Thoughts about the restoration of a 1850′s Chestnut Commode…
My wife and I own an antiques shop and for the past several days I have been restoring a Chestnut Commode made in the 1850′s. Friends of mine bought it at a yard sale for me. It was still relatively sound but had several loose joints, a major 1/2″ wide crack in the front door panel, several deep scratches, traces of white paint from an incomplete previous stripping job and some missing finish. In other words the door opened and closed and the cabinet wasn’t going to fall over but aesthetically it wasn’t much.
I have to evaluate each “project” that comes my way to determine if it makes economic sense to commit the amount of labor that it will take to restore the piece. In this case the yard sale owners sold it for such a cheap price that it was worthwhile to restore.
I’ve restored and rebuilt enough antique pieces of furniture that I don’t have to concentrate entirely on the restoration techniques. This gives me the mental freedom to think about the individuals that originally built the piece and the life of the piece of furniture itself.
The story of this commode intrigues me on several levels. The first is when did this piece arrive in Walla Walla and how did it get here? The second is that the Commode is as old as the city itself. Somehow this piece of furniture has survived for 160 years – from the earliest days of the city to the present. As I look at some of the flecks of paint in the wood grain, I can almost hear a voice from the past say “this old Commode would look better with a fresh coat of white paint on it.” Then there was a period in the 1970′s when everyone stripped paint off of furniture to refinish it and at that time, this piece probably lost most of its coat of white paint.
My restoration of this Commode is the forth time that this piece has had significant work done on it.
I’m not sure that this Commode was headed immediately to the landfill but without some significant work it would have been there fairly soon. I feel especially honored that my restoration will allow the work that others have put into this piece to live on…
It’s kind of a green… I am preserving the energy that was expended in the 1850′s to grow the wood, harvest the wood and build this Commode and not just allowing the piece to be sent to the landfill.