I recently rebuilt and refinished a late 1800′s “Winged Griffin Oak Buffet.” Arising from the ashes would have been an easy analogy if the Buffet was decorated with Phoenixes rather than Griffins… but you just work with what you have and this time I had Griffins.
The phoenix is a long-lived bird that cyclically regenerates itself by arising from the ashes of its predecessor… kind of like this Buffet. The thing is that the 100-plus-year-old Buffet was unable to regenerate itself… fortunately I was able to lend a helping hand.
Here are some pictures of the regeneration process… not from the ashes but from the deterioration due to time and the breakdown of the original adhesives.
This Buffet had been painted white at some point in time. Then it had been stripped but there were still flecks of white paint embedded in the grain of the wood. It is always easier to make repairs and remove paint when a piece is disassembled. Here is the Buffet base with the doors and drawers removed.
Several repairs were done in the same afternoon. They were glued, clamped and set aside to dry. The repairs, from left to right, include loose joints on the Buffet base, veneer on a door, loose joints on the top, and veneer on the large drawer. Animal Hide glue was used in the 1800′s and under adverse climatic conditions it will fail.
One of the legs had broken and had been poorly repaired. It was broken again by the time I bought the Buffet. I built this jig to get appropriate pressure when I clamped the leg. I used two-part epoxy glue and inserted toothpicks where there were gaps in the wood. The toothpick ends were later cut off and sanded down.
The completed Winged Griffin Oak Buffet in the Shady Lawn Antiques showroom.
During the annual Shady Lawn Antiques Winter Break, I restored a late 1800′s “Winged Griffin Oak Buffet.” The easy thing to do would be to stop the description there and just show some pictures…
but here is the problem…
People in the antiques trade know (and can visualize) what you mean when you say ‘Winged Griffin”. They think of a lion with wings…
However sources such as Wikipedia – I’m not writing a thesis or term paper so Wikipedia seems like a good enough source to me – describe a Griffin differently. They say that a Griffin is a “legendary creature with the body and tail and back legs of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle and an eagle’s feet as its front feet.”
Clearly the late 1800′s furniture builders were not bound to any design conventions and they could create any mythical figure that they desired. In this case the figure was basically a lion with wings. Furniture design variations of the lion with wings Griffin out number the lion body; eagle head, feet, and wings Griffin by at least five to one.
I have been unable to determine how the furniture makers described their pieces or even when the term “Winged Griffin” was originally attached to their work… the fact is that today the lion with wings is known as a “Winged Griffin”.
Our friends at Wikipedia also had this to say about Griffins: “As the lion was traditionally considered the king of the beasts and the eagle was the king of the birds, the griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature. The griffin was also thought of as king of the creatures. Griffins are known for guarding treasure and priceless possessions.”
It therefore seems entirely appropriate that carved Griffins would be the supports of the top shelf on the Buffet/Sideboard. The Griffins are after-all guarding the family treasure of china and silver.
Interestingly, the day that Shady Lawn Antiques reopened, and the Winged Griffin Buffet was first on display, Mike brought the lamp in to sell to me. He said: ” it is a brass plated iron lamp with a Lion on it”… look closer Mike… the lion has wings!
Last week Jill and I purchased a Strength Testing Machine, for resale at Shady Lawn Antiques. It is so cool looking that we couldn’t pass it up!
The dial is marked the “Mercury Athletic Scale”. It is also marked the “Mike Munves Corp.,… New York”. The Munves Corp. is either the manufacturer or the distributor of the machine.
Our scale dates to the late 1940′s. We have the Deluxe Model which was the floor model with three strength tests. This Deluxe Model originally sold for $129.50 in 1947, which would be $1,333.29 today.
The ‘grip test’ handle was broken and it doesn’t appear to be metal that can be welded. I have just begun to search for a replacement handle. I would appreciate if anyone either has a handle or has any specific leads as to where we might find one.
I have seen several pictures of the table model Mercury Scales that have the ‘grip test’ handle. Does anyone know if the grip test handles are the same/interchangeable?
This machine takes a penny to operate and the other two strength test options, the ‘wrist twist’ and the ‘floor lift’ both work. My plan is to clean the machine and put it on display while I look for the part… at least we might make a penny or two while we look for the part.
Yes, there was money in the machine when we bought it… $2.39!!!
During my Winter 2013 Break, I repaired some furniture for my friend, Doug S. One of the pieces was an 1800′s chair that was originally owned by Walla Walla’s Dorsey Baker. Baker was a physician and a entrepreneur.
He started the first bank (Baker-Boyer National Bank) in Washington State, financed a railroad, and financed some shipping on the Columbia River. Baker also originally owned the property that our Shady Lawn Antiques shop sits on… maybe he sat in this chair when he signed the sales papers (we purchased the buildings and property in 1897)… then again maybe not.
