Restoration Philosophy

(Pictures are on ABPW.)
This bureau came to be in my shop when my wife's Aunt moved into an assisted living facility about five years ago. She's about ninety and all I know is that it was in her parent's home before it was in hers.
She thought, "Tom might be able to do something with it."
I don't know for sure but I figure that it may have come from one of the old furniture stores in Philadelphia, rather than straight from a maker's shop. There are no maker's marks or tags on the piece. It shows some handwork in the drawer dovetails and carving. The primary wood is mahogany and the secondary is mostly poplar. There are no dust panels and the drawers simply ride on cleats, of which few are left.
It has a white marble top, flecked with gray, which is not shown in the pictures.
My best guess is that it was constructed somewhere between the 1880's and 1920 but that is a flat out guess.
I finally got around to giving it a lookover this morning and the old thing has been through some hard times. Some of the molding detail has been broken off or abraided. The drawer runners are either gone or worn down to nothing. The bottoms of the drawer sides are either hollowed out or broken off.
It does have an interesting burl veneer on the drawer faces, which doesn't show much, due to the condition of the finish.
The essential joinery appears to be solid.
The wheels on the bottom fit to the feet with tapered shafts, almost like a Morse taper.
This isn't a piece that I am particularly attracted to on the merits of its design or execution. My real interest in it is in fixing it up for my daughter to have some day, simply because she would be the fourth or fifth generation of her family to have owned it.
If it weren't for that, I'd probably toss it.
My question is: How far should I go and what methods should I use?
My WAG on this is that it would take about fifty shop hours to bring it back to pretty much how it looked when it was purchased.
I don't think it has any historical value, except in the family sense but I could be wrong about that.
Years ago I worked on some furniture that did have historical value and I would make my repairs in such a way as to be reversible and so as to be obvious that they were repairs. I'm not sure that's the way to go with this piece.
My initial thought is to make the repairs as nearly invisible as possible, so as to have it look the way it did when it was new.
I thought to knock the sides off the drawers, trim off the hollowed out bottoms of the sides, put a quarter inch maple rub strip on and sand the old and the new together - then shellac, rather than leave them raw, as they are now.
I figured to make new runners out of maple, instead of the original poplar.
Where surface moldings are broken or missing, I thought I'd run new ones and blend them in with the old.
I haven't tested the finish yet but I thought to clean it up real good as a first step and then decide how far to take things. It is either shellac or a kind of varnish but is certainly not lacquer. I would like to get that burl to pop.
Anyways, these are my poor thoughts. I am looking for wisdom and opinion, which I have often found to be in plentiful supply on the Hard Wreck.
Regards, Tom.
Thomas J.Watson - Cabinetmaker (ret.) tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1
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If it has no particular value as an antique, I'd go the whole route with refinishing, replace soft drawer runners with maple, everything you suggested. If you don't want your daughter to keep it in the basement for storage of odds and ends, make it as nice to live with in appearance and function as you can and ignore the risk of ruining it's antique value.
FWIW
bob g.
Tom Watson wrote:

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On Sun, 19 Sep 2004 14:31:31 -0500, Robert Galloway

Good thought - thanks.
Regards, Tom.
Thomas J.Watson - Cabinetmaker (ret.) tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1
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Robert Galloway wrote:

But first make _sure_ that you couldn't buy two new houses with enough change left over for a Learjet with the proceeds from selling it. Probably be a good idea to get it appraised before messing with it. And it might turn out to be worth more as firewood than as furniture in which case there's no guilt at all associated with a complete rework.

