While teaching at The Furniture Institute of Massachusetts this week, Phil Lowe pulled out an interesting conservation (or restoration) project he was working on for a customer.
It was a footstool that was in pretty bad shape because the joints were all loose or coming apart. Or was that by design?
Lowe turned the stool over and pointed out how the four legs were attached to the top frame of the stool with snipe hinges. Then he showed how the lower stretcher simply pulled out of its dovetailed socket and was keyed in there at some point.
So it looks like the whole stool was designed to fold down.
Was it English? The turnings looked kind of English. And the entire thing was worm-eaten like old English walnut. Was it a campaign piece?
Lowe pulled up some of the horsehair and burlap stuffing and showed me a further mystery. The frame and legs were nailed together so the legs couldn’t fold. And the nails were blacksmith-made, wrought-head nails. Very early. Was the stool built to knock down? Was the nail added immediately after the maker saw that the folding wasn’t work to his or her liking? Or what?
Lowe and I looked at the piece for a good long while. Then we walked away and had a beer.
If you’ve seen a piece like this, leave a comment or let Lowe know. He’s debating how to properly conserve or restore the piece.
If you told someone you like to restore hammers, they might think you lazy. Aside from tightening the head on the handle, what else is there to do?
Today during a lull at The Furniture Institute of Massachusetts, I spied a hammer on a student’s bench and had to snatch it. It was a Bluegrass 16 oz. claw hammer. Though this hammer isn’t made anymore, the student had one that was still factory fresh – or “new old stock” as the collectors call it.
The head and handle were still covered with factory goop. So I sneaked away with the tool while the student was occupied.
Step 1: Get the goop off. Yes, it protects the hammer from rust while it is on the shelf at the store. But it is as attractive as the plastic covers on the furniture in your grandmother’s fancy “drawing room.” Lose it. Remove it with solvent or elbow solvent.
Step 2: Dress the striking face. Sand the face of the hammer to remove the rough milling marks and to ensure the face is very, very slightly bulged. (It should come made this way, but the sandpaper ensures it will be that way.)
I usually start with #150-grit and finish with #220 – at most.
After you sand the face, don’t touch it with your hands. Ever. If some numbskull touches the face, dress it (the hammer head, not the numbskull) with sandpaper. Any lubricant on the striking face encourages the face to slip off a nail head.