View Full Version : OK, this is what I wanna' do... Advice?
06-27-2002, 01:42 AM
OK, here's the deal. My grandparents and parents were antique furniture collectors; I grew up surrounded by really neat English and early American furniture. I love the stuff!! My parents will be having an estate sale soon. There are lots of pieces which need repair, some minor, some major. I'm interested in learning to repair the minor stuff. You know, stuff like a split stretcher, a stripped or split dresser pull, chair backs needing regluing, broken off veneer, chewed wood (by teething puppy). I don't want to do any stripping or refinishing because I have bad problems with headaches :-( If I enjoy it, which I think I would, I'd like to do some of my grandparents' pieces which now belong to my aunt, and it is a huge collection; also, furniture inherited by my siblings and cousins. I thought I'd start out by practicing/learning on some of my own pieces. BUT I DON'T KNOW HOW TO BEGIN--- how to learn or what tools and materials to use and how to use them. Is there anyone here who does furniture repairs (excluding refinishing) who can point me in the right direction? Thanks!
Karyl Wolfe (Guest)
06-27-2002, 05:02 AM
What a brave soul indeed! Not too much expertise here to offer, but I've learned what I've learned mostly by looking and listening. This forum is a proverbial wellspring of much needed expertise and encouragement. Any of the home improvement shows are a good source of info, as are the neighborhood home improvement stores, and lest I forget, the public library. I wish you well, and look forward to future postings as you progress. A fellow rookie.
06-27-2002, 03:36 PM
Were I in your shoes, I'd begin at a bookstore. There are a number of good titles out there about restoring furniture.(as opposed to repairing)I'd look hard at Taunton books, they are an industry leader in woodworking books.
Keep us posted :)
06-28-2002, 07:40 AM
LAST EDITED ON Jun-28-02 AT 08:48AM (CDT)
Welcome to the forum, Cannie-
You're getting into a whole specialized field, and I wish I had your gumption! It sounds like you are going to love it, and the resources you have to work with sound wonderful.
I'd suggest going to Taunton.com (http://Taunton.com) and seeing if they still have any old b/w volumes available in their 'Fine Woodworking On...' series. They put these together off collections of the best magazine articles from 1976 through 1984, and they are a treasure trove of information. Look especially for 'Fine Woodworking On...Finishing and Refinishing.' I believe Cambium Books (cambiumbooks.com (http://cambiumbooks.com)) also had a back-stock of these volumes, all only $9.95 each, and one of the best investments your woodworking dollar can buy. The 'Highland Hardware' catalog used to feature them, also. Taunton has a collection of videos on Finishing and Restoration, most about $20 each. Seeing the masters explain their work may be the best way for you to see what you're getting into. Good luck with your new endeavor. To overcome any headaches, you will have to concentrate on setting up adequate ventilation during your refinishing processes, and perhaps look into wearing professional respirators, but it can be done! -Barb S.
Well, I have to edit this msg: as I was reading your post, I was thinking, restoration naturally leads to refinishing, because it involves the replacement of worn or broken parts, but if you can find a way to exclude the refinishing, I'd still advise looking for the book series and videos. They have a FW on volume titled 'Making Period Furniture', as well as basics on Hand Tools, Joinery, Boxes Carcases and Drawers, etc. Take a look at the cambiumbooks.com website for a full line of furniture and restoration books, too. Good luck!
06-28-2002, 04:59 PM
Karyl, Ralph, and Barb: Thanks for the feedback. One of you referred to me as "a brave soul indeed" and another as having "gumption." I just wonder, coming from experienced woodworkers such as yourselves, if I am taking too much of a risk??? I hope not; I'd really like to learn to do these type of repairs.
I will investigate the Taunton and Cambium books. The first and only step I've taken so far is to order a video by Bob (?) Flexner called "Repairing Furniture."
Here's an easy question, if anyone is reading... Is Elmer's Carpenter's Wood Glue a good glue to use for repairs? I've used it on a couple of pieces with loose spindles and stretchers and haven't had any problems with it yet, but then again, these two pieces do not get any active use. (They just sit there looking pretty.) Would anyone recommend a different glue on pieces that get more use?
