Middle Eastern Brass Tray

Decorative brass tray from the Middle East came in with a series of ailments. A fall had left it with a dent and reaggravated its decorative elements along the edge which had been fixed once before. Furthermore, some rough soldering was left behind from another attempt at repairs.

The first task was to clean the tray. This was followed by removing the uneven soldering and bending the troubled portion back to square. Along the edge the decorative element was fastened to the tray with copper pins but a number had jumped out of their holes when the tray was dropped. We replaced them and made sure they were fixed into their holes as firmly as possible. Museum wax used as a final step to help protect the work. This is a wonderful tray with intricate decorations that can be used as a serving tray or a wall ornament.

Deming and Bulkley Card Tables

Deming and Bulkley were a high-end furniture manufacture in the 1800’s. While based in New York, they found a lucrative market in Charlestown, South Carolina; which was one of the wealthiest cities in America, and the largest seaport in the South. Their furniture had a reputation for quality, neatness, elegance, and strength, with tastes marketed as true to the “the latest New York fashion.”

On February 3, 1824, the Charleston Courier published a letter written under the pseudonym “Franklin”: “The writer of this, however, cannot pass unnoticed, the elegant patterns of Cabinet Work, executed by Messrs. deming & bulkley, of this city. There are two pieces of this work, which will not suffer in comparison with the best specimens ever imported from Europe, either in point of taste or workmanship.”

Two card tables, attributed to Deming and Bulkley, and beautifully ornamented with legs carved like a hybrid fish-whale species, came in with de-lamination, and cracks in the original boards. We will update as the restoration continues. Stay tuned…



18th Century Dutch Kast

18th Century Dutch Kast suffered from extensive warping, which caused a number of problems: cracked pieces, ill-fit doors, and broken veneer made with exotic wood. Due to the scale of the warping, the restoration had to be done piecemeal, and then carefully reassembled without compromising the function of the kast, especially its moving parts. With woodworking, this is often a tricky aspect.

Phyfe Furniture Restoration

We worked on two Duncan Phyfe (1768 – 1854) tables within the last six months. One was a breakfast table with a drop leaf where the French polish on the tabletop hard worn out; the table had also suffered from direct contact with hot cookware, leaving outlines and ruining the shellac. The second was a sewing table with veneer panels, missing most of its French polish.

Duncan Phyfe, originally spelt Fife, was born in Scotland in 1768. His family immigrated to the United States in 1784, where they settled in Albany, New York. Duncan worked as an apprentice cabinetmaker until he opened his own shop. For greater fortunes, he moved to New York City in 1792 where his cabinetmaking firm, at its height, would employ over one hundred carvers and cabinetmakers.

Regarded as the greatest of all American cabinetmakers, Duncan Phyfe was seen as a major spokesperson for Neoclassicism, merging modern European tastes with the olden styles of Antiquity. However, when popular tastes changed, so did his style. By 1925 he had developed an Empire Style, supplanting his chairs, tables and sofas with delicate, reeded legs, often times ending with massive claw feet.

In 1837 his two sons, Michael and James, became partners and the firm changed its name to Duncan Phyfe and Sons. Unfortunately, Michael died in 1940, and the name was changed to Duncan Phyfe and Son.

Though widely imitated, Phyfe’s work can be found in iconic and historic places like the White House Green Room, Edgewater, Roper House, and the Millford Plantation. In 1922, the Metropolitan Museum of Art held the “Furniture from the Workshop of Duncan Phyfe,” the first exhibition held to show the work of a single cabinetmaker. He died in 1854, and is buried at the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

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Priestly Sideboard Repaired and Restored

This sideboard, by Baltimore furniture maker Edward Priestly (1178-1837), had lost luster over time. The original shellac had degraded, particularly toward the bottom of the legs. Surfaces and detailed edge moldings had suffered damage.

Miller Fenwood replaced broken parts in mahogany, the original material, using 18th century tools and carpentry methods. The French polish was also refreshed with period-appropriate materials and practices.

For more about the maker, see “A New Suspect: Baltimore Cabinetmaker Edward Priestly,” by Alexandra Alevizatos Kirtley.

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Restoration of card table by or in the style of Lannuier

This bold, forthright card table was made by or in the style of Charles-Honore Lannuier, who trained in Paris before relocating to New York in 1803.

As the table arrived, we found that the gesso had failed because a previous gilding had used a size gilding liquor rather than a rabbit-skin glue; the softer sizing appears to have caused some chemical rejection of the upper layers. We re-gilded figures and matched shellac finishes, and then used a lacquer to protect from future disturbance.

There were also some repairs required of the joinery, as well as of one leg and its wheels. These repairs were done with pegs and restorer’s adhesive.

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Flood damage reversed on 1927 dresser

This dresser was made by the West Michigan Furniture Company in Holland, Michigan, in 1927. It was among many hundreds of artifacts in the Holland Museum that were subject to flood damage in June 2009. In addition to the immersion damage to the veneer layers and finish, mold and mildew have taken hold in the piece.

After stopping the fungal invasion and cleaning the piece, Miller Fenwood assessed the overall condition. The plywood elements were nearly completely delaminated; some of the drawer sides and backs were cupped; and slides attached to drawer bottoms were warped.

Miller Fenwood disassembled the drawers, flattened the parts as required, and replaced elements as needed with new mahogany and white oak. Finally, the finish, which was worse for wear from the flood, was reconstituted with period-appropriate materials.

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