It started with a simple
conversation along the lines of “Charlie, could you fix my
antique bed for me?” “Well, maybe. Let me look at it
and I’ll let you know.”
like a reasonable start. I’ve known Bonnie on a
business level for over 23 years, and she’s had me provide
guidance or actually fix things on a few occasions over that
I went over to her home and looked at the
damage, and at first look it didn’t seem too bad. Probably
needed some splicing in of wood to clean up the joint
between the footboard end panel and the leg, and replacement
of veneer on four corners where it had cracked or was just
flat broken off.
After she explained why this
piece had some significant sentimental value, I said “I
think I can, but I’ll have to take it apart to be sure”.
Then she pointed out that the headboard also had a crack in
one leg right through the pins for the side-rail hook mount.
Hmm, doesn’t look all that bad either. So I load all
the parts in through the gaping maw of the minivan, and in a
few hours in the next weekend I steam off the veneer on the
wings to reveal the damage in glorious detail.
The subject of the coming
labors is shown in the photo at left, above, in it’s ‘as
arrived’ state in the workshop.
From this view, things
didn’t look too bad at all, and without wiggling on the
outer leg you wouldn’t have realized there was a problem.
Closer physical examination of
the patient showed the lower band of veneer below the
beading was loose on the other end, but its on the
backside where appearances brought a pause. One end
had broken curved veneer and a loose outer leg, whereas the
other clearly had some joint damage and a wobbly leg.
Oh well, I haven’t tried something like this before, it will
be interesting and educational, I say to myself.
‘Myself’ wasn’t listening to the soft alarm bells. I
agreed to do what I could, and if it was just impossible,
I’d let her know. Bonnie was grateful that I’d try.
Nice guy that I am, I didn’t even feel the hook set, but
then I had control of the line.
Once I removed the screws
holding the lateral bracket on, I realized that the bracket
was the only thing holding on the outer legs. Joints were
shattered a bit more than I thought. Out came the steam pot
and a large syringe, and I went to work loosening and
removing the veneer on the wings.
Lo and behold, removing the
veneer revealed that the wings weren’t solid mahogany, but
stacks of 14 separate band-sawn pieces of mahogany that were
glued up to create the curved shape.
whether it really was a better way to make this thing with
this approach. I also recognized that the unknown
manufacturer had oriented the grain in plane with the floor,
and at least one joint would have been required to build
this piece to the required vertical length.
The ugly part is shown by
looking carefully at the photo on the left, above. The
glue joints in some of this stack of parts had failed,
leaving them loose inside the veneer. Add in the
loading of the outer leg, and it was no wonder that the
veneer on this section had been torn apart.
Surprisingly, the joint(s) with the main leg was still good
at this end for the bottom two-thirds of this section, so I
didn’t choose to try taking that apart. Probably a
mistake, as it complicated things by making the vacuum bag
approach unusable in re-veneering the outer curve.
The other end was definitely in
worse shape. Almost every lateral glue joint had failed, and
the spline joints had been broken up in a nasty way.
If I had any sense/lacked the desire to accept challenges, I
probably should have tossed in the towel right here and told
Bonnie it was beyond saving. But I didn’t. I
told her “I like the challenge”, thereupon setting the hook
in deeply. I wasn’t going to give up without a fight.
I took the wings apart, and proceeded with rebuilding them.
This was relatively easy.
Scrape the joints and the outer surfaces clean, line up the
parts, clamp them up, and move on to the next step –
cleaning up the leg joint damage.