A Quirky Conservation Project

 

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Posted in conservation techniques

Planter’s Chair: 2, Excavation, Seat, Continued

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 seat partially excavated.

Removing the second generation hair topper,
we encounter an original hair topper, properly lashed to the seat deck.
He notes the lashing pattern, then cuts and lifts it.
The seat deck hessian is exposed; after vacuuming we inspect it.

Mitchell wears a mask when he is excavating after encountering molds and
various types of dust and debris which can mess with your lungs!

Lashing patterns noted, and details of the fit.
We loosened the inside arms to inspect the carvings and connections.

Above, an example of what careless upholsterers do to frames, including carvings,
or when the frame maker does not include tacking foundations which allow for tacking without encroaching into decorative elements.  Mitchell will change the frame slightly to include a tacking block to preserve the carving from future mistakes..
We will repair the lovely carving.

There is damage to the connection between the carving and the metal frame on both arms,
also to be repaired.  This may be a wear-and-tear issue, or possible a design issue.
These are the types of issues we discuss with clients as we find them.

The original fiber seat pod comes off, to be cleaned and conserved.
The spring deck is exposed.  Over the years the hessian stretches on both
spring deck and seat deck to conform to the stresses.
Lashing patterns are noted.

Spring deck burlap is removed, and we see the original springs.
We inspect the dirt (we find odd bits sometimes, including coins) and vacuum the debris.

The springs are heavy rolled steel, which we will clean and conserve.
Mitchell notes the tie patterns, but does not cut the ties yet.
He usually does not cut ties until the last moment necessary.
He also counts and notes the tie hole patterns,
as he lifts the tacks holding ties to the frame.

The chair is turned over, and under the dustcover we see two layers of
webbing applied in order to save the springs.
This second layer (top) is the creamy webbing above, not lashed to the springs below.

The first webbing applied over the original in order to save the springs
is the darker herringbone webbing in a criss-cross pattern.
It was also not lashed in any manner to the springs.
As Mitchell removed webbing, he notes holes and tack positions.  They tell the story of the number of times the chair has been upholstered and in what manner.

Mitchell is down to the original webbing, properly woven in a basketweave pattern,
and can say he knows the history of the webbing patterns, which,
along with tacks from upholstering showcovers and hessian,
and after noting and marking the spring tie tack patterns,
gives us clue as to the number and nature of the upholsterings.
He feels secure in that the chair was reupholstered twice in its lifetime beyond the original,
and the person who performed the second upholstering did not retie the springs.

The seat drops out!


Some of Mitchell’s musings about the Planter’s Chair…
The woods… European Beech (frame) was not commonly imported in the states.
Persimmon wood (carving) is native to India, but was grown all over the south,
and even into the colonies, which offers other clues.
The original webbing and subsequent webbings were uncommon to the USA,
but found in England and Europe.
The contraction and patina of the foundational woods (European Beech),
and the excessive rusting of tacks and metal objects were consistent with exposure to very high humidity, such as might be found where there is good rainfall and relatively high temperatures, and possibly salty air.  This information, coupled with what little provenance was available, led Mitchell to surmise the piece may have lived in France (where it began life) but also lived in either the tropics or a city like New York.
The fact that it is a planter’s chair, with carvings reflecting plants that grow in tropical regions (sugarcane or tobacco) makes him lean toward Latin American or the Caribbean.

The seat is fully excavated,
and we move to the inside back, next post!
(I suggest you turn off the music!)

 If you would be interested in notification
of online classes coming next year, comment
and we will save your email address.
It will be used by no one else for any other purpose.

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

Posted in antiques, conservation techniques, decorative motifs, French Furniture, Interim Report, preservation, process, restoration techniques, upholstery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Planter’s Chair: 1, Excavation, Seat

We are properly conserving a French-made Planter’s Chair, circa 1860.
We’ll follow the chair through excavation to the new show-cover.
An overview of the process, from one vantage point, below.

We begin with excavation.
Excavation is the discovery process, and we are always shocked at the thought
that many people give this job to the youngest interns with little oversight.
The more experienced you are the more valuable the information
gleaned during these beginning stages:
where the piece may have lived;
personal predilections of the individuals using the pieces;
the environment in which the piece lived;
tracking of dates when various upholsterings took place,
the regions where various upholsterings took place.
Some of Mitchell’s musings are at the bottom of this post.

We take more images during excavation that any other phase.
There is so much history, both original and secondary upholsterings,
to document while undoing of the piece.
Also, sometimes we want to go back and see
what our eyes did not connect as important in the first stage…

This excavation was performed in two parts,
which we will explain as we get to the breaking point.
This is the excavation of the seat.

