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.
This is the second post in a series on this project. To begin at the beginning return to Eastlake Sofa-Bed Upholstery Conservation #1: Excavation.
We 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.
In 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.
Rusty hinges and rusty screws were part of our discovery, though no obvious evidence of water damage was noticed prior to excavation.
Everything was carefully labeled for eventual reassembly. Below, the armrest/foot is free off the main frame.
The back was removed next; below the hinges release the sofa back.
The three parts were disassembled for repair. We began with the sofa back, removing the deteriorated tack strip.
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.
Images 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.
The foot is gently removed from the frame so as not to damage the fragile piece.
Several 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.
The arm front panel was gently pried from the frame, below:
Now 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.
The 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.
Holes 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.
Holes marked for new mortice/tenon joints, the holes were drilled.
The mortice and tenon joints were tested for fit but not glued yet. Corner blocks were made and ready for assembly.
The leg was repaired next. The structural support was gently pried loose from the finished leg.
Old hide glue was removed, above. The original holes were drilled clean for the dowels, he first step in conserving and strengthening the holes.
A split and a chip were repaired. Warm hide glue was used to secure the split.
A 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.
The 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.”
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.
New structural supports were installed behind the finished legs, and clamped to cure.
After 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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