Thanks again for your replies.
06-28-2002, 05:30 PM
I don't think this is too far out there, it's just a specialized area of woodworking.
Restoring an antique without actually damaging it's value takes a fair amount of specific knowledge. Not only about the skills involved, but the history of the piece, and what options are available to you.
Note that I carefully use the word restore as opposed to repair. In my view, repair is doing whatever you need to to use the furniture again. Restoring is more like getting that '55 Chevy to mint condition.
As far as glue goes, The yellow wood glue is fine, but don't think it will hold forever. If you want to keep a spindle or stretcher to stay put forever, use a foxtail wedge. You slot the tenon and insert a small wedge so that as the tenon is driven home in the socket, the wedge bottoms out and spreads the tenon, locking the joint forever. It's a bit tricky to size everything, but a skill well worth cultivating.
Hope this is helpful,
06-28-2002, 06:09 PM
Actually, the best way to learn anything is to educate yourself on the safety factors, then jump in and try it. Read some books. Order some videos. Then go buy yourself a $5 kitchen chair (of wood!) from a yard sale, go home and purposely break it. Break a leg. Crack a slat. Gouge out a huge chip off the back rail. Then....Repair it. You may need to learn some basic woodworking this way, before starting in on you grandmother's antiques! Heck, buy a whole set and do your worst. We all utilize 'practice pieces' before we do any work on valuable wood. Your restoration efforts should be the same. Let us know how you're doing! -Barb S.
Carol the Router Lady
06-28-2002, 09:40 PM
There are a couple of things to keep in mind.
Regarding glue. New glue does not stick to old glue. Old glue must be removed. Also, old furniture was often glued together with hide glue. Moist heat will soften those joints and you can take things apart with no more damage. The old glue still has to be removed before new can be added. I suggest you research hide glue and then make your glue decision. Elmers' white glue will probably not make the list.
Bear in mind that many furniture repairs requier that the furniture be disassembled to some extent for repairs to be made.
Regarding refinishing. Furniture repair includes refinishing. Ba-boom! Broken pieces need to be replaced. Many cannot be simply glued back together. Sometimes it is simpler to have the piece professionally stripped, replace the broken parts, sand, re-stain, and apply the finish of your choice. Varnish or shellac was probably used before and is still a good, and easy choice.
Michael Dresdner has a video tape out called, Three Easy Finishes. He makes the unknown easy.
Good ventilation during this process should take care of the headaches. Also consider getting a really good respirator. Shouldn't cost more than three bottles of Excedrin, and is much more effective!
Repairing furniture can cause you to learn many new skills. Furniture woodworking, carving, turning, finishing, marquetry, veneering, etc.
Don't be scared off here. Carpe Dieum. Or in English, you go, girl!
But a word of warning is in order. This woodworking stuff is addictive! Proceed at your risk (and that of your credit cards!).
06-28-2002, 09:46 PM
Barb, what a great idea about yard saling and purposely breaking some stuff. That will be good for the stress I've been under lately, too!!! ;-) Also, at my folks' house, which they just moved out of and into a retirement facility, are several "throwaways" that I can reclaim and practice on---- if I get there before the dumpster men arrive. Thanks for the idea. Cannie
06-28-2002, 09:58 PM
Ralph, Yes, I see the difference between repair and restore. I guess at this point, learning to repair is my first goal. If repairing a piece is going to cause it to lose value, I need to save it for a professional to do, right? or save it for a future time, when I have learned how to restore it.
As for wedging, I've noticed on several chairs that this was done in the past. I wonder if it was done as a repair, or as part of the initial construction. Anyway, this is just the type of thing I would like to learn how to do. I hope the video I ordered will deal with that. I know I'll need to invest in some of the books y'all mentioned. Is there a particular author I should look for (or steer clear of)? Is Bob Plexner well-respected?
06-28-2002, 10:11 PM
Hi, Carol! Lots of good advice. I'm printing all this out and saving it. I sure do appreciate it. After the video gets here and I have a chance to watch it and size things up (including my abilities), I'll be back.
I have no idea what "hide glue" is, but I'll check it out. Thanks again.
