Saturday 28 November 2009

The U3A course

We had a lovely time at the library yesterday. Everyone bought a project along and we discussed each in turn, everything from stripping and re-finishing a metamorphic table to re-weaving a rush seated fender stool. We also spent some time discussing buying at auction, or more to the point, what NOT to buy. How to spot really serious problems that would cost too much in time and money to restore. Then we had a tea break and afterwards split into two groups, one to discuss restoration techniques and one to try out the steamer method of caning a chair. The time flew by!

This lovely gentleman bought along a steamer chair and his cat mauled fender stool!

Thursday 26 November 2009

A cane, rush and restoration course for the U3A

Tomorrow we will be holding an afternoon training session for a few people who are members of the local U3A or to give it its full title, The University of the Third Age. This self help organisation is a brilliant idea, I hope they don't mind me linking to them or quoting from their website:

"U3A stands for the University of the Third Age, which is a self-help organisation for people no longer in full time employment providing educational, creative and leisure opportunities in a friendly environment. It consists of local U3As all over the UK, which are charities in their own right and are run entirely by volunteers. Local U3As are learning cooperatives which draw upon the knowledge, experience and skills of their own members to organise and provide interest groups in accordance with the wishes of the membership. The teachers learn and the learners teach. Between them U3As offer the chance to study over 300 different subjects in such fields as art, languages, music, history, life sciences, philosophy, computing, crafts, photography and walking. A typical U3A has about 250 members but could be as small as 12 and as large as 2000"

We have met quite a few of the local members over the past few years as each in turn has tackled a new project. Some are learning upholstery whilst others have worked on cane and rush seated chairs. Tomorrow we will try and fulfill their "wish list" - I asked the organiser to ask everyone what knowledge they would like to leave the session knowing, a "wish list" if you like of skills and information. It's going to be fun, we will be covering everything from removing stains on wood to how to shop for antiques, passing through cane and rush weaving tips along the way. We are holding the session at our local library so none of us has far to go. Our last course was in Leamington Spa, a very long journey for us, but we had a lovely day in a pretty village church hall teaching about a dozen people cane and rush work. The organiser bought a magnificent home cooked feast for lunch which included home made soup, sandwiches and cake - fantastic! We didn't get home until 10 o'clock at night! At least this time we can walk home in five minutes from the library!

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Cane panels

Just like the glut of close canework a few weeks ago and Danish furniture before that, the latest influx of work seems to be all pre-woven or "slab" cane panel replacement. Virtually all of the seats so far have been from the typical black framed Bauhaus/Habitat chrome framed dining chairs. Strange how fashions go in waves, the 60's/70's and black are back!

The trouble is most of the time it's only the seat that needs replacing on a chair, not the back, so you end up having to colour the new cane to match the old stuff, so the next (mucky) stage is to tint them to the right shade. We keep the old cut out panels for reference.

So another days wait now until they're dry enough to seal............ back to the Davenport restoration.

I'm nearly there now, the polishing process has begun! All of the silly little bits of missing veneer are replaced and the loose areas relaid. I've received the new brass gallery for the top from the manufacturer and already have the skiver writing slope leather cut and tooled. Can't wait to re-assemble it finally.

Friday 20 November 2009

Back to the uses of Scirpus amazing all purpose plant

Okay, so tedious work has got the better of me, waiting for glue to dry and newly laid veneer to settle is time consuming to say the least! The Davenport desk is coming along well, albeit slowly - having eleven pre-woven cane panels to replace in the meantime just adds to the monotony - but I'm not complaining, it's good to be busy.

Back to the uses of Scirpus lacustris, the amazing rush/cattail plant...............

In many places throughout history in England, rush festivals were held to celebrate the new harvest each year. Come the end of July, private homes, churches and other public buildings would remove all of the old rush material from the floors of their buildings and replace it with the new seasons crop. Rush, (as anyone who has used it knows) smells wonderful, just like newly mown hay or sweet tobacco. So imagine - you clear out the one year old soiled rush from the floor and replace it with the new highly scented, (and antiseptic) new material - a good reason for celebration! The population had a real excuse for a good knees up.

Then there were rush lights. Bundles of rush soaked in "tallow" or clarified animal fat. Large rush lights could provide all of the light needed in the cavernous buildings of the past.

Of course, chair seating we all recognise as a sensible and practical use of rush, a skill practised for centuries throughout the world in lots of different ways. Then there is basket making. Near to us here over the border in Hampshire, lunch baskets of a particular design were woven for the farm workers as well as other baskets to carry goods around, plaited floor mats kept the dust down in homes. Place mats and hats were also easy to make, functional and popular. Rush is such a sympathetic material.

Flooring, medicine, baskets, clothing, lighting.........a spectacular plant indeed.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Davenport and Wegner Danish chairs

Yet more Danish design to restore! The first of five Hans Wegner chairs has arrived today for a new seat, this time the famous "wishbone" design, which made us wonder just how many "Scandanavians" have passed through the workshop in the last couple of months. The answer was suprisingly 30 - not counting the various tables and a sideboard. We still get a great kick out of restoring these incredibly useable works of art, thank goodness they are being fully appreciated again.

The Davenport restoration still plods along. Most of the veneer patching is now done, shouldn't be too long before it can finally be put back together again.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Beginning the walnut veneer patching

The Davenport stationery box interior is almost finished, so time to turn attention to the patching and replacement of missing veneer. Working with burr walnut makes this job easier in some ways, but more difficult in others. The swirling grain can be such a help at times, but when the wonderful random colours play their part, it can make finding just the right replacement piece almost impossible.

The first section to replace was the rear of the stationery box, virtually all of this was missing so I removed what original veneer was left to use as patching elsewhere, then re-veneered the whole section with a highly figured bookmatched pair of veneer leaves.

Then using some of the small pieces of original veneer removed, I started to patch the desk top slope. Movement of the carcass has caused the veneer to crack and split, so over the years with dusting and use, small pieces of veneer have disappeared. This is the fun bit, the furniture makers always used the best and most interesting veneer on the most visible areas of the desk, so this is always difficult to get right. It has to be as close a match as possible, because if it isn't, it will stick out like a sore thumb!

It's getting there, the patches are mid way down in the section on the right.

Friday 6 November 2009

The stationery box

Well the new stationery compartment of the Davenport desk is coming along nicely. All of the component parts are made

Looks like firewood! All of these pieces were made out of two Victorian drawer bases, it is a bit of a jigsaw puzzle, but it does fit together.....

Next stage is to French polish each piece and ebonise the edges.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Thinking about next Summer and a Davenport desk.

It's only November and already the paperwork has started to arrive for next years shows - much earlier than normal. It seems strange to think about next Summer's events when outside the wind is blowing a gale and it is dark at half past four, but that's what we're doing! Hopefully the diary will be completed by February next year at this rate, which will give us much more preparation time than usual.

Meanwhile thanks to "de-cluttering" the work has begun on some of our own bits of furniture that have been waiting for a bit of TLC for a long time. First patient is a lovely burr walnut veneer Davenport desk. It's a really pretty rococo shape with carved front supports and overall is not too bad. The only real problem is that at some stage someone has removed the contents of the top stationery compartment, so I have to build it from scratch. Luckily it's not the first time I've had to do this so at least I'm prepared for the time it will take! There is so much "waiting time" with this kind of work, things like drying of glue and laying veneer patches, so it's the ideal job to fit in around seat weaving.

So far the first couple of separators have been made from reclaimed Victorian half inch thick mahogany. Remains to be seen how much further along I get by tomorrow.....