So last night at about 3 am our formerly cute chinchilla langinera, aka
"Hershey the chinchilla" escaped from his minimum security cell and managed
to leap from a window sill to our antique oak card catalog in basically mint
condition. Please see pics here:
Pic one is the perp. Pic two is the card catalog, and Pic three is some of
the damage that the perp inflicted on an innocent victim. Anyway, on a more
serious note he gnawed off less than 1/8th inch of wood from the rounded
edge of the catalog. There is about a 2 inch damaged area, plus some other
smaller damaged spots. We are trying to find someone, or some method, where
we can restore the damaged area to near original appearance, if possible,
without refinishing the whole thing and destroying it. I would need to
build back some of the wood height to match the rest of the edge line, and
then make it look like the rest of the oak.
Any suggestions where to go from here?
dwhite <---- considering to cook up some chinchilla burgers
Fortunately this is a decent quality piece of solid oak furniture, but
it's not quite Duncan Phyffe.
- Be brutal. Re-cut the whole front edge (block plane and shoulder
plane) and just move the thumbnail moulding back by 1/8". It's a drastic
step, but it's easiest and it leaves a good result, with some loss of
- Bandsaw some thick oak veneer and apply it as an inlay. Refinish as
- Buy some thinner oak veneer (1/16" should be available) and use it
double-thickness as an inlay.
Use a strap of thick canvas or leather clamped around the edge
front-to-backand pulled tight as a caul to hold the inlay down while the
glue cures. I'd recommend hide glue as best choice, hot as best, cold
hide glue (Titebond sell it) as second best.
Oak varies in colour, so this might need some tweaking. Yours looks
pretty light though, so a simple coat of finish will probably bring it
Refinishing will depend on what the original finish was. This could be
hard to match, so something simple like a wipe of Danish oil might be
just enough (easy, looks OK, hides in the camouflage of the front edge).
If it's an early sprayed lacquer (likely) then they're pretty awkward to
match up in small areas - we'd have to see it close up.
Any book on furniture restoration (Bennett's is the best I know)
<(Amazon.com product link shortened)>
will cover this sort of repair. Zachary Taylor's "Decorative Inlay" is
Cats have nine lives, which is why they rarely post to Usenet.
That would be my first impulse as well. However that doesn't get the furniture
If you can pull off the damaged strip without major surgery, you've got it made.
Cut another strip to fit, first to length and then run it through the jointer
until it's the proper thickness. If you need to round it over, use the router
for that. Then stain with Provincial stain, and coat with some wipe on poly.
It ought to look like the original if you have any skill at all.
Of course, it that isn't a trim strip along the leading edge, forget I said
Since evryone else seems to have the "what to do with the perp" angle
covered, here's what *I* would do: (not really for the tru newbie, but as I
said, this is how *I* would handle it.
Get some quarter sawn white oak (what it appears you have there) and go to
work experimenting with finishes expeimenting on your new oak to replicate
the color and grain pattern.
My guess is that the original finish is shellac... that would be a goods
thing because ot is easy to blend/repair.
You can veryfy this by wipng denatures alcohol on a hidden spot. Enough
alcohol will soften and eventially dosolve the shellac.
The "dirty" pores of the wood can be created with a seal coat of shellac
followed by a pigment glaze wiped away from the all but the pores. The
orangy color can come from (only) the shellac. I suspect that you will not
find that color of shellac over the counter. some button-lac with the bug
parts still in there is the stuff for the job (see shellac.net)
Once you can replicate the color and grain, try practice a mechnical repair.
cut cone of the white oak thick enough to replace the missing material in an
*irregular* shape like an asymetric trapazoid. Trace the shape of your patch
onto the work piecewith a marking knife. set a router to the exact depth of
the patch thickness. Using a straight bit, route out the material within
your marked lines. Come close to the line but not right up to it. The will
give you a clean level bottom. Finish to the line with a chisel.
Finish per samples, blend last coat of shellac into the top of the piece
(here's you change to learn french polishing).
In the end you will still have a visible patch, but done well, it will look
like a repair executed by a craftsman with skills long since forgotten. It
will have "character".
Not really an approach for the faint of heart but....
Wow. No kidding! It might be easier if I just turn the card catalog upside
down and not worry about it! One thing that could be difficult is that the
chewed bits may not be deep enough to attach a new piece. But, the gouges
are deep enough that just sanding and staining without building up the wood
somehow wouldn't look good. I suppose with enough practice I could attach a
piece that could be sanded down in place. Hmm...maybe when I retire in 30
years I can tackle this one! Thanks for the reply.
And some people hated me for suggesting that owning animals is usually a
bad idea. Repair is a job for a pro, and it may not be realistic to
hope that you can make the repair invisible without refinishing. Expect
to spend several hundred dollars. But whether you do it yourself or
hire a pro, I can't imagine repairing just the damaged spots and making
it invisible. The rest of the edge will need to be planed down to the
level of the damage, then scraped and sanded. Then you get to try to
match the finish, and your likelihood of success here is slim to none.
I'm not a pro antique repairman, but I'd be willing to bet that
refinishing will be the only way to do a complete restoration. The
topcoat is probably lacquer that has darkened considerably over the
Good point. You make me consider something tho' that I may be assuming. I
BELIEVE that this piece has never been refinished, but I don't know for a
fact. My brother bought it originally in an antique shop in New England,
and I eventually acquired it from him. I'll have to ask him for sure if the
piece has its original finish. The brass door pulls and patent labels
inside all look original. I wonder if there is a visual test to see whether
the piece has been refinished? Looking underneath the piece might reveal
There may be tell-tale signs like finish buildup in corners, splotchy
color where the old finish was removed more in some places than others,
or little dents and gouges that were finished over but not sanded down.
A pro would be able to tell you a lot more, and I wouldn't think it
would cost you anything to get an opinion. The hardware won't tell you
anything about whether or not it was refinished, and I would think a
refinisher would leave the insides of the drawers alone.
Since you are concerned about "...refinishing the whole thing and
destroying it...", I will assume that you have not done repair work like
this before. Bring the piece to a professional who can do restoration work.
Given that the damage is on the front edge of the piece, any spot repair is
going to be noticeable, especially to you, from six inches away from the
piece. It may look okay from six feet, though.
It appears that the front edge piece can be completely replaced and then
finished in a way to match the existing finish. Again, bring it to a
professional who can do that kind of work.
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