside conserved frame back the historic outside back showcover was
tacked into place; organic cotton batting is used under the dust barrier.
Another layer of cotton batting.   The original back pod is amended
with a different colored hair, and placed into the back frame.
Another cotton topper is placed over the hair pod, and topped with the broadcloth topper.
Another thin cotton topper, and the historic textile is tacked into place.

The chair is now ready for finishing touches, dustcover, secret pockets, and trim!

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The fauteuil in nearly completed; next steps are finishing touches.
As we post I will link to the next posting: follow us so you are notified of updates.

Written by Kate Powell  ©MPF Conservation.
May be printed for your own use ONLY, not for use on blogs without permission.

Posted in antiques, art, chair, conservation techniques, decorative motifs, Interim Report, preservation, process, reparation, restoration techniques, upholstery, wooden objects | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Louis XIV Revival Fauteuil, Upholstery Buildup, Seat

Our client’s Louis XIV Revival Fauteuil, above.
We started, as we always do, with an assessment.
Then patterns were made and the textile and buildup was excavated.
The  frame finish was conserved.
The tapestry was cleaned and small reparations performed.
The frame was repaired.

Be sure to run your cursor over images
to see the text where applicable.


Seat Buildup

The cleaned and conserved textile still had two issues
to be overcome in the upholstery process:
1) The edges had been trimmed to the edge, giving us no comfortable tacking edge.
2) The edge had thick embedded glue in the tacking margins.

Mitchell stabilized the edge prior to cleaning.  To give himself a comfort area
during re-upholstery, we chose a strong olive Dupinoni with which to create a backing.  Mitchell had trouble with the stitching because of the needles hitting the hard glue edges;
he is quite adept at the sewing machine but the glue pushed the textile around.
The backing allowed him an edge to tug on while applying the textile later.

Another perk of the lovely color is that if the needlepoint/petitpoint looses threads
at a later date the olive is a good complimentary color underneath.

Webbing and Spring Tie

The original thin webbing was used to obtain maximum drop over time.
The center of gravity on the seat originally dropped in the seat center,
while the edges remained firm.  Mitchell chose a 11 lb 2-inch jute webbing to
replace the original, which was a metric width and just over 2-inches.

Original copper springs were still viable; they were stitched to the seat.

As the former holes were filled, new holes were carefully drilled when necessary.
Spring twine was waxed as it was tied.
Four-way Spring Tie was completed.

Buildup

Springs were covered with a hessian burlap,
and a holbein stitch used to lash them into place.
Coir was placed at the edge and stitched.

The original seat pod was cleaned and conserved, then placed over the seat deck.
The stuffings from here up are all new stuffings,
as the seat was robbed of its second stuffings.

Original seat pod wrapped in burlap to preserve, and hand-stitched into place.
A layer of hog and horse hair is added and stitched into place;
the depressions made by the stitching pattern is filled with a bit of loose hair.
All this is topped with a layer of organic cotton batting,
and a hemp broadcloth secures the entire seat deck.

One more topper of thin organic cotton batting, and the original conserved needlepoint/petitpoint textile is reapplied and tacked into place, ready for the gimp trim.

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Next step, the arm and back buildup.
As we post I will link to the next posting: follow us so you are notified of updates.

Written by Kate Powell  ©MPF Conservation.
May be printed for your own use ONLY, not for use on blogs without permission.

Posted in antiques, art, chair, conservation techniques, decorative motifs, Interim Report, preservation, process, reparation, restoration techniques, upholstery, wooden objects | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Louis XIV Revival Fauteuil, Frame Reparation

Our client’s Louis XIV Revival Fauteuil, above.
We started, as we always do, with an assessment.
Then patterns were made and the textile and buildup was excavated.
The  frame finish was conserved.
The tapestry was cleaned and small reparations performed.

Be sure to run your cursor over images
to see the text where applicable.

The frame was in very good condition: two issues, numerous tack holes in the frame needed to be stabilized, and the corner blocks needed to be replaced.

We repaired the damage created by many tack holes.
Nail holes were filled with hide glue and hard picks were tapped into each.
This effectively fills the voids and creates a stronger frame.

A Japanese saw carefully cuts the pins to the surface,
and Mitchell used a chisel remove any unleveled nibs.

Mitchell removed old inadequate and damaged corner blocks on all four corners;
they were fragmented and too small for an entablature that will take
the tensions of the upholstery.  New corner blocks were cut and fit,
glued using hide glue, and nailed into place.

At this time the blocks had hard edges.

Hard edges were chamfered because the softened edges will not cut into the various materials of the buildup, including the tapestry if it comes into contact with them.  The corner blocks are also finished in case of bleed-through over the years.


The frame is ready for buildup, next steps.
(Note in this image the corner blocks were not yet colored.

As we post I will link to the next posting: follow us so you are notified of updates.

