William and Mary tables often exhibit wonderful uses of veneer of both domestic woods (England) and exotics. This table was no exception but a later darkened finish obscured the wood. Once that layer was removed, the subtle color of olive and ash was once again visible under a thin, light-colored French polish.
Asian lacquer work is usually quite impervious to attack but in this case, the abuse of being used daily as a coffee table may have been one attack too many! The lacquer was still good though dull but the substrate was delaminating with many (many!) losses. After gluing down the substrate with an acrylic consolidant (B-72), the losses were filled with a putty, also acrylic and removeable. The inpainting was quite a challenge and time consuming but in the end very worthwhile.
The restoration of this clock was done in two parts: the case was restored and finished but the missing bird was left to do five years later when funds were available. All that had been left of the missing bird were the talons (sepia box). Having little to go on, we had the freedom to pick whatever we liked. The client did not want an eagle so I showed some examples of phoenix, came up with a drawing, and scaled it in various sizes until we arrived at something that looked right. This is from a drawing in Wallace Nutting's "Furniture Treasury." Though we did not know it at the time, the phoenix is an ancient allegory for Time as it resurrects itself from its own ashes every 500 years, a perfect symbol for a clock!
English grandfathers clock, circa 1800
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Hepplewhite grandfather's clock, circa 1820, English
The mantle clock was missing its pediment and feet though an outline and vestiges of glue could be seen on the top and bottom of the case.The owner of this object wanted to present it in its original form. Pillar-and-scroll clocks by Eli and Samuel Terry are sought after antiques and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has one just like this, complete with pediment and legs. Examination of that object allowed me to do a drawing and make the appropriate replacements. The original lock and escutcheon were also missing so I fabricated new ones.
Clocks, more than any other piece of furniture, lose their feet. When the cord holding up a clock weight breaks and the weight falls, it breaks out the bottom of the clock, feet and all. Rather than reglue the broken parts together, some "restorers" come up with alternate designs, losing many of the original components… and much of its value! We are then left guessing what was there. This is where it is necessary to research and find examples of the same or similar designs to make a replacement that is correct for the style and age of the object. It should be finished to match the original but, upon close inspection, should not "fool" anyone into thinking it is original.
Eli and Samuel Terry pillar-and-scroll clock, circa 1820, Plymouth Ct. (works removed)
This wonderful clock had fallen due to a failure of the joint between the waist and base, a common problem on clocks. Seasonal changes in humidity cause the wood to expand and contract but when there is cross-grain construction as between the sides of the waist and the molding, the glue line eventually fails… with catastrophic results! While all the original wood could be glued back together, the glass had to be replaced. I salvage old glass with its wavy and seeded character to use for just these situations. Fortunately, the clockworks suffered not a bit, though twenty pounds of weights did quite a number on the lower case. All standing clocks should be fastened to the wall to prevent the clock from falling.
English Queen Anne card table, circa 1720, walnut
American slant front desk, circa 1780, walnut
Apart from repairing the usual wood losses and wear on the drawer runners, this early desk needed appropriate feet, molding, and hardware, as well as complete refinishing. On the bottom right is a "before" picture. Note the ghosts of the original pulls under the later replacements. The escutcheon plates were original though missing some scrollwork. The interior had a shell carved in the prospect door and certain construction details seemed to have a Rhode Island flavor so I used the feet and molding profile from a Townsend chest as a model for these restorations. Researching similar objects helps with recreating lost parts and is part of the restoration process.
A Queen Anne card table with unusual feet came into my shop needing complete restoration from repairing extensive veneer losses to restoring the original height to both back legs. Every attempt was made to keep the original material and shape intact. The additions were spliced on to existing surfaces with epoxy with hide glue as a barrier coating to allow for future retreatment.The new wood was carefully carved to match the existing profile. Tooled leather was substituted for the typical felt playing surface and the finished surfaces were cleaned and polished with French polish (shellac applied with a pad).
Here are some examples of completed furniture treatments