French Walnut Country Buffet, 2, Excavation


Follow along with our interim report for our client’s French Walnut Country Buffet:
Previously, we began with Assessment

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Our “before” images are our reference documents!


We removed the doors, and then the top of the buffet.


The hinge mechanism is second
generation; we know this because of previous bores, shown right.

We believe the decorative hinge set is likely
19th century.  It is a very cool hinge!

The hinge mounts are bolted
all-thread eye-bolts, above and right.
They are not a matched set,
and are even a bit jerryrigged.
It is likely they the are much
more modern, likely 20th century.

Some hinges show the need
for reparation; all will be
thoroughly inspected for a tune-up.

Doors off, we can see the carcass much better.

The right-facing door has splits and will be repaired.


The top is a great example of restoration people not working with the piece!
This beautiful buffet was dovetail, peg and mortice/tenon and paneled construction.
Sometimes these connections loosen after a couple hundred years, and shims of various sorts (and other traditional woodworking methods) solve the problem.
However, the last restoration people decided to drive nails in the top in three places, above.  In doing so they also broke two pegs, which we will replace.

With the top off we could see into the carcass, and easily assess the drawers skids and central structure, above.  Drawer skids are wearing, and worn skids eventually wear the drawer and you get sticky tacking.  Some skids were previously replaced.

I also allows us to assess the corner connections.

The top off, above, we can
also assess the underside.
Two sliding dovetail tenons are part of the mechanism which holds the top in place.

Punky wood and old pest infestations are easily seen.

We will try to extract nails such as the one shown right, and infill with wooden picks.  A cosmetic repair on the top might be a shellac burn-in.

The underside tells the story of the buffet’s long life.

The right-facing sliding dovetail easily releases, which we expect it to do,
with a few gentle taps.  Long ago hide glue was used for additional security.

The left-facing sliding dovetail was stuck, and we would have left it in place if we did
not have to remove it to insert keylocks on the large cracks on that end.
Gently persistent,  Mitchell finally made the wood move, and we uncovered the
reason why: someone had decided to nail it in place!
Thankfully this did not rip the underside of the top but simply bent over.

We knew the top was warped before the excavation, and it is unlikely that we would try to repair the warpage.  Laying the top on a flat table we
were able to run a metal straightedge and show how the top warps differently from one end to the other. If you look carefully at the images shown above and right, you can see the warped reflection curve in the table top!

Next post, we begin to repair the top! (Live when published.)
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Written by Kate Powell, ©MPF Conservation.
May be printed for your own use ONLY, not for use on blogs without permission.

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:
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1 Response to French Walnut Country Buffet, 2, Excavation

  1. Dan Antion says:

    I have to wonder how much of your time is spent dealing with previous poor attempts to repair the item you’re working on.

    I am seriously interested in how you will repair the top.

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