Author Topic: Resoling a period drawer  (Read 7927 times)

Jeff L Headley

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Resoling a period drawer
« on: December 12, 2012, 07:30:45 PM »
First off I have resoled many period drawers in the past. How would you resole a period drawer and keep the resale value intact. I know some pieces should be untouched but if it is to be serviceable piece and the drawer bottoms, with period nail into the drawer back, are carving grooves in the drawer rails ( blades)  and the drawer needs to operate what would you do?

Jack Plane

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Re: Resoling a period drawer
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2012, 07:48:58 PM »
I have encountered the same issue hundreds if not thousands of times and it must be done to prevent further damage to the rest of the drawer and carcase. One often sees crude repairs (they don't constitute restoration) to drawers as if, for some reason they're not as important as restoration of the polished surfaces.

The runners have to be carefully replaced with commensurate wood and sympathetically finished to seamlessly blend with the rest of the drawer. Such restoration is as legitimate as replacing missing veneer or mouldings etc.
Regards, Jack.

klkirkman

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Re: Resoling a period drawer
« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2012, 09:23:59 AM »
I am curious whether in your view the term "sympathetically finished" includes the introduction of defects, simulated damage, or artificially simulated wear to better match the replacement parts to the piece, but perhaps at the risk of being so effective a camoflage of the repair work as to border on falsifying or counterfeiting.

In short, do you see any - shall we say - ethical limits to making the repair as undetectable as it is possible to achieve.

Is there a demarcation line here for the reputable professional, or is this a fuzzy border ?

Karl
Karl

millcrek

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Re: Resoling a period drawer
« Reply #3 on: December 13, 2012, 08:01:05 PM »
Karl, I know you were addressing Jack, but I will offer my thoughts for the sake of discussion. I don't believe the line is as fuzzy as we might think for 3 reasons.
1. I believe there is almost nothing pre 1830 that is in original condition or finish.
2. There are only a handful of people capable of doing an undetectable repair, the woodworking is the easy part, aging wood is very difficult, even if you use old wood, anywhere it is cut will stick out like a sore thumb.
3. In today's market only a very few pieces carry enough value to pay for those kinds of undetectable repairs.
  
If anybody believes the Keno brothers can definitively tell an original 18th century finish with the n---d eye shouldn't buy any bridges.

the program won't let me post the word before eye
« Last Edit: December 13, 2012, 08:07:01 PM by millcrek »

Jack Plane

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Re: Resoling a period drawer
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2012, 12:29:07 AM »
I am curious whether in your view the term "sympathetically finished" includes the introduction of defects, simulated damage, or artificially simulated wear to better match the replacement parts to the piece, but perhaps at the risk of being so effective a camoflage of the repair work as to border on falsifying or counterfeiting.

In short, do you see any - shall we say - ethical limits to making the repair as undetectable as it is possible to achieve.

Is there a demarcation line here for the reputable professional, or is this a fuzzy border ?

Karl

Karl, if runners are worn to the point they require replacement, then it's no longer a case for conservation (always the preferred option) and restoration techniques must be employed. Those skills do include deceptive methods that some may frown on, but without them, the runners' replacement is merely crude repair.

In a museum scenario, the drawer may be preserved as is and held in a perpetual state of suspended animation; however the average antique owner wants to be able to use and enjoy their furniture without any glaringly obvious repairs or modifications.

To answer your question, I would do what ever is required to make the replacement runners blend invisibly with the surviving drawer. It's more about preserving the aesthetic than hoodwinking anyone.
Regards, Jack.

Jeff L Headley

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Re: Resoling a period drawer
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2012, 06:37:15 PM »
I appreciate all comments. I will state that if someone can make an invisible repair on a drawer side while either half or whole soleing (half soleing, a repair below the slot for the drawer bottom or whole soleing, a repair above the slot for the drawer bottom) a said drawer side, which can fool the experts, then shame on the experts! This will be an obvious repair to an expert! My question is what can be done to cover one's rear end when after discussing with your client what needs to be done to make a period drawer, which is in dire need of repair, be an operable piece and then someone else down the road complains that the piece has been devalued. Remember the less done the better.
There is a big difference between deceiving and trying to make a restoration as inconspicuous as possible. To deceive is crossing an unethical line. That is not what I am talking about. My Chester county high chest which I own needs to have the drawers half soled. The nails holding the drawer bottoms at the drawer back are carving grooves into the drawer rails ( blades). This chest will not live in museum today but I want to keep what resale value it may have intact. A drawer that is not operable will lower the value to a user. If sold to a collector said repair will be a detriment. Where to draw the line? This post is to spur on more questions about period restorations.  
« Last Edit: December 14, 2012, 08:03:03 PM by Jeff L Headley »

Jack Plane

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Re: Resoling a period drawer
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2012, 02:47:34 AM »
I will state that if someone can make an invisible repair on a drawer side while either half or whole soleing (half soleing, a repair below the slot for the drawer bottom or whole soleing, a repair above the slot for the drawer bottom) a said drawer side, which can fool the experts, then shame on the experts!

