Saturday, January 7, 2012

Queen Anne Side Chair Restoration

A recent project...

Object Description: Queen Anne Side Chair, pierced splat back, upholstered drop-in seat.

Primary Wood: Walnut (Juglans spp.)

Coating: Natural resin spirit varnish (UV examination coupled with solubility testing)

Condition Before Treatment: Piece has been previously stored in unstable conditions. It had lost most of its structural integrity. Many joints were loose and walls around mortises were beginning to fracture due to continued strain. Drop-in seat was severely flexing when sat in indicating loose seat frame.

Coating: Finish was extremely dark so as to almost completely obscure the grain. There were minor fissures over entirety of piece.

Desired Outcome: Client expressed desire for structural integrity to be regained and darkness of finish to be treated to regain clarity of grain.

Treatment Performed: Drop-in seat upholstery was removed and fractured frame was consolidated with animal hide glue. Existing upholstery was conserved and replaced exactly as found with exceptions of new webbing, burlap, and muslin. Chair was partially disassembled and fractured joints were repaired. Frame was then re-glued with high tack fish glue.

Coating: Darkness of coating was addressed with lipase-based enzyme cleaning solution yielding little to moderate success. It was then determined that the majority of darkness could be attributed to a degraded coating. Deteriorated coating was then carefully removed with swabs of ethanol, leaving existing finish in corners and crevices to display expected patina. New dewaxed shellac coating was applied and hand rubbed to sheen using Liberon #0000 steel wool and Wool Lube.


  1. Thank you for posting the write-up of your work on this chair along with the accompianment of detailed photos. When you are working on the fractured mortise walls in the photos marked comsolidationn, what material are you injecting? Is this also fish glue, another glue, or are you using an epoxy. I thought it might besome two part epoxy and the mustard bottle held part b or water. Great job all around. The grain now has life to it.

  2. This is actually a small injection of ethanol before urea depressed animal hide glue (in the mustard bottle) is delivered. Picture framers add a few drop of alcohol to their collagen based gesso because it acts as a surfactant. I tailored that idea to my needs here, hoping a small amount of alcohol first injected would help capillary action for the glue. I wanted glue all the way to the bottom of the cracks. It was somewhat experimental but I am confident that the glue was successfully worked very deep. Thank you for your interest. Be well, friend.

  3. Very nice work and a beautiful chair! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hey thanks, Nate! Great to hear from you. How's Portland treating you?

  5. Portland is treating me fine. Have you seen the Shaker display that's on at the Portland Art Museum right now? Its part of the largest collection of Shaker stuff in existance and they are displaying about 50 items. They have some great pieces of furniture and several good size boxes , several coopered buckets, as well as numeruous impliments of the age and some shaker art work if you can believe it.

    The art work is like the Shaker equivalent of a painted buffalo robe with religious symbols all arranged in a circlular ring.

    There is a swivel shop stool with a back and a padded seat, the leather cover being nailed down with tacks. Years ago someone was restoring it and had the cover off and found the builder had written a poem under for the finding of the evenual restorer - right up your alley!