Friday, December 6, 2013

Antique Show Exhibit

I'm exhibiting at this weekend at The 72nd Annual Woman's Club of Wilmette Antiques Show. If you are in the area - stop in and say hello!

For more information click here

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Locks and Keys

While not usually essential to the functioning of a piece of furniture. A working set of locks and keys does add to the aesthetic quality of an antique.

Subject to the same deterioration that effects the wooden structure,  the metal oxidizes, rusts away or simply wears down from use.

In the case of this pair of locks the bit on the  key supplied with the credenza was too short to through the bolt and one of the locks was missing the bolt entirely.

The locks themselves are from a 20th century reproduction but the mechanics and parts are essentially the same as those in a period mortise lock.

First stop - the metal scrap bin.

I collect bits of useable metal scrap left over from projects or salvaged as I find it.

To make the replacement bolt for the lock I needed some 1/8" thick mild steel.

Having found none in my "collection" I opted to make the missing parts in brass.

Making the Bolt

The brass stock was heated to remove its temper making it soft(er) and easier to shape. The remaining original bolt was removed and used as a template which I scribed around.

The shape was then cut out with a jewelers saw and finished up with needle files. 

Since the section of the bolt which extends out of the throat to engage the keeper is thicker than the internal plate, I cleaned the surfaces and brazed on enough material to make up the difference.

The finished locks with the parts in place

The Key
The bit on the supplied key was too short to engage the bolt and was therefore used to pull open the doors without actually locking or unlocking the piece.

As you can see in this photo the bit was short by about 1/8".

In order to correct the problem a small piece of brass was brazed onto the end of the bit and then filed to mate properly with the bolt.

Additional Information

I found this article explains a lot of the terminology and history
The Keys to Antique Furniture Locks by Fred Taylor

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bits and Pieces

Completed Repair
This piece came into the studio with several condition problems.

The Chinese silk embroidery panel was distorted because of breaks in the support frame for the embroidery, and the stand itself was missing a carved bracket and several pieces of mother of pearl inlay.

My "impression" is that the silk in the frame is not the original occupant, but a period section of fabric trimmed to fit the original missing artwork.

The embroidery had been lined much like a canvas for a painting and the brown silk border was sewn around the spruce stretcher and then strung taut in a rather "shoe-lace" fashion across the back.

I started out by reinforcing the damaged stretcher support. Pulling back the lining and isolating the material with glassine, I glued the shattered spruce elements and reinforced the breaks with strips of new spruce.

A side note: the clamps are actually older style Intravenous tube clamps that I purchased at American Science and Surplus. The small hemostat clamps came from there as well. A great source for odd and unusual bits and pieces.

The frame itself was missing one of the carved support brackets so I traced one of the originals and set about carving the replacement.

The original is on the right

The mother of pearl inlay was an easier task. Again tracing the replacement from an original (in this case a flower) and then engraving the petal detail before resetting it in the groundwork.

Detail of the embroidery
As usual there are more photos on Flickr


For the same client - carving repair to a lid for a porcelain jar.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Trunk

I know - I should always take before photos. But sometimes, I'm all in a rush, or I think the object mundane.

Wrong again.

It was in a fairly decrepit condition and the guidelines of the treatment were narrow.
  • Better - but not perfect
  • Attractive - but not expensive
  • Functional "as is" - without jumping through too many hoops

    So I cleaned all of the exterior surfaces. Removed the miniscule remnants of tooled leather that originally covered the open fields of pine you see here. Cleaned the old japanning from the strapping, and replaced the missing leather handles.

    Here you can see the original tooling pattern of the hide. From the indentations it was tooled in place after application.

    I love the details on the hardware

    A coat of amber shellac on the wood surfaces, yellow tinted shellac on the hardware and bone black pigment on the strapping. The interior I lined with fabric on removable mat board, so that it could be used for storage.

    I was gratifyingly surprised at how well it pulled together without going to extremes.

    Remnants of leather

    The Maker

    A little digging on the "internets" yielded a small amount of information on the maker.

    Who's who in Chicago 1905
    The book of Chicagoan s
    John William Leonard, author 

    Wilt, Charles T., manufacturer; born St Louis, Mo., Nov. 22, 1859;.
    Son of Charles T (Sr ) and Emerette A. (Babcock) Wilt; came to Chicago in childhood

    Education. Ogden, Newberry and Lincoln schools, graduating from latter

    Married Chicago, July 31, 1888 to Charlotte D Fairbairn;
    Children: Charles T., Jr., Collin D. Robert Lloyd Wheaton, Elmer Ellsworth.