The majority of experts aren't as expert as they believe? or would have others believe. The auction house experts are frequently appalling and some high-end dealers are no better. And of course, the more vested the interest...

What to do? What to do? Does one restore invisibly for the antique user? Does one do the minimum conservation for the collector? People have a habit of dieing and what was once perfect for one owner can then become another potential owner's nightmare.

At the end of the day, if the piece isn't prevented from destroying itself in daily use, where's the point of any of it?
Regards, Jack.

rac50

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Re: Resoling a period drawer
« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2012, 11:48:13 AM »
This is an interesting discussion and seems to have a glaring omission.  Regardless of how well the drawer side is repaired, including using old material to replace the entire side, there will remain the telltale grooves left in the drawer blade. As to the experts, I'm in agreement with Jack. I find that the knowledge of the accomplished members of this group easily exceeds theirs. Many, but not all, have little knowledge of the inner workings of what actually goes into the designing, building and finishing our reproductions with ever increasingly rare wide stock of the correct species. What they do contribute is an in depth study as to the provenance of a piece, which frankly has far more value than the piece itself. For example put two pieces that are virtually identical in quality of construction, material, and of course, that precious grunge that gives even more value. Piece A was owned by someone famous. piece B has a sketchy past.  Piece A will be worth exponentially more.

How many of our membership have heard the phrase "just a reproduction" from the mouth of any of the experts followed by a quick valuation pulled straight out of their .... and set a figure so low it barely covers our material cost?
I wonder how many of the pros who are producing very high quality work are able to command the same wages as their local mechanic, plumber or electrician?

Finally, if I am the owner of a period original, I will make the repair to my informed expertise and leave it at that, which I'm sure you will end up doing Jeff.  By the way Jeff, thanks for inspiring my rant!
Ross

Peter Storey Pentz

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Re: Resoling a period drawer
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2012, 01:26:30 PM »
Well, Jeff, you certainly hit a nerve here.

The subject has come up before, and probably will again.  Without going into an overly long screed and boring the membership, I would like to add some thoughts.  I do so from the point of view of a full-time restorer/conservator, dealer, appraiser, and collector who occaisionally gets to make a piece of furniture from scratch.

The fundamental concept at work here is whether or not you believe a piece of furniture is a work of art.  If you do, then the concerns about preserving originality are relevant.  If you do not, they are nothing more than self-serving nonsense.

In the context of The Antiques Roadshow, the people discussing antique furniture must resort to generalizations.  They have little air time and a large popular audience.  I agree with their decision to hammer home the point of "Do not do anything." as the best possible generalization under the circumstances.

Those of us who work with antique furniture and its owners know that each piece, like each person, is unique.  As the previous posts indicate, there are a number of different considerations when working on a piece and there are the inevitable compromises among those considerations in order to satisfy the wishes of an owner.

To return to the individual case at hand: Your Chester County tall chest.  This is a piece I noticed as soon as you included it in the background of another post, and we have communicated about it before.  I like the chest a lot.  I notice that you elected to restore it as a chest on frame.  Based solely on the information I have to work with, I would probably have restored it as a tall chest, with feet.  (I can't come to your shop and look at the bottom because I live 3000 miles away, otherwise I would.)  What is important is not the restoration itself, but the fact that it had to be done.  Whether it originally had feet or a frame, whatever it was is now gone.  That loss trumps all other considerations in terms of monetary value.  At this point, the important thing is that a sympathetic restoration be done (no worries there) in order that the owner (you) has an attractive and useful piece of antique furniture.    PSP

msiemsen

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Re: Resoling a period drawer
« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2012, 11:59:25 AM »
"what can be done to cover one's rear end when after discussing with your client what needs to be done to make a period drawer, which is in dire need of repair, be an operable piece and then someone else down the road complains that the piece has been devalued. Remember the less done the better. "
Since the value is subjective it is best to do what the present owner wishes. It is a good idea to advise them if they are doing something foolish so they don't ruin a piece of furniture. It is the responsibility of the owner to decide what finally needs to be done, and the job of the craftsman to do it to the best of his ability or refuse the job.
My question on the resole is this, how bad are the runners below the drawer side? They usually suffer equally as much. Will you flip them, leave them, replace them?
Resoling is usually a pain the rear because it was put off too long. Would you drive an antique car on its' original tires? If it is to be used the sole must be replaced, if it is a static piece that just sits don't bother.
Mike Siemsen
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Jeff L Headley