In any case, the chair had been broken when it was knocked over. Doug asked me to repair it.
This was an interesting project so I would like to describe it…
Chair Repair Steps and Considerations
A. Every broken or loose piece of furniture that I have ever seen is broken and/or loose in at least two places. This chair was no exception. As you look at the front of the chair it was broken at the upper left and at the lower right.
B. The first step is to determine the extent of the breaks. This is done by pulling the broken sections back into place, by hand. In this case, I could pull the cracks back together but the chair was slightly sprung sideways as well. This was something that I had to account for in devising a clamping system.
C. I like to glue most pieces of furniture (back) together all at once. That way I can adjust all of the clamping pressures so that everything fits together. Clamping multiple joints at the same time means that I have to devise an appropriate clamping system.
D. My clamping systems involve cutting a clamping caul (wooden block) to fit curved surfaces. I want the clamping pressure to be perpendicular to the joint or the crack. I also devise a way to hold that caul in place during the clamping. Generally I clamp it to a part of the chair that won’t move as I squeeze the crack together.
In the picture above, the top two clamps are pulling the crack together and the bottom two are holding the caul in place.
E. I dry fit (dry is without glue) and clamp each repair to make sure everything fits. This is especially important in the case of an historical chair such as this – you only get one chance to glue it…
F. I then apply a light coat of glue to both sides of each cracked or broken joint. It is easiest to glue both joints before you apply any clamping pressure to either joint.
G. One joint/break will always be the most difficult to pull into to position. I tighten the clamps on that joint first. I apply pressure to the second joint… then I loosen, move the pieces, and reapply pressure on each joint until everything is in alignment.Upper left hand crack…
H. Finally I leave the clamps in place for twenty-four hours before I remove them. This is longer that the recommended minimum amount of clamping time (often one hour).
Several years ago we constructed an outdoor Courtyard space at Shady Lawn Antiques and Art Gallery in Walla Walla. The entrance structure was constructed with reclaimed wood beams and heavy agricultural grade galvanized wire fencing. Two french doors with multiple glass windows were hung as the “fence gates”.
When the temperature and moisture are both correct, incredible frost crystals form on those glass panes. The low soft early morning light of winter provides a unique opportunity to take pictures of these crystals.
I received some camera lens “extension tubes” as a Christmas present this year, so I was excited to try them out. An extension tube fits between your camera body and lens. This increases the distance between the lens and body which allows you to focus more closely on an image. This has the effect of making an object appear magnified or larger.
Photographs taken with extension tubes have a very shallow depth of focus. This created an effect where crystals on one side of the (1/8 inch thick) glass would be in focus and those on the other side would not.
The interesting thing that I hadn’t thought about was that I could focus on either the inside of the glass or on the outside of the glass… There maybe an occasional red spot in the photos – these are tiny spots of red paint on the glass.
I am no camera expert so I don’t want to describe or review the use of extension tubes. I will just show you some of the ice crystal pictures that I was able to take.
I focused on the inside of the pane of glass in this first photograph. The blurry crystals in the background are on the outside of the glass.
The crystals on the outside of the glass are in focus in the following picture. The fuzzy slushy looking crystals are on the inside of the glass. They kind of “frame” the outside (in focus) crystals.
Last Fall my wife, Jill, helped me reorganize the Woodworking Shop (following some shop remodeling) at Shady Lawn Antiques. After sorting and hanging clamps for nearly an hour, she said “don’t you think that you have too many clamps?”
My reply (the same as every woodworker that I know): “you can never have too many clamps!”… Then I went on to explain that certain projects can require every clamp that you have.
Here is how I repaired the delaminations.
I extracted four screws and removed the seat plank from the base. This made it much easier to work on the plank. If the top was glued and screwed to the base, I would have left it together.
Then I used a thin blade artist’s palette knife to work the wood glue into the crack (gap) between the veneer and the base wood. The palette knife (shown in picture above) is my favorite tool for working glue into cracks because the blade is thin and flexible.
I placed wooden clamping cauls (blocks) on both sides of the seat plank and applied the clamps.
Then I repeated the process on the other side… and as you can see Jill was right… I had too many clamps because there were two left over.
Remember that Shady Lawn Antiques is closed from Christmas until February 9th, 2013, so that I can refurbish antiques and restock the store.
Shady Lawn Antiques and Art Gallery is currently closed for a Winter Break. Shady Lawn is scheduled to re-open on Saturday, February 9th, 2013.
During the closure I will be restoring antique furniture, restocking, and rearranging SL displays. I hope to build several pieces of furniture from reclaimed materials. However I know that my project/idea list has way more projects on it than I will be able to accomplish…
Perhaps I’ll post an occasional update/progress report…
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
I look forward to seeing you in February!