Apart from repairing the usual wood losses and wear on the drawer runners, this early desk needed appropriate feet, molding, and hardware, as well as complete refinishing. On the top left is a "before" picture. Note the ghosts of the original pulls under the later replacements. The escutcheon plates were original though missing some scrollwork. The interior had a shell carved in the prospect door and certain construction details seemed to have a Rhode Island flavor so I used the feet and molding profile from a Townsend chest as a model for these restorations (top right). Researching similar objects helps with recreating lost parts and is part of the restoration process.
This before-and-after set of photos show the fabrication of a crown molding to compensate for a loss that occurred many years ago, The owner had enjoyed this piece in her youth and never remembers anything different than from the before picture. Close inspection showed the vestiges of glue lines and miters, though most anyone familiar with the form would notice the loss. After research of various other Empire secretaries, this design adds the extra molding while preserving what's left of the original crown. The restoration was made from some of my favorite mahogany boards and veneers!
The mantle clock was missing its pediment and feet though an outline and vestiges of glue could be seen on the top and bottom of the case.The owner of this object wanted to present it in its original form. Pillar-and-scroll clocks by Eli and Samuel Terry are sought after antiques and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has one just like this, complete with pediment and legs. Examination of that object allowed me to do a drawing and make the appropriate replacements. The original lock and escutcheon were also missing so I fabricated new ones.
Clocks, more than any other piece of furniture, lose their feet. When the cord holding up a clock weight breaks and the weight falls, it breaks out the bottom of the clock, feet and all. Rather than reglue the broken parts together, some "restorers" come up with alternate designs, losing many of the original components… and much of its value! We are then left guessing what was there. This is where it is necessary to research and find examples of the same or similar designs to make a replacement that is correct for the style and age of the object. It should be finished to match the original but, upon close inspection, should not "fool" anyone into thinking it is original.
Eli and Samuel Terry Clock
This wonderful clock had fallen due to a failure of the joint between the waist and base, a common problem on clocks. Seasonal changes in humidity cause the wood to expand and contract but cross-grain construction between the sides of the waist and the molding cause the glue line to eventually fail… with catastrophic results! While all the original wood could be glued back together, the glass had to be replaced. I salvage old glass with its wavy and seeded character to use for just these situations. Fortunately, the clockworks suffered not a bit, though twenty pounds of weights did quite a number on the lower case. All standing clocks should be fastened to the wall to prevent the clock from falling.
This is the result!
This will need to be replaced with old glass.
Often the gluing process requires assembly in stages.
William and Mary tables often exhibit wonderful uses of veneer of both domestic woods (England) and exotics. This table was no exception but a later, darkened finish obscured the wood. Once that layer was removed, the subtle color of olive and ash was once again visible under a thin, light-colored French polish.
A Queen Anne card table with unusual feet came into my shop needing complete restoration from repairing extensive veneer losses to restoring the original height to both back legs. Every attempt was made to keep the original material and shape intact. The additions were spliced on to existing surfaces with epoxy with hide glue as a barrier coating to allow for future retreatment.The new wood was carefully carved to match the existing profile. Tooled leather was substituted for the typical felt playing surface and the finished surfaces were cleaned and polished with French polish (shellac applied with a pad).
The restoration of objects that are being used as they were designed is always a balance of preserving original material with repairing and replacing those parts that we are willing to sacrifice in their use.