Saturday, November 30, 2013

Fun Quickie Restoration: Nutcracker

Ever since I saw photos of Alex & Wendy's impressive and beautiful collection of nutcrackers, I've decided that I want to start a similar collection of my own.

Alex & Wendy's Collection:
Check out their amazing house blog over at Old Town Home

I've actually really loved nutcrackers ever since I was a kid, and I remember asking my Mom for one for Christmas many years ago. I still have him, and he can be seen below.

In the past few years, I've looked around for more of them, but I have found them either hard to find, or of very poor quality. I tend to hate sparkles, so sometimes this limits the choices further, but I have found several nice ones at a local grocery store last year, as well as this year.

These three are new, and I bought them last week.

Today's post, however, deals with the newest addition, which I picked up just this morning at a thrift store. I pondered a few minutes about whether or not I should spend the 2$ asking price, as he was missing a piece, and had some flaking paint on the base.

I set him back down, and kept browsing the store, but on my way out, I decided he was too cute and interesting to pass up.

Some interesting features include the hair moustache, the ears, and the fox.

Seriously, how cute is that fox!

I was initially worried that I might not be able to figure out what was missing from his hand, but luckily the internet is a thing, and I was able to find a photo of an identical model. It helped that he is specifically a "fox hunter", because if he didn't have much of a theme, it would have been like finding a needle in a haystack. The sticker on the base reads: © House of Lloyd 1995 - Made in China.

Web photo:

Turns out he's missing his riding crop. I actually found a few other photos. The end is some type of cheap black fabric, but I chose to use thin cardboard instead.

The riding crop was easily made from a small piece of dowel, a piece of cardboard, and paint. To fix the chipped paint, I sanded the entire chipped surfaces (both ends), and painted them in a near perfect match. The slight difference in colour won't show on a surface like this, since it will just look like a difference in lighting. It's much easier to repaint the entire side than to try to paint the patch.

While I was at it, I also did a few other small touch-ups around the hands, to the brim of the hat, and to one boot.

Ta-Dah! I think he looks awesome! The riding crop is a hair longer than the originals on other versions, but I think it looks better (as far as the proportions), and I only estimated the length.

And here's the whole collection so far. My original (first one), which I mentioned earlier is the small teal one at the front with a crown.


As far as the house goes, there aren't many projects on the go, currently. I will be reupholstering the dining room chair seats before my Christmas party (on the 21st), and there will be an update coming soon about the Rosemirlea apartment building, which is currently being demolished. I'll also probably be posting about holiday decorating, etc. so stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Firewood Part Deux

After the freebies from last time, I also got a trunk-full of old lumber that my boss had set aside from the burn pile. The stock has a lot of useful pieces, such as thin pine backboards and drawer bottoms (which are useful for clock repairs), as well as several large pieces of lumber (armoire pieces?)

Initially I had no room for it anywhere, so it was piled in the front hallway (I didn't want it left in the cold porch).

The top board on this pile is actually a broken headboard from an old pine bed.

This second batch of firewood wasn't just boring wood planks. There were also a few fun pieces. Among them was this gorgeous gesso-decorated mirror frame. I was amazed that it was still in good shape, because I literally dug it out of the back of a pickup truck full of scrap wood. It was half buried, but it has almost no breaks. it will just need a few touch-ups. The frame has already been repaired with wooden dowels drilled diagonally and glued into the corners.

You can see it here in front of the previous mirror (which needs a lot more work), and 2 of my other old frames behind it. You can also make out the love seat on the right. The frame is pretty large at ~16" x 57". I'd date the frame to around 1900, but it has a similar style to earlier 1800's over-mantle mirrors. I plan to just touch up the frame, and install repro wavy mirrors.

Also note that large Victorian carved table leg on the floor. I have no idea what I'll do with it, but it's solid walnut, so sadly I may just use the lumber. Otherwise it's just a giant (and very random) decoration.

I also salvaged some interesting fretwork pieces. The large one is likely from a gramophone or radio cabinet, while the smaller one is from some sort of decorative wall shelf. The piece at the front is the top of an old mirror. It's ruined, but the pressed/carving can be removed and reused.

The desk has been brought upstairs into the "L Room" for storage until I can work on it.

The rest of this post is just a few random bits.

Here are two shots of the restored finish on the mahogany serving piece. I think it turned out awesome for so little work.

The colours are wonky in this one, but you can see the top better. It's not 100% perfect (since the top had a LOT of stains and blotches), but it's pretty good, and I prefer imperfections on antiques.

Lastly, here's a half finished project. I've started working on some of the grates. This one has been cleaned, scrubbed free of excess rust, and painted. The interior (and back sides) are flat black, and the front is gloss white. I used spray paint for a beautiful smooth finish. The screw was also cleaned-up with a metal file (to remove burrs and marks), and painted.

The reason it's only half finished is because the latch hasn't been stripped and painted, and neither has the interior flap. These will be worked on at the same time as I do the second one for the living room.