Written by Kate Powell  ©MPF Conservation.
May be printed for your own use ONLY, not for use on blogs without permission.

Posted in antiques, art, chair, conservation techniques, decorative motifs, Interim Report, preservation, process, reparation, restoration techniques, upholstery, wooden objects | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Louis XIV Revival Fauteuil, Cleaning Textiles

Our client’s Louis XIV Revival Fauteuil, above.
We started, as we always do, with an assessment.
Then patterns were made and the textile and buildup was excavated.
The  frame finish was conserved.

Be sure to run your cursor over images
to see the text where applicable.


We changed our proposed protocol after seeing how the tapestry had been cut to
the quick on the edges, above, and left tattering with no stabilization or overcasting
before its last upholstery.  We did not want to wet clean the entire piece because we did not want to chance shrinkage.  Instead we spot cleaned and used a method of repeated
top and bottom cleaning of the surface fibers that takes a bit longer, but is safer.

Further, the last upholsterer used a THICK coating of yellow carpenter’s PVA glue (not a white glue such as casein) to glue the gimp trim to the tapestry edge.  This glue is completely inappropriate, and removing the glue would be extremely difficult.
What appears to be a dirty edge is in fact a thick coating of glue  — we did not try to remove it at all, but are using it to help stabilize the edges at this time.

However, it was also more difficult to overcast the tapestry.
The needle and thread kept getting caught in this thick sticky PVA muck;
Mitchell is adept at using a serger!
The overcasting was successful but not pretty.

Protocol was to vacuum deeply on both sides using a soft brush attachment
which helped to lift the fibers and pull glitter and debris.
The seat was covered with glitter!  The tapestry also had several “splinters,”
and we cannot imagine how the chair came into contact with these.
They are not straw or fibers from the inside working their way out!

The tapestry pieces were then spot cleaned in several small areas, and using both a
repurposed and dedicated mushroom brush, and specialty wipes,
which also were used on the surface of the tapestry fibers to remove surface debris.

The crest of the inside back was especially dirty from hair oils and hands
grabbing the back of the chair over the years.  This area was thoroughly cleaned twice
using ®Orvus and distilled water, saturating and moving the dirt.

Above, it is interesting to see the original colors before they faded;
the back of the tapestry shows us the muted greys and taupes were actually purple colors of orchids and violets.  The muted pinks were brilliant, almost bubble gum pink…
Imagine if the rose and coral were actually the intended colors of bright pink
and bright orange next to the yellow, which held its pigment.

Two very small areas at the edges of tacking areas had damaged stitches.

This is a good time to explain about matching historic yarns.
The yarns are often difficult
to match because they are
not actual dye colors, but colors that have faded over time.  Right, you can see what appear to be two browns, but in reality are the same brown yarn, but one is very faded and appears to be tobacco, while the other is closer to the original color.  In the damaged area below, replacement area moves from faded to the original color where the tape covered it.

Sometimes one can match
the yarn exactly, but more often not.  One option if the area is not highly visible is to take a strand from each color and blend them, as shown right. (Note flashed color appears brighter.)  The damaged area on the rf-arm top was missing not only yarn but also the linen warp and weft of the grid which the yarn stitches into; this loss was right at the edge where
the folds and the tacking margins occurred.  I used
yarn to create the grid.

On the seat at the right-facing corner, another highly degraded bright bubble gum pink area both had faded missing stitches, and a degraded edge for tacking.
Again, I used two colors not at all like the original to blend a repair
on an edge that no one will notice even if it is pointed out to them!
After I needle-pointed the missing stitches, I wrapped the edges to secure
so that when Mitchell needs to tack into that area he has purchase, and
ran yarns up into the body before knotting for extra stability.

(Note that is not dirt but the terrible PVA glue at the edges!)

Above, the four tapestry pieces
after cleaning and reparation.

The tapestry is quite beautiful with varying kinds of needlepoint,
petite-point and stitches to create the bodies of the people and the Phoenix.
As you scroll through the details above, pay attention to the eyes and fingers and the various skin tones and sizes of the stitches.  It is quite beautiful!

The tapestry is almost ready for reupholstery.
Mitchell will stabilize the back using a strong but light silk.

Our next steps are reparation of the frame, and to restore the buildup.
As we post I will link to the next posting: follow us so you are notified of updates.

Written by Kate Powell  ©MPF Conservation.
May be printed for your own use ONLY, not for use on blogs without permission.

Posted in antiques, art, chair, conservation techniques, decorative motifs, Interim Report, preservation, process, reparation, restoration techniques, upholstery, wooden objects | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Louis XIV Revival Fauteuil, Finish

Our client’s Louis XIV Revival Fauteuil from the nineteenth century
came in for treatment of the textile (gentle cleaning, and stabilizing from the back),
conservation of original finish, and conservation of the upholstery buildup (innards).
Before treatment images above.  We started, as we always do, with an assessment.
Our next steps were pattern making and excavation of the textile and buildup.

