Process: Gustav Stickley Ladderback Chair Frame Repair

Continuing from the Excavation of the Gustav Stickley Ladderback Armchair
(Or to begin at the beginning go here.)


Reparation of the frame begins with more disassembly,
on an as-needed basis for each chair.  Corner blocks are removed, labeled,
and screws are placed back into original block holes for safekeeping.

5/16-inch white oak dowel secured the mortice and tenon, except for the arms,
which used 3/8-inch white oak dowel.  In order to disassemble the compromised joints,
the dowel was carefully drilled, first by piloting with a hand gimlet, then a small brad point and drill bit, then successively larger drill bits.– all to ensure accuracy.  Coved chisels assisted in removing small bits of doweling clinging to mortice walls..

This basic process was used for the removal of all necessary dowel pins.

With the dowel pins removed, the desiccated hide glue allowed for fairly easy
separation of the joinery.  All bits of glue were removed by hand tool or
by sandpaper, another time-consuming job.  Mitchell did not find it necessary
to remove the back splats from the stiles; only that which might endanger joints
in the future were disassembled.  This was discussed in the video on the previous post.

W15 CK STICKLEY1 063All frame parts disassembled and ready for repair.

There is a label on the inside of a rear stretcher.
There was so much dirt covering the label we could not  see the label clearly.
With a damp cotton swab, Kate cleaned carefully around the red areas taking care not to remove red markings.  The label was visible after cleaning, below.

W15 CK STICKLEY1 064 W15 CK STICKLEY1 067At first we thought the sticker was the first United Crafts Mark, indicating the chair was made between 1902-1903, however, we do not see an indication of the box surrounding the signature.  This led us to the second red Craftsman Workshops Mark, used from 1905-1912 (one wonders what was used in between) which coincides with the Craftsman Paper Label, used between 1907-1912.  This places our chairs between 1905-1912.

I wish we could show you good images of the labels,
but we could not gain permission from the Stickley corporation!
(**My commentary on the “Stickley Museum” is at the bottom of this blog post.)

Stickley used the phrase, “Als ik kan” — “to the best of my ability” on his mark.

W15 CK STICKLEY1 068Warm hide glue was used to secure radial splits and lifting tangential grain.
A split on the upholstery apron injected with hide glue, top; and below,
injecting warm hide glue into lifting tangential grain prior to cauling and clamping.

W15 CK STICKLEY1 072 a (1)The split and fissures were cleaned if possible —
unless to do so would court further damage.
Warm hide glue was brushed or injected to secure,
then the splits were cauled and clamped to cure.
The tangential grain after curing, secured.

Upholstery seat apron tack holes were filled
with hardwood dowels using hide glue to set.
Warm Hide glue was injected into each hole and
hardwood dowels were tapped into place.
By the angle of the dowels sticking out you can see how the tacks
were often placed in at an angle, as we are filling the original holes.

W15 CK STICKLEY1 073The porcupine seat aprons sat overnight to cure, above.

W15 CK STICKLEY1 080All the little dowels are cut, above, however, Mitchell leaves them a bit proud so
he can feel where the originaltack was placed and drive the new tack into the same hole during the reupholstery phase.  This assists in keeping the apron strong for generations.

The chair is ready for reassembly, above.

White oak dowels in the 5/16th size were not available for months
even through online stores.  Mitchell reduced a 3/8 dowel by first scraping,
then  tamping it through a dowel sizer, above.

At this time all parts were ready for assembly.
The assembly had to be done in one unbroken period, because while the hide glue
was still viscous, the frame has to be stabilized and set level then clamped to cure level.
Below, images on the entire chair being assembled before the glue set up!

Thin coats warm hide glue covers all parts, mortise and tenon and dowels.
on rare occasions where mortice or tenon walls were excessively thin pieces of white oak veneer were cut to size, soaked in warm hide glue until pliable, then set onto tenon walls to minimize gaps and ensure proper glue bond between the elements.  (Images unusable.)
The front arms and aprons were assembled, then placed into the back.

W15 CK STICKLEY1 110This simple rectilinear frame required many clamps to stabilize during curing,
but not by any means the most I have seen;
odd shaped chairs sometimes require inventive clamping!