Passementerie is the last item to be applied and the first to come off the chair,
which is how it goes down through the layers.  A bit like an archeological excavation.
Conservators are interested in preserving the  history of an object.
To that end, we save samples and items as they are removed, noting their location.
When the project is completed, they are given to the client in part or whole,
and/or we keep interesting samples for ourselves.
You might not know what part of the story an item or mark informs.
This is also when we make our final assessment fo our client,
and may need to tell the client if changes in the estimate are necessary.

Turning the chair over, we find a tag which tells us that this chair was
sold secondhand with this showcover, including who performed the fumigation.
This tells us it was sold before the mid 1970a, when the State of Oregon stopped
the fumigation laws for secondhand upholstered item sales.

What appear to be original ceramic wheels are in good condition.

The showcover is removed from the seat.
Mitchell finds a layer of paper-wrapped cotton (wadding), popular with
European upholsterers in the early 20th century, at the probable time of the
second generation upholstery, suggesting it took place in Europe.
The wadding is no longer obtainable in the states.
He also gets his first glimpse of the bottom of the metal back frame.
Samples of passementerie and fabric are kept.

Already we know that we have a missing decorative scroll to be replicated.

As I photograph the chair, I can see that there is no way to get a symmetrical view,
and Mitchell looks at the frame with new eyes.  The back and two legs are badly twisted.
As we move through other phases you will see how asymmetrical the chair’s become.
It  is quite sturdy, and not in danger of tipping or breaking.
Causation of the twisting in the metal back frame may be due to someone sitting oddly,
favoring their right side (much like I do, even when on the puter!)

We see the first evidence of an earlier fabric, which we soon identify as a green velvet.
Usually we see bits of earlier fabrics; this time only one.

Mitchell begins to remove layers of the seat, documenting as we go.
The first three layers are from the current upholstered showcover, most likely:
two layers of cotton toppers, and a horsehair pad.
We surmise the chair had between one to three showcovers.
Good fabric, proper foundations, and proper care can make a show cover last a long time.

All materials are cleaned and reused unless there are issues of body fluids, etc.

The seat is partially excavated;
we will continue excavating the original materials
in the seat next post!

If you would be interested in notification
of online classes coming next year, comment
and we will save your email address.
It will be used by no one else for any other purpose.

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

Posted in antiques, conservation techniques, decorative motifs, French Furniture, process, restoration techniques, upholstery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Planter’s Chair: 3, Excavation, Back (Partial)

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.

We previously loosened the inside arms around the carvings.
Mitchell turns to the outside back, beginning with the arms,
and after noting the stitching pattern used, cuts the ties to the showcover.

Moving to the inside arms, showcover and then the secondary (not-original) top layer of cotton batting was removed, exposing the original buildup on the arms.

The last generation upholstery styling moved away from the traditional tufted back
in favor of a slip-backed style which accentuated the lumbar section of the inside back.  Mitchell cut the hand-stitching joining the lumbar section of the show cover,
revealing the original styling beneath.

The showcover drops, and we can inspect the inside back in its entirety for the first time.
New second generation layers of cotton batting and horse hair shown above.
A clue to various generations is the difference in the colors of the hair used.

The second generation cotton batting and horsehair is removed, labeled, and may be cleaned and reused if appropriate for the conservation of the inside back.

This is the original inside back, with the tufted buildup exposed.
The original upholsterer used a bit of horsehair around the buttons instead of cotton.


The top horsehair removed, the final pattern for the buttons of the tufting are exposed.
This appears to be filthy, and at first glance we thought it soot or carbon buildup,
but it is actually a topper of lint.  Flock or flocking is the common name attributed to this type of stuffing.  Flocking is lint findings left over from the cloth milling industry,
often used during the mid to late 19th century in stuffing seat squabs,
especially in England and France.  It was also occasionally teased out
onto second stuffing surfaces to act as a soft malleable batting.

A 17 oz hessian membrane was used in the original foundation work,
stretched across the steel hoop and lashed along the edges.
The stamped letters are likely to be from the mill for the hessian burlap.

Several things happen at this juncture.  Instead of the complete excavation, which is more typical, Mitchell took extensive patterns of the original inside back, above, which will be covered in the post on Upholstery Buildup.  He then chose to temporarily encase the entire inside back within a muslin wrap until frame repairs, finish repairs, and the seat buildup was completed.  This protected the historic inside back stuffings from losses in information through easing of the fibers during those treatment procedures.
Mitchell prefers to have the information from the excavation in his head as close
to the buildup/conservation time of a given part as possible…
in this case, after the seat buildup he will turn to the excavation of the inside back.

We move to the frame conservation, next post!

If you would be interested in notification of online classes coming next year, comment and we will save your email address.  It will be used by no one else for any other purpose.

An overview of the process, from one vantage point, below.