    In 1878 entered business (founded by his father, 1862)of Charles T. Wilt, manufacturer in trunks traveling bags, etc.; is now head of firm, which is still conducted as Charles T. Wilt.

    Republican. Captain. 1st 111. Voluntary Infantry, served through Santiago campaign of Spanish-American War. Member of the Veteran Corps, 1st Regiment


    Sunday, May 13, 2012

    The 300 Dollar Pencil Sharpener

    Always up for a challenge, I said sure! I can rebuild your rustic king size log bed to actually fit the mattress and box spring.

    The bed had been made years ago for the customer by a high school shop class. Overall it was quite nicely executed. Sturdy and well fitted it was however 7 inches too wide and 4 inches too long.

    I only needed to re-size eight stretchers and reshape sixteen tenons. And while I have a lot of tools - I did not own a log tenoning bit. After a fair amount of research I settled on an adjustable bit to eliminate having to re-drill all of the mortices.

    When it arrived my first impression confirmed the queasy feeling in my stomach. The idea of spinning an irregular shaped 5" aluminum cutter head in a 1/2" handheld drill, filled my head with all sorts of unwanted outcomes.

    The first attempt knocked the clamps loose and pulled the 80" log off the bench spinning on the end of my drill.

     Live and learn!

    I cut cradles from some 2x4's and started over.

    Safely clamped to the bench the rest was noisy - and felt like jack-hammering concrete -  but the result were perfect.

    So now that I own a log rail tenon cutter
     - who need fencing?

    Sunday, April 22, 2012

    The Heavy Lift

    The dreaded 3 story walk up!
    It's always troubling to me when the most challenging part of a project is the where and not the how or what.

    The three flights of exterior fire escape were without a doubt the most troublesome part of this project. I fretted over the load out and the load in but in the end I had blown it all out of proportion in my head.

    I will have to say that I felt spared by the granite fabricator since delivery and installation were an option I could avoid.

    The original built in Island

    Remove the existing built in island from the wall, add 10" in depth to allow for seating on one side. Include 4 small drawers under the overhang and put the entire piece on castors, with a 1.5" thick granite top.

    A granite top on an off center base - on wheels. OK there were a few design concerns.

    After taking to the granite supplier I was relieved to find that the top could overhand the edge by 10" without support, so after extending the sides by 10" and adding the columns I was less concerned with both the support and balance.


     The 8" slides by the same manufacturer as the original cabinet were a bit tricky to come by.

    Thank you Gods of the Internets. These are not standard store shelf items.
    The side of the original cabinet that was attached to the wall didn't leave enough material at the corners to allow for me to skin over the entire side in one piece, while still having the same dimension and proportion at the front. So I had to patch in and join the faces on that side.

    And yes -  It was about as much fun as it sounds.
    Viewed from the "seating side". The 1.5" side "wings" were an easier installation.


    All done! and without the excruciating back pain I was anticipating.

    I do have to remind myself to talk to the client about building them an elevator.

    Early Battery Operated Devices

    Hubert Patent
    I always enjoy finding gaps in my understanding of history. It gives me a reason to sift through areas and things I hadn't considered.

    Being presented with a battery illuminated clock, my first impression was that it probably 1930's or 40's, but after a limited search it became obvious that earlier was more probable.

    Ever Ready Advertisement 1910's
    The piece is similar in design to Ever Ready clocks which I found a fair amount of information on. As an example - this patent from 1896

    The clock in my shop differs in several respects. The bulb is inside the case and behind the dial, and the large plano convex lens over the face leads me to believe that it was possibly a projection clock but is missing the reflecting attachment.

    Plano Convex Lens
    Windup Movement
    Battery Compartment

    Image courtesy of Bob Croswell
    The other similarity to the Ever Ready clocks are the two pin holes that you can just see in the photo of the battery compartment.

    These would have accepted the "remote control" pictured here and would have allowed the user to turn on the clock from bed without leaning over to flip the switch on the clock base.

    You can see more details and information at:
    Electrically Illuminated Clock
    Night Projection "Brothel" Clock
    Projection Clocks
    Google Patents