East Lake Sofa-Bed Upholstery #2A: Repair

by DKP

We had the opportunity to conserve a wonderful Eastlake style sofa-bed by A. Hansen Co., Chicago, Ill.  Our clients have restored a wonderful Victorian in NE Portland, and this sofa-bed will grace her office.

W13 EASTLAKE SOFABED 22This is the second post in a series on this project.  To begin at the beginning return to Eastlake Sofa-Bed Upholstery Conservation #1: Excavation.

W13 EASTLAKE SOFABED 89We left off in our first post with the sofa-bed fully excavated.  During the excavation we found surprises that resulted in a bit more restoration work.   The foot end of the bed which supports the mattress, and is also the armrest/seat (we will call it the arm-seat), was severely compromised and rotting, as you will see in this blog post, and the tack strips were terribly damaged from poor upholsterers.  We decided to replace the rotting/damaged frame members.

Here is where the differences in museum conservation and conserving for reuse becomes clear.  In a museum piece, as long as the members were not in danger of causing damage to areas surrounding them or close to total collapse, we would reuse the members.  But when a piece is to be used, restoration of compromised members allows the preservation of the piece for a lifetime.  This precedence is seen in the United States Senate Desks treatment.  Images of the desk can be seen here.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 1In this case, several wooden parts were to be replaced.  First, the seat hinges were removed to allow the arm-seat to come off for partial frame replacement.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 2Rusty hinges and rusty screws were part of our discovery, though no obvious evidence of water damage was noticed prior to excavation.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 3W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 4Everything was carefully labeled for eventual reassembly.  Below, the armrest/foot is free off the main frame.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 5The back was removed next; below the hinges release the sofa back.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 6W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 7The three parts were disassembled for repair.  We began with the sofa back, removing the deteriorated tack strip.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 8W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 12 W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 10 W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 11 Original nails were found and preserved for our client.  We will not reuse these nails.  The frame was loose, so Mitchell disassembled the back to clean the hide glue and reglue securely.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 13 W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 14 W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 15Images of the inside back allows us to understand the construction.

We move to the arm-seat and Mitchell disassembles the frame.  There are three items which will be repaired: the “foot,” which is used when it is fully deployed (to the left in the image below); the arm front panel (to the right in the image below); and the mattress foot/seat frame.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 16The foot is gently removed from the frame so as not to damage the fragile piece.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 17 W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 18 W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 19Several old nails were used of various sizes.  Below, the dowel which held the leg is gently tapped apart.  The old hide glue was quite disintegrated, allowing easy separation.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 20The arm front panel was gently pried from the frame, below:

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 21W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 22Now it is easy to see the extreme deterioration of the foot/seat frame.  Large nails were hammered into the mortice and tenon joints, and these nails split the frame.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 23W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 24 W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 25 W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 26The arm-seat is completely disassembled for reconstruction using new parts.

New pieces were fashioned as needed from matching wood, though we did not search for old wood as all parts replaced were internals.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 36W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 27Holes drilled as part of the mortice and tenon joints above are “marked” below.  Work is meticulous, for it must be compatible with the existing frame parts.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 28 W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 29 W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 30Holes marked for new mortice/tenon joints, the holes were drilled.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 31 W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 33 W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 34The mortice and tenon joints were tested for fit but not glued yet.  Corner blocks were made and ready for assembly.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 35The leg was repaired next.  The structural support was gently pried loose from the finished leg.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 49 W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 50Old hide glue was removed, above.  The original holes were drilled clean for the dowels, he first step in conserving and strengthening the holes.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 51 W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 52A split and a chip were repaired.  Warm hide glue was used to secure the split.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 53W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 54A small piece of wood was used to infill the “foot” of the leg, above.  Dowels were placed into the holes using warm hide glue.

A second split was glued, below.  Before clamping to cure, all splits were repaired.  Dowels were used in all the side holes as well.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 55W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 56The leg was clamped to secure splits, infills and dowels during the glue curing time.

After curing, the dowels were trimmed clean, below, and the wood infill was also carved flush with the original “foot.”

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 58 W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 59 The dowels in the newly conserved holes were leveled flush, above, and then stained to match the surrounding finish, below; further color correction was performed during the finish reparation.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 62 W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 63New structural supports were installed behind the finished legs, and clamped to cure.

W13 4 FXSB REPARATION 64After curing, screw holes were drilled to await reassembly.

Meanwhile, Mitchell moved to the repair of the arm front panel, in the next post: “East Lake Sofa-Bed Upholstery #2B: Repair”.

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About MPFConservation

We are a conservation and restoration firm located in the Pacific Northwest, specializing in objects: furniture, but also other objects; wood, stone or metal furniture or objects; lacquered and painted furniture or objects; traditional finishes on furniture or objects; quilts, beaded objects, and some textile reparation and interior architectural elements, such as leather or upholstered walls. When you think about conservation, equate it to restoring the furniture or object the best way possible for the history, life and value of the object. We are fully qualified to perform museum-tectbook treatments, but also flexible enough to work with private clients to allow for daily use of objects. We work West of the Rockies from Canada to Mexico, and once in a while venture beyond the West for specific treatments. Kate and Mitchell Powell are partners in work and in life; we each have our specialties in work and in our marriage. Mitchell is the cat charmer in both! To see our work visit our official website: http://www.mpfconservation.com
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