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

Posted in antiques, chair, conservation techniques, decorative motifs, French Furniture, Interim Report, process, restoration techniques, upholstery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

French Planter’s Chair

We are properly conserving a French-made Planter’s Chair, circa 1860,
belonging to a Portland preservationist.
Hand carved persimmon wood, European Beechwood frame,
original innards, unmolested finish.
We’ll follow the chair in detail through excavation to the new show-cover.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We will begin with excavation, next post!

If you would be interested in notification
of online classes coming next year, comment
and we will save your email address.
It will be used by no one else for any other purpose.

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

Posted in antiques, conservation techniques, decorative motifs, French Furniture, process, restoration techniques, upholstery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

All Hide Glues are NOT Equal

Not all commercial hide glues are equal.
We want to make sure you are using the good stuff,
even for a temporary repair you may want to make on your own furniture.
Also, a furniture repair person may say they use hide glue.  Be savvy enough to ask them what type of hide glue… then decide whether you’ll take grandmother’s table for repairs!

Years ago we made our
hide glue in the pot, right, now retired into service
as a wax-making pot.  Cooking, decanting, warming for use in
syringes or onto Kate’s  kitchen plates, keeping
it warm was a messy and smelly part of our conservation  business.
(Mitchell says it is the
smell of success!)

We didn’t use Titebond Liquid Hide Glue because despite its name, it contains other ingredients (see below) and has qualities unsuitable for conservation.

Now the only time we make our own glue is if has to be
fish glue or rabbit hide glue, which is rarely.  A colleague, Patrick Edwards,
makes Old Brown Glue. At first he only sold to fellow conservators, but now,
Old Brown Glue can be bought from their website and several woodworking supply stores.
The beauty of Old Brown Glue is the ingredients: hydrolyzed collagen and urea —
that’s all!  No more “i-wonder-what-that-is” chemical additives.
Now Mitchell warms a bowl of water in the microwave, decants Old Brown Glue into syringes or 5oz bottles, and drops them into the warm water to warm.
The only smelly part is when he is slathering it on to affix parts!

Hide glue is non-toxic, organic, safe for the environment,
has no cautions other than common sense (don’t pour it in your eyes),
is reversible (very important for conservation) with warm water or vinegar,
but has kept antique furniture together for centuries!
You don’t waste money using hide glues, because you can always harden leftovers
and store it to melt another day! (Video below)

The Old Brown Glue website has several good articles
and facts about using his hide glue, including  Why Not Period Glue?
When you place an order, tell them we sent you!

Coming soon, gap-filling, the employment of adhesives,
and strategies toward structural viability of bruised and damaged joinery.

If you would be interested in notification of online classes coming next year, comment and we will save your email address.  It will be used by no one else for any other purpose.

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

Notes from Wikipedia and the MSDS for Titebond Liquid Hide Glue, which contains the following: ammonium thiocyanate; dicyandiamide 461-58-5 (Cyanoguanidine, used in the adhesive industry as a curing agent for epoxies.[1]), and polyalkene glycol (PAGs).

Posted in antiques, CAUTIONS, conservation techniques, preservation, reparation, restoration techniques, wooden objects | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Lianne’s Linen Sampler Ca 1806


Lianne’s Great-great-great-GREAT grandmother, Hannah Epes, completed this sampler on June 26th, 1806, when she was 10 years old.  It came to us in the sweet old handkerchief box her grandmother kept it in, above, a keepsake.

I like hearing the history of the pieces from our clients, and
Lianne is willing to let me share it.  Hannah had a rough life.
She married Charles Whitmarsh in 1814 when she was just 18.
Their first daughter was born two years later, and died at
4 1/2 months, the same age their fourth son also died.
Their second daughter was born in 1817 and died when she was 9 years old.
They had three sons and two more daughters, all  of whom lived to adulthood,
though the eldest daughter died young.  Charles died in 1838.
She remarried a man named John Hornby in 1841.
He died in 1856, and Hannah died in 1867.


7 3/4 inches x 11 inches, the sampler was dirty,
though Lianne had tried cleaning it herself.

There was a small hole in the linen on the back in the hem,
but otherwise, no loose or broken threads or other structural damage
was found that might affect the cleaning process.

Cleaning seems a simple item, but can permanently damage a textile.
It is important that a proper conservator determine cleaning protocol.
Embroidery threads were assessed for dye movement,
and as none was found, the sampler was gently cleaned.
Dust and dirt was released from the sampler into a proper solution.
The process of cleaning was repeated three times,
then the sampler was thoroughly rinsed, and laid to dry flat.

Acid free tissue will wrap the sampler.
Remember to change the acid free tissue once a year,
as the tissue will absorb acids in the environment.

No job too small.
Your items are important to us!

©MPF Conservation.
Blog posts may be reposted; please link back to mpfconservation.me.

Posted in antiques, conservation techniques, preservation, textiles | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,