I also took advantage of this past week's sale on paint at the Home Depot. I spent over 200$ on 3 1/2 cans of paint. I bought green for the upstairs "L Room", and blue and light grey for the main hallway (it will be blue on the main floor, and grey going up the stairs).

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Fun Discovery!

Amazing "lucky find" discovery. I actually found an identical burled/inlay panel to the one I salvaged.

This one is from the footboard panel of a Biedermeier bed:

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Amazing Firewood

Hmmm... how to start this post. I guess I should start at the beginning. My boss Pierre is good friends with a nearby antiques restorer, Enrique. Enrique has already given me an old shop vac, and he's been doing some major cleaning around his shop lately. In the midst of this cleanup, he's gotten rid of a lot of old scrap wood, and other "garbage".

I believe a lot of this old wood was burned at a get-together a few weeks ago, and it was Pierre who told Enrique to save a few pieces that I might be interested in, which were mainly a bunch of "old doors".

This was maybe a week ago, and I finally got to see them and take them home yesterday (Friday). In addition to the old doors was an old gilded frame, and just before coming, Enrique asked over the phone if I'd also want an old desk.

These were all going to be burned as fire wood. If this is what was thrown out, I can just imagine what he kept.

Most of the doors are quite large (nearly 4 feet tall), and most are over an inch thick. Most of them date to the 1800's, but a few may be old enough to be in the 1700's.

I quite liked this set. Enrique said they were nice, but too plain.

These look very, VERY old. Possibly early 1800's, definitely French Quebec, and likely from an old buffet/hutch.

These are probably the oldest ones, and possibly into the late 1700's. They have very rough carpentry (all hand planed, and hand carved). The back has a lot of rough tool marks. They are stained very dark, but I think they may be yellow pine?

Back panel detail:

This one is quite nice. It has sort of a Gothic or Arabesque arch, old blue paint, and the back is grain painted.

The back has the letters Y (or J) B.

This is the smallest, and roughest of the bunch. It has woodworm, rot, and some broken parts.

Here is the lovely gilded frame:

It needs work, but I should be able to cast/copy a good portion, and use it to duplicate the broken sections. What's nice about it is that there are 3 or 4 shades of gold used on the frame, and it's quite deep and elaborate.

The frame is quite large as well. Here you can see it propped up in the living room, and it's nearly the height of the love seat.

There was also this lovely inlay panel:

It seems to have been cut out from something, since all 4 edges are rough, and it's too thick to have been a door, so I'm not sure where it was taken from. It could potentially make a nice little table top.

It has some losses, and a rough surface, but I think it can be saved.

The show stopper, however, is the desk.

The desk will need a TON of work to restore, but it's a very interesting and lovely piece. It appears to be mostly walnut, so if you can use your imagination, it could be really gorgeous once it's done.

Here was just the empty base (which has completely fallen apart and is barely being held together by a few tiny wooden strips) right before I put it all back together:

And here's what I've got to work with. As-is, it's missing several major sections, such as the bottom skirt (toe-kick), the drop-down lid (writing surface), the left side lid support, and the right side slant (triangle piece).

The interior drawers have curly birch veneered fronts, and the original ring pulls.

I was glad to see that I have one of the two lid supports, because I have never seen any like these.

The left one is missing. Enrique said he might still have it somewhere, but I won't hold my breath.

The top is in very rough shape. There are several spills where the wood has swollen-up, and the finish is toast. I'm also wondering if it might have had a bookcase top, since there are shadows, and a track where there might have been a back board (it has been filled-in with a strip of pine).

Left side slant is cracked.

Both bottom sides are separated (the 2 boards that make-up the side came apart at the glue joint):

The right side also has a huge broken chunk at the front (bottom), which will need to be patched/repaired, and a broken chunk at the back, which won't show under the toe-kick (I may still patch it).

Missing right-side slant:

The 8 handles from the drawers are missing (matching ring pulls), and two of the 4 keyhole escutcheons are also missing. Luckily these are made of wood, and I should be able to copy them on my lathe.

All of the 10 drawers have hand-cut dovetails at the front AND backs.

Something interesting, and that I'll have to be very careful with, is the hand written calligraphy labels (on thin fragile paper) over some of the pigeon holes. They are in French, and have titles like:
Lettres privées (Private Letters)
Comptes (Accounts)
Lettres reçues (Received Letters)
Lettres envoyées (Sent Letters)
Reçus (Receipts)
Divers (Miscellaneous)
Certificats d'Arpentage (Survey Certificates)
Terres de la couronne (Crown Lands)
Rapports (Reports)
Bureau des Arpenteurs (Office of Surveyors)

I am not quite ready to work on this project, but I decided to at least clean it up a bit, so I removed all the worn-out and chewed-up felt, clean-off the dust, and you can also see in this photo that all the pigeon hole dividers are loose, and will need to be reglued.

I also removed the two later hinges, and you can see that the desk originally had 3 smaller hinges.

It should be a fun project, but I have other ones I want to finish first, like the grandfather clock.