06-28-2002, 11:07 PM
does 'Carpe Diem' really mean, "you go, girl!"
Carol the Router Lady
06-29-2002, 11:55 AM
literary license, by dear :-)
hi ho sliver (Guest)
07-15-2002, 08:19 AM
this should answer any questions about glue....http://www.thistothat.com/cgi-bin/glue.cgi?lang=en&this=Wood&that=Metal
07-30-2002, 01:19 PM
I was so pleased to find women in woodworking site just goes to show I'm not the only one. In regards to your question try your local college many do evening courses. Personally I did an eveing class in wookskills which led to a full time city n guilds course in furniture design and craft. Aother usefull class is furniture restoration and possibly some antiques courses but don't let the high brow put you off. If you have been brought up with lovely antiques you will know more than you think. If you want to see some of my college pieces goto website http://www.bayford.org.uk Good luck Louise
08-03-2002, 09:24 PM
in addition to the other books and source materials people here have mentioned, look for an old book titled "the furniture doctor" by "george grotz"......(i think its been out of print for years and years....i got my copy at the flea market for 50cts many years ago)
mr grotz's book is a wonderfully simple and lucid explanation of the basic principles and techniques used in repairing and refinishing old furniture, with a bare minimum of investment in tools and equipment.....
learning to do basic hand-tool woodworking is really similar to learning to play and instrument.....it takes some time to develop the familiarisation with the tools and techniques, but its by no means difficult, and ever so enjoyable......
you can equip yourself to to the generality of repair woodworking for relatively little investment......most repairs can be done with very few tools......but those tools need be really good ones, which will take a good sharp edge, and stay sharp. this means doing some asking, first, about which kinds of tools to select, and learning to care for them.....
there are some pitfalls for the newbie.....really good hand woodworking tools are not easy to find......most of the new ones you see in stores like "home despot" are simply no good....to do good work, you need find the old high quality tools, like the "swan" or "witherby" chisels, for example, which will keep a really sharp edge, cos they're much better steel than any being made now (with the exception of some very expensive hand-made tools, by modern specialist makers)......these old tools will turn up at garage sales or flea markets for cheaply....50cts or a dollar for a chisel, for example, but it takes some looking....
a good light hand plane is a necessity......a common type of repair involves gluing a piece of matching hardwood into a broken part, and planing it smooth to match the existing surface....look for a no.3 size "stanley", preferably one with the pre-war "heart" logo, as they are much better built than later ones.....
look for the small pattern hand saws (the 20in. length is so much easier to use for repair work) in the old "disston" or "atkins" makes.....and look in the phone book for someone locally who does saw sharpening......its not realistic to try to sharpen saws yourself, and they must be sharp to cut to the line....with the exception of a couple of specialist makers who make very expensive saws, there are no good ones being made today...the ones sold in the stores are literally garbage...."one time use" disposable tools (ughyukkk)
there are a couple of really basic things to find as a starting point.....a good sturdy, if improvised, workbench, so you can chisel, or saw, or plane a part without it shaking under the tool....an old wooden desk which you can likely get for free, just for hauling it away, would make a useful workbench.....
put a good vise on it.....splurge a little bit, and get an industrial grade of woodworkers vise, the common small 7" size, which uses wooden jaw face inserts to protect the work.....emphatically, don't get a cheap, light, "hobbyist" grade of vise.....they are no good, and will cause frustration when you are trying to concentrate on making a part....the older "columbian", "richards-wilcox", and "b&g" vises are good makes.....rusty but serviceable ones often come up very cheaply....a bit of steel wool, some paint, and they are better than any new one you could buy....
find ugly rusty industrial grade c-clamps cheaply at the flea market, and steel-wool them a bit.....they'll do your gluing up every bit as well as expensive shiny new ones.....
and....look for a good "sharpening system"....there are several varieties of electric grinders with both a fast and a slow wheel...some makes are better than others, but any good one will keep your chisels and plane-irons sharp........it takes a while to learn to sharpen the tools, but its dead easy with some practise......
08-04-2002, 05:26 PM
What a fun and useful idea you gave Cannie about finding, breaking and fixing some old junk stuff. Maybe she could just come to my house and work on my furniture. :-)