Friday, May 20, 2011

In Plain Sight

If I screw up this repair I may need a witness protection program...

I'm often worried when doing a large patch in an obvious place - like right in the middle of a Pembroke table top -  that the final result could be as disfiguring as the original damage.

The image here is of a previous failed patch. The restorer inlaid the patch and then proceeded to sand through the surrounding veneer in an attempt to level his patch.

If you look closely you can see diagonal cross grain scratches that are actually the toothing marks on the back of the veneer from the original construction. In traditional veneering the groundwork and the back of the veneer are "toothed" with a toothing plane to level the surfaces and increase adhesion.

After picking out the appropriate veneer patch, I made a sketch of the patch by laying tracing paper over the damage. The odd shape allows for as many long parallel lines as possible. When it comes time to touch up the repair it will be easier to hide the inlay if there are no lines perpendicular to the grain.

After cutting out the shape in the new veneer I laid the piece over the damaged area and lined up the grain. Then carefully scoring through the original veneer with a scalpel,  using the patch as a template, I transferred the pattern to the top.

The waste material was then removed with scalpels, chisels and a Stanley #271 hand router.


In addition to sanding through the surrounding veneer, the original restorer also tried to blend in the damage by adding faux worm holes. In order to level out the ground work, I filled the losses with a consolidant and then leveled the surface with scrapers.

At this point I had a massive boat/ghost shaped hole in the middle of a beautiful 18th Century English Mahogany Pembroke table. Feeling more than a bit apprehensive, I moved forward mubbling a pray for redemption under my breathe.

When all of edges were cleanly cut and the waste removed the patch was glued in place using traditional hide glue. After drying 24 hours the new veneer was hand scraped to the level of the old veneer. I finished up "lightly" by sanding with 220 sandpaper to blend in the edges.

No reason to duplicate the efforts of my predecessor.

Having spent the time upfront to dig through my veneer stock for just the right piece. The finishing process and blending of the color was remarkable easy.

Adding a small amount of distressing helped to blend in the overall final appearance. And while the finished patch is surely visible, It no longer jumps out at you on first viewing.