Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Desk conversion, veneer repairs

After we peeled some of the really flaky veneer off, the case looked a bit like this:

We removed it because it was in rotten condition under the murky brown finish and the ground work under the veneer had been poorly repaired before the last bout of veneer repairs about ninety years ago.

You can just barely see the other side, but we stripped all the veneer off the front rounded corners and replaced it with a matched pair of veneer slices that matched the original extremely well.

The removed veneer was then recycled to patch other places where there was inappropriate replacement of the original rosewood with walnut. You can see a clamp holding one of the replacement patches in place, and Chris's arms and hands working on a small crack.

Here is Chris using my blower to heat the old veneer. My blower has both adjustable temperature and variable speed so we do not scorch the wood, nor raise the temperature too high and ruin the glue.
The original glue for the cabinet work was hot hide glue and it can be re-heated to regain its original plasticity in many cases. Chris was heating some bubbled up veneer and then rolling it flat again with a small roller. Mostly this method worked well, and in some cases we injected cold liquid hide glue in under the cracked and lifted bits to make the repair. Sometimes we needed to clamp the repairs in place.

We also used the gentle heat to lift the other veneer bits relatively intact for placement elsewhere on the carcase. If you click on the photos you see a much bigger version.

Here is a view of the inside of the case at one of the back corners.  The case is lying on its back on the workbench. Shrinkage and the lever action of the legs at the back corner had caused the back to separate from the sides by about an eighth of an inch,  Using bar clamps and pipe clamps we drew the parts back into contact, this tine using Gorilla glue, and reinforced the joint by driving 5/8" beech dowels into the joint at forty five degrees to resist shear forces on the joint. We sawed off the protruding bits after the glue set.
The back and sides of the case are softwood and very resonant when one raps them with a knuckle. There are two recent deep cuts in the back that give clearance for the sliding doors in the desk conversion. There is no evidence of either the top pieces, the sides or back having been cut down, but there is indication that the position of the lock on the front where the keyboard cover would have been has been moved. There are also older long-standing veneer repairs to the top probably from the 19th. century.

In the mean time my research into the original purpose of the piece continues.  I'll let you know when I have a more informed opinion.

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