Now we move to preserving the lovely original finish.

Be sure to run your cursor over images
to see the text where applicable.

The fauteuil ready for finish work, above.

The last upholsterers had dripped glue on the carved finish;
this was carefully removed with a small chisel,
then steel wool removed the last of the glue.

We always make our own shellacs; often we make our own waxes,
but not always.  For the fauteuil frame, we decided to use two
of three commercial products we occasionally use.

We are not recommending these for your applications at home!
Our criteria depends upon the condition and the type of finish!

We started with Briwax.
We applied liberally and allowed it to set, then wiped it off.

We use Gamblin’s Gamsol OMS (Odorless Mineral Spirits) to scrub into the wax.
Gamblin’s OMS is so gentle — and nearly non-toxic!
We do not wear a mask when using it, just good ventilation,
and it does not cut deep into finishes.  A horsehair brush and a large oil painting brush from Kate’s stash was used to scrub. It was allowed to set, then wiped clean.

We then moved to Liberon’s Black Bison. We worked it into the details,
allowed it to set, then removed it selectively with brushes and a clean rag.

It was a lovely color, the original finish enhanced and cleaned,
but we wanted a bit more depth and a little more gloss.
A final coat of Briwax did the trick, applied then buffed for a semi-gloss sheen.

Before and after, below.  It should look like a well-appointed finish,
not new (which it is not), but clean and glowing with a nice depth of color!
A bit of the color shift is the lighting in different rooms…


Our next steps are to clean the tapestry and outside back wool rep,
to create the new buildup, and to reupsholster.
As we post I will link to the next posting: follow us so you are notified of updates.

Written by Kate Powell  ©MPF Conservation.
May be printed for your own use ONLY, not for use on blogs without permission.

Posted in antiques, art, chair, conservation techniques, decorative motifs, Interim Report, preservation, process, reparation, restoration techniques, upholstery, wooden objects | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Louis XIV Revival Fauteuil, Excavation and Patterns

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Our client’s Louis XIV Revival Fauteuil from the nineteenth century
came in for treatment of the textile (gentle cleaning, and stabilizing from the back),
conservation of original finish, and conservation of the upholstery buildup (innards).
Before treatment images above, though some of the gimp is removed.

We started, as we always do, with an assessment.
Our next steps are pattern making and excavation of the textile and buildup:
We apologize in advance for the strange yellow lighting in this room.

Because we are reupholstering the textile after we conserve the buildup,
we begin by taking patterns before we remove the textile.  Part of the pattern making process is to provide Mitchell with a template of the proper buildup.  Clear plastic allows Mitchell to make notes, identify tacking positions (to determine the number of upholsterings), and when the tapestry is cleaned, will assist with blocking.

One issue we saw immediately upon removal of the gimp trim was the excessive amount of glue applied.  It appears possible there was a repair sometime in the textile’s life, and the upholsterer trimmed the textile too close instead of turning the edge under, leaving the next upholsterer (us!) a poor edge with which to work.  We will have to be extremely careful because of someone who decided trimming was easier for them!

The seat textile removed, notations made, and the textile was set aside for cleaning.

Mitchell moved to the inside back, created the pattern, and began excavation.

The outside back fabric is also going to be reupholstered after it is cleaned;
the inside back is fully excavated to release
the outside back showcover fabric, a woven brown wool rep,
which may be a second generation showcover for the outside back.
There are notes in a few of  the images.

The arm tapestries were removed, and all patterning completed, above.

Finally the seat buildup was excavated.
There is a different fiber under an earlier tack, so there may have been
an earlier showcover or possibly this is a muslin.
There is not enough fiber to tell the story.

Most of the innards will be cleaned and re-utilized during the re-upholstery phase.
They were carefully removed, layer by layer,
and set aside in the order of removal, ready for cleaning.
It is unusual to see 2-inch webbing; usually you see a 3-inch webbing and fewer courses.  This is the original webbing, and Mitchell can affirm this because of the tacking holes.  Mitchell thinks they were trying to achieve a sprung platform which would
drop the center of gravity, making the seat more comfortable.
Copper alloyed springs place the chair between 1890-1910.


And we find this, though no other signature markings: “Made in Belgium,”
the original dustcover on the bottom!  Mitchell will place this back in the chair
as part of its history, but it is too rotten to reuse.

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The exposed frame ready for repairs and finish work.

Our next steps are to clean the tapestry and outside back wool rep, and to conserve the finish.  As we post I will link to the next posting: follow us so you are notified of updates.

Written by Kate Powell  ©MPF Conservation.
May be printed for your own use ONLY, not for use on blogs without permission.

Posted in antiques, art, chair, conservation techniques, decorative motifs, Interim Report, preservation, process, reparation, restoration techniques, textiles, upholstery, wooden objects | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment