This is the fourth post in a series on this project. This post continues from the previous post: East Lake Sofa-Bed Upholstery #2B: Repair. To begin at the beginning go to Eastlake Sofa-Bed Upholstery Conservation #1: Excavation.
We made our own shellac from fresh beige shellac flakes. For more info on how we did this go to our blog post on Shellac. Here we will say that we went from beige shellac flakes to a wonderful 3-lb cut of shellac, which we thinned as necessary for our applications.
We set the sofa-bed frame into our clean room. Below you can see the left-facing side with a large paint drip and bleached area of splotchiness.
Green paint splattered and dripped in many places. Removing as mus of it as possible from the frame was the first step. This spot was 3/4-inch long.
A small sanding tool with fine paper is excellent for this job. Sanding is a large part of finish reparation, and a skill itself. Kate tries to stay on the surface and not dig down into the finish.
Blending that sanded area out a bit was good for the camouflage later if necessary. Below it was wiped clean of sanding debris.
The entire frame was skip-sanded using 400-600, except for the name stamp, to accept shellac.
This piece was intended for working class families, and so the back was not finished because it was intended to push against a wall in a smaller Victorian home. Our client has rooms where she might want to set it so the back will be seen, so we finished the back. This is outside the scope of conservation, as it is entirely new, not historical. However, we will document this change, and it is shellac, traditional to the piece.
“A. HANSEN. Pat April 9th 1878,” the manufacturer. The name was stamped in many places on the frame, below, but only one place was visible after the upholstery was applied, and that is the outside back, above.
The carved areas were also skip sanded.
This is the left-facing side where the large paint splatter was removed.
Kate mapped out the shellac painting pattern as to how to open and close the back so as not to ruin fresh shellac. Every part is skip sanded.
After skip sanding, the frame was wiped clean for the shellac. Particles left on the surface will become the size of golf balls when shellac is applied, causing a glommed appearance.
The original finish varies in tone all over the sofa-bed: above, the inside back header is quite light, and below, the front apron is quite dark. We will not try to balance this.
A detail of the sanded area of the large paint drip, below. Now that the sofa-bed was skip sanded and wiped clean, the small chips and losses in the finish are clearly seen, as they are the color of the sanded area.
The leg, below, with its many dowels, will take several extra detailed dye coats of shellac with a dye suspended in it to match the overall finish color.
Abrasions such as the one above from the misalignment of the arm-seat were infilled to mitigate the discoloration.
Several coats of shellac were applied, starting with a 1-lb cut of beige shellac, above. Immediately the saturation shifts with the thin coat of shellac. Brushing in the carvings takes skill, so as not to have drips, and puddles in the carvings.
The second coat consisted of two shellacs. One was a dye coat for infill. This side in particular needed the color of the finish evened to mitigate the splotchiness.
It needn’t be perfect, but the glaring color differences were mitigated; before it almost looked like bleach was spilled. The color appears much more even (ignore the bright white spot, which is reflection from the white paper.)
Bruised areas such as the one above had several coats of beige as well, which mitigated the discoloration of the bruises and sealed the open wood. The intention is to seal and color, but not to try to make it look new off the showroom floor.
In the areas which did not need infilled shellac with pigment were coated using beige shellac as the second coat.
Areas such as the doweled infills, above, received twice as many small coats of shellac with dye, applied with a tiny brush.
After two coats, the color is bright, above. After three coats of beige shellac, below, the color deepens.
Dyed shellac was only used in infill or touch-up areas. The left-facing side is well-appointed, above.
The stamp can still be seen, below.
The color appears brighter under bright lights. Below is a truer indication of the color of the shellac finish before waxing.
Shellac reparation is done, and set to cure for several days.
Wax, the final step in finish reparation, was applied by Mitchell, padded and brushed to get deep into carved details.
Cloth rubs wax into the inner spaces.
The sofa-bed was hand-polished. A wrapped tool polished in the grooves.
A second clean brush removes any last remnants of wax in the details.
Mitchell added a coat of pigmented wax in order to make it appear to be an old finish.
The resulting waxed shellac is a warm finish, not shiny, which looks like a well-appointed, well preserved piece.
The sofa-bed can now comfortably sit in an open room, with the outside back finished, and the name can still be read.
The area of the green paint, above, on the left-facing side of the back, and the splotchiness on the left-facing side was mitigated.
A quick look at the roll-out from initial sand to waxed finish:
The next step is the buildup, and this is an unusual piece in that there will be a mattress conserved and then the sofa seat and inside back conserved.
Will post when written!
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It is a revelation to watch the painstaking resurection of a piece through skilled artisan hands.