We are properly conserving a French-made Planter’s Chair, circa 1860.
(You can begin here, if you like.)
We’ll follow the chair through excavation to the new show-cover.
We left off in the last posting with the excavation of the seat.
The frame’s joinery had issues in two places and one was a surprise.
We gently disassembled the legs and the front apron, in order to clean the
old hide glue from the mortice and tenon, readying it for reparation.
Tack holes on all possible parts of the frame are conserved using
picks and warm hide glue. It looks like it takes much more time that other
viable solutions but it doesn’t; one gets into the rhythm and
the picks drop easily into the abandoned tack holes filled with hide glue.
We do not recommend the application of epoxies, putties and/or slurries of glues
(PVA or hide) made of wood flour and shavings for surface leveling,
as it will not impart structural integrity. These will not hold tacks.
Ultimately they are not reversible as they are nearly impossible to remove
from historic wood surfaces and substrates. Many epoxy-based glues
and putties will thwart future conservation efforts into perpetuity.
Modestly bruised or worn tenons, where gaps could effect efficacy of the reglued joints, were laminated with thin =veneers made from similar wood species prior to regluing of joint. Then warm hide glue is applied to cleaned conserved parts, and clamped to cure.
Tack holes in the carved decorative arms were also conserved.
We puzzled over the relief carved design facing the inside part of the arm,
and the flatter plain surface facing the outside arm of the chair.
At first the visual effect seemed confusing (makers have been known to make mistakes) but as we ventured further into the project we realized it was not a mistake.
One bug surprise was the decorative arm to metal frame connection.
The frame connection fragmented into multiple disintegrating bits.
(This is also to remind you that sometimes surprises happen after assessment, during conservation processes. It is advised to work with your clients about payment,
keeping clients informed as adjustments in costs are resolved.)
The disintegrated parts or blown out broken parts were carefully removed
and a clean surface to attach a connecting piece of hard wood was created,
then the connection was fashioned and the piece assembled.
A small bit of carved decorative wood was loose and glued with warm hide glue.
All the glue used in the reconstruction was warm hide glue, and clamped to cure.
Hide glue is strong and reversible when properly applied and
of good quality without bulking agents or chemical additives!
We used to make all our hide glues, but now we use Old Brown Glue.
The rest of the chair frame holes were conserved.
Small cracks and chips found in the frame were also repaired
with warm hide glue, and clamped to cure.
The repaired persimmon-wood carved arm front tenons were brushed with warm hide glue and returned to original positions in the cleaned, prepped seat side rail mortice.
Historic hoop was reconnected using historic slot headed screws,
securing screw and hoop to the backside of the decorative arm front.
Finally, the assembled and glued chair was leveled and clamped to cure for 48 hours.
Mitchell retrofit the inside arm frame with a tacking block; previously upholsterers
toe-nailed into the frame inappropriately, which caused most of the damage.
This type of retrofit is a preservation measure.
In this case, it creates a visual design element, allowing for a structural gully
around the decorative arm foundation resulting in recessed contours around the arm which are embellished with the decorative show cover and woven braids.
The historic iron springs were in good condition;
after a thorough inspection Mitchell cleaned them of rust and
occlusions using Gamblin’s Gamsol (Odorless Mineral Spirits).
The decorative scroll was carved from walnut,
joined to the leg proper then glued and clamped to cure.
The chair was ready for finish conservation.
Stain infill was determined.
The “stain” was created by dissolving powdered pigment in isopropyl alcohol.
Mitchell applied our stain to cure until completely dry.
After, a topcoat of blonde shellac was applied to fix the infill color in place.
We used an encaustic wax finish on the entire frame’s finish in
multiple applications and viscosities until burnish-able.
MPFC created this wax by infusing bee and carnauba wax with finely powdered pigment with the addition of “drying” oils to polymerize the mixture and act as a fixative.
The frame is conserved and restored as is appropriate;
onward to upholstery, next post!
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An overview of the process, from one vantage point, below.