The frame was leveled,  stabilized and clamped to cure overnight.
The next morning the frame is ready for the finish preservation and infill phase.


**Update October 13th 2015:  Stickley Museum contacted me today because
they did not appreciate the disparaging remarks I made below.  I had much the same problem as before, in that the person I spoke with spoke over me.  She said she had never received emails from me, but also interrupted and so I assume never heard that one problem was their site kept rejecting my emails, as stated below.

So I am amending my post below to be perfectly clear.
First, Stickley did not ask me to amend the post.
It appears she merely wanted me to know she objected, and so I am passing that on.

MPF Conservation still apologizes to our readers for Stickley Museum‘s making it extremely difficult to post images of their labels.  The modern manufacturing company runs a museum, however, I could not gain permission because I could not get through to someone who was polite and listened to me about the difficulties I was having in sending them materials.  I was asked if we make money off this article.  NO.  I explained our blog is not the source of our customer base.  Advertising locally and though various appropriate museum and conservation organizations is how we find paying clients.  Our blog goes out to people world-wide, and we field emails from other countries asking about proper preservation.  Our blog is a more casual way of answering those kinds of questions.

Again, I tried through three avenues (six phone calls — the beginning people were polite and passed me through to others or gave me other numbers to call — and two emails —
as described on their site — sending links to our website, images, explanations of what we do, etc.) to begin to obtain permission to post the two small CLEAR images of historic labels of the joiner’s compass to illustrate how to date these chairs.  These emails were rejected.  I assumed not that they were rejecting us but that they had a glitch in the process that day — so I was calling.  I’ve never had a museum say no to our request or be difficult to work with.  Again, today two months later, the woman spoke over me, and when I tried to explain that their email kept rejecting my sends with links and so forth, continued to interrupt me and for the second time never heard me.  She accused me of not listening to her when in fact I heard that I had to send an agreement and acknowledged that I understood her.  She said no museum gave permissions verbally and I told her I had not said that (though some did), but that the process was not this difficult, and that I’ve never had anyone in a museum be rude or combative.  I, in turn, wanted her to know that their email addresses were rejecting my emails. 
She never acknowledged it then or now as a sticking point to jumping through her hoops, even when she repeatedly stated that she had no emails and I said yes, your site kept rejecting my emails.
  I stand by my memory of whomever I spoke with last time being rude, and again, even when I told her that she was interrupting me and not listening, her response was basically a lecture on ownership and process, and accusing me of being rude.  I never got my point across.  One can’t even begin the process if you can’t send an email.  Now it seems a moot point.

So to be very clear, if you have no problems with emails at the museum,
then perhaps you can get permission.  They have a process.  I could not.  I also was unwilling to work with someone who was again rude (interrupting, not listening to why no one received emails).  If someone can assist you with the process, then perhaps that is possible.  It is our sincere hope that the Stickley Corporation will eventually come to understand the benefit of such sharing regarding proper preservation, and work with those who are educating Gustav Stickley’s many collectors.

W15 CK STICKLEY1 LINE ©MPF Conservation.  May be printed for your own use.
May be reposted if our url +copyright is used as reference.

About dkatiepowellart

hollywood baby turned beach gurl turned steel&glass city gurl turned cowgurl turned herb gurl turned green city gurl. . . artist writer photographer. . . cat lover but misses our big dogs, gone to heaven. . . buddhist and interested in the study of spiritual traditions. . . foodie, organic, lover of all things mik, partner in conservation business mpfconservation, consummate blogger, making a dream happen, insomniac who is either reading buddhist teachings or not-so-bloody mysteries or autobio journal thangs early in the morning when i can't sleep
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4 Responses to Process: Gustav Stickley Ladderback Chair Frame Repair

  1. Pingback: Process: Gustav Stickley Ladderback Chair Excavation | Mpfconservation's Blog

  2. Pingback: Process: Gustav Stickley Ladderback Chair Finish | Mpfconservation's Blog

  3. Thanks so much for your information about the ladder back chair! Stickley folks must be some real assholes. I won’t bother dealing with them. Thanks for your expertise and fine work. It’s inspiring, I dug the old rocker out last night. Going to put it back together before spring. It needs some dowels replaced in the boards supporting the seat cushion. I’m taking my time…but think I’ll finish it. Kind regards, Terry

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