--
--John
Reply to jclarke at ae tee tee global dot net
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wrote:

I'd go the whole 9 yards as it were, to repair this piece for family use. I've done that myself for a table my sister gave me to work on. She's using today at her home. I think it matters more to her and hubby to use something hubby's mom and dad once used.
My repairs, while obvious, are not reversible. I used epoxy. Lots of it.
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wrote:

I'm not going to be too much of a purist on this one.
Thanks for the thoughts.
Regards, Tom.
Thomas J.Watson - Cabinetmaker (ret.) tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1
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wrote:

<snip of a good thread, saved to the local disk>
I think the both of you have it right.
The thing to remember about other generations is that tastes sure do change...
A favorite comment from my father recently, on viewing old family pictures, had us both laughing. "How did such fine looking people, such as we are, descend from these homely folk?"
If I had to choose between the dresser, and the sense of humor, as inheritance from my family, I'd take the humor.
May your daughter receive both. With love from her dad.
Patriarch
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On Mon, 20 Sep 2004 03:20:22 GMT, patriarch

I did.
I'd have gotten more money for the dresser.
Thanks for the thoughts.
Regards, Tom.
Thomas J.Watson - Cabinetmaker (ret.) tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1
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Took a look at the pics I think it is about turn of the century, I think there are power ;planer marks and certainly circular saw marks on the drawer bottom .
Several drawers show either poorly done new or refitted cock beads .I would either make new or reset them .As mainly short sections of replacement molding are required these profiles can easily be filed into a piece of sheet metal, and the profiles scraped out .In most cases you do not even need a scratch stock to do this. As far as cock beading goes I usually Just rip pieces of the same material the same thickness and width.
The worn drawer sides can be repaired by first squaring the edges with a block plane or spokshave and gluing pieces of similar wood to the squared edges using plenty of clamps to ensure contact is made the whole length of the drawer side. Make sure the side plus the addition are at least the total depth of the drawer front . When dry just run the drawers through the table saw the depth being set a little more than the drawer depth, then clean up with a couple of strokes of a block plane set fine .
As far as the drawer runners go I would just replace those just making sure they are NOT glued into the sides of the chest. After the drawer side and runners are fixed a good coat of candle wax [paraffin wax]will ease operation considerably.
Pieces like this are often varnished which frankly I have never found a satisfactory way of restoring. the finish looks pretty crappy offhand ,I would rub it down with perhaps 180 or even 220 if you want to be picky,shoot it with a couple of coats of sealer, then a couple of coats of gloss lacquer. After it has dried rub it out with wool wax [Behlen product] with 0000steel wool dipped in water, this will give it a nice hand rubbed look . Purists are going to throw their little tiny hands at this, Antiques per say are items that were produced before 1830, when power machines did not exist [By the way Tom your folks really did take a pounding at golf today] and cabinetmaking was for the most part hand done. Besides the lacquer can always be removed .
One thing I thing would help this chest is to remove the feet ,put them in a plastic bag and staple it into the bottom drawer just in case someone wants to replace them at some time .I personally would add a french bracket foot [you know a regular bracket foot with a little splay to it]
Shoot the inside of the drawers with a coat or two of sealer and Bobs your uncle and fannys your aunt ,couple of days work and it's done mjh
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wrote:

<snip of the part I really liked>

<beginning of the part that I didn't like>

<end of the part that I didn't like>
Thanks Mike. I'm coming to a feeling about this thing that is sort of a mix of what you and Frank McVey are talking about - thanks for taking the time to write - it helps.
Regards, Tom.
Thomas J.Watson - Cabinetmaker (ret.) tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1
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scribbled:

I've been waiting for the pictures to show up on ABPW, but my newsserver doesn't have them. Anyway, here's my 2 cents worth.
I would avoid epoxy & other stuff that is not reversible. But more importantly, as it is a family heirloom, I would document all the work you do on it as well as the history of the piece, write it on a sheet of paper, sign & date it & glue it to the underside of the top or bottom. That way, when your great-great-grandchild decides to restore it again, they will have something priceless & you will achieve immortality.
Luigi Replace "nonet" with "yukonomics" for real email address www.yukonomics.ca/wooddorking/antifaq.html www.yukonomics.ca/wooddorking/humour.html
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wrote:

Don't be eating lunch when you finally get to see it.

Cool idea.

I've been looking for a way to achieve just that but nothing's panned out so far.
Thanks Weege.
Regards, Tom.
Thomas J.Watson - Cabinetmaker (ret.) tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1
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