Thursday, 8 March 2007

Not A leg To Stand On...

This is the most recent addition to the household…a lovely, mahogany, early Victorian chest of drawers. As the photograph shows, the veneer has taken a bit of a beating over the years but structure wise it’s as good as the day it was made. And what an amazing piece of furniture…between each drawer is a solid wood partition and the wood on the back is as thick as most tabletops you get today! M, who loves old furniture with a passion, is beside himself with delight at the prospect of this restoration project and has spent an unbelievable amount of time studying it from every angle.

We do know that it came from an old farmhouse here in the area and that it is not fashionable anymore. Furniture like this is known as “brown” furniture; canny entrepreneurs buy it up for next to nothing and much of it sits in UK warehouses awaiting sale to American dealers who buy it by the container load. The size of this piece, alone is daunting for most modern homes - four foot, two inches wide by three foot, six inches tall, - but the dark wood and the damage would condemn it anyway. Fortunately M has the necessary skill; unfortunately he didn’t have the materials. Apart from the chips out of the veneer, the other missing elements were the four legs (that would have raised it off the floor). The veneer will be relatively simple to replace; there are companies that will send smallish quantities, ready cut, via Royal Mail. Unfortunately, the legs required much more wood.

A large piece of mahogany was out of the question…if we could even find it, we certainly couldn’t afford it, which left us no choice but to improvise, and that’s exactly what M did! We had helped ourselves to some of the branches, left behind when the storm-felled trees were removed from the roads, thinking of all the kindling we wouldn’t have to collect. M found a thickish piece amongst the pile and sawed off a long section, extra in case of mistakes, and turned the thickest legs the wood allowed for. Hard to believe that these four legs started out as bark covered, chunks of discarded branch only a few days ago; of course we have no idea what the wood is but it isn't mahogany. With staining and polishing, the results almost match the chest and will do the job for now. To give some perspective, the finished legs are shown standing on the remaining section of branch in the photo below.

As we couldn’t find any pictorial references of what the original legs may have looked like, M improvised with the design as well. One day when we are able to research it further and afford the mahogany, we will replace these legs with others more like the originals. The repairs to the veneer and the re-polishing will be completed when M finds some spare time. The derelict condition of the garden pulls him outside when the weather allows and between that, the stock (for the website), which he is restoring, and the household repairs, it will be some time before it’s finished. Until then, we love our newest arrival and it’s very useful too… now that it’s no longer ‘legless’!


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