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Re: Resoling a period drawer
« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2012, 05:38:15 PM »
Again thank you for your response. Peter, The feet were replaced when I found this chest in a boarded up bedroom. I bought it by feel. All windows were covered with no lights. It felt good to me! There has also been some minimal internal drawer support restoration.
Mike, If some of  the drawer bearers are dust dividers and can not be flipped what to do then? Many Eastern Mid Atlantic pieces will have medial glue blocks added to add as an extra wearing surface. The chest I have have has an extra glue block under the front back and center over the glue joint of the drawer bottom.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2012, 08:12:24 PM by Jeff L Headley »

Jeff L Headley

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Re: Resoling a period drawer
« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2012, 08:42:05 PM »
Ross, I am hopeing or wishing that " E W " Inlayed in the drawer could be someone important in Chester County or below located in the upper Shenandoah valley to add value to this tall chest missing it's original feet and two internal drawer supports. Dog on it!

ttalma

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Re: Resoling a period drawer
« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2012, 10:55:58 AM »
Just my $.02 but any piece of furniture I plan to own should be functional. That was it's intended purpose, and if it can't do that it's just taking up space. Besides repairs are part of the life of a piece, and done correctly should not affect the value of a piece. I prefer the way a piece looks when new, so I would have no issues with buying a refinished piece. And when I make reproductions I try to make them look like the day the original was delivered to the customer.

Of course since it's not my piece or my money my opinions worth as much as Jeff's dog's (and he's a good boy).

And something I always think of when I'm talking to "experts" are a couple of stories Gene Landon told me. The first was wen he sold a tall case clock where he had replaced the missing pedestal. He sold it at auction, and the auction noted that the pedestal had been replaced. About a month later he saw it at the winter antiques show, and the dealer who bought it at the auction was selling it as all original.

Another time he was looking at an upcoming auction catalog from a major antique house and saw that the collection of Dr. soandso was for sale. He then noticed that that they were selling a rare set of 8 dinning room chairs. Gene said he should call them because he had made 6 of the chairs. (I asked him about it later and he said they did pull the lot)
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R Bohn

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Re: Resoling a period drawer
« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2012, 01:03:36 PM »
Hi All
  Interesting topic, a two way street for sure. How about a little reality check. Speaking as one in the restoration/conservation field, let me add a few things that can be done, and are being done. First , let me assure all that technology today is to the point that most if not all wooden antiques can be reproduced. The craftsmanship of many of the SAPFM members as far as cabinet making proves that the old ways can still be mastered. As for the finishes, patina, oxidation,color, and distressing can also be recreated. Finish textures can be copied/ cloned and made undetectable  even under uv light.
  As for Jeff's drawer sides and slides, I keep a supply of old parts on hand just for that problem. Some years back I had a ca1760's chest of drawers come through the shop that had the same resole problem Jeff is experiencing. The piece was signed and was valued somewhere around 1.5 mil. The nails in the soles wore into the slides more than a 1/4 in. To make things more interesting, some kind of animal had taken up residents in the cabinet while it was in storage. If not for the animal droppings in the drawers  I think the owner would have left the dresser as it was, but, they wanted to use and display it. The slides were worn beyond repair, so even if the soles were fixed, the drawers didn't fit right. I was asked to do my best work. I was told to make my repairs invisible. Now I know not all of you have 18 century parts laying around but I do. I used the old lumber and created the ware I needed on the soles and slides using sand to add years to the piece. The repair looked perfect.
   About 4-5 years ago, the owner pasted away. At his estate the signed chest was listed as original  and the documentation I had done was nowhere to be found.  A very hansom profit was made and no one  questioned the interior.
  Is this something new in the antique field?  By no means!As now, antiques have always been a buyer beware situation.
 I have often wondered what would happen to the antique field if the makers of repros learned to finish, no offence intended!
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pampine

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Re: Resoling a period drawer
« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2012, 03:21:48 PM »
Wonder how the antiques powers that be prefer us to treat rat droppings. :)

Pam