Skip to content

Thoughts about the restoration of a 1850’s Chestnut Commode…

August 28, 2010

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.

Chestnut Commode in Pieces

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.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Ruth permalink
    August 29, 2010 1:24 pm

    My first thought: “What a strange topic.” The reason – that piece of furniture you are working on isn’t called a commode here, something less pleasant is .

    In other observations: Can you check out how the layout looks in different browsers with this blog site? In my browser (Safari) there is no white space margin on the left. It makes it hard to read what you have written when the first letter is right up against the exact edge of the open window. And finally – and best of all, you sound just like Dave! Antique enthusiast, artist, Walla Walla promoter, woodworker with thoughtful incites. Fun.

  2. MoM permalink
    August 30, 2010 9:35 am

    How many hits have you had so far? (smiling!)

  3. Jack Ellis permalink
    September 1, 2010 7:22 pm

    Nice job and the pictures are great. Keep it up and you will soon have a large audience who won’t be able to get enough of your stuff.

  4. Jacqueline permalink
    May 22, 2011 9:02 am

    A pleasure to read your words conveying the way in which you relate to each piece and it’s individual, yet silent to the untrained eye, history. I much appreciate your efforts to assist these pieces in reveling their true beauty obscured by others’ paint-happy splashings.

    Is this piece Eastlake or could it be compatible with that style design? Would you be willing to provide finished dimensions and consider offers if you haven’t already commited this item?

    Continue your dialogue with the pieces on which you labor,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: