Our Projects - Victorian era walnut dresser with original hardware and marble top

This is the most thorough photo documentation of a project I have undertaken to date. Although this project does not entail any greater degree of effort than most I wanted to use it as an opportunity to demonstrate the degree of effort required.  Most of my clients simply do not understand the level of effort and long littany of steps involved in a proper restoration effort.

So keeping that in mind I have documented every single process undertaken to bring this piece back to life.  This project was done using a conservation approach in order to maintain as much of the original finish of the piece as possible. I hope you enjoy it, that your patience and interests has you review the entire photo set, and that it helps the viewer to understand what it takes to do what we do.

The drawers of the dresser showing the overall condition of it as received.

Here you see the broken away kick plate or base plate from the front of the dresser.

The inside surface of the base plate showing old original glue which has to be romoved.  Note the hand print from the original maker.

This is another image of the base plate, again showing glue to be removed but also if you look closely you will see several of the original cut nails broken off inside the board.

Although it is difficult to see in the photo this is a signed piece.  If you look carefully you can see a penciled inscription, most likely the makers name, written on the inside of the base plate.  I could not for the life of me make it out.

Here is the front of the base plate showing a large chip broken away and missing.

Here we see the front of base plate showing a large chip broken away and missing.

This image shows the overall poor condition of the original finish, it was crackled from exposure to heat, extremely dirty and had obviously been in a child's room as it had stickers stuck on it.

This is a close up of one of the handles.  Now some would say that these should be left completely untouched, but I'm sorry, many of them were broken and, quite frankly, they were nasty dirty!

Here we see a split in the back side of one of the drawers.

Here's another look at that split.

This is two of the handles.  One has had the shaft broken off and missing.  This was a defect that was not as easily addressed as some but we managed a decent repair which you soon see.

This drawer had a broken key hole escutcheon.

One of the drawer bottoms had shrunk over time and this image shows a gap at the rear of the drawer.

The drawer bottom has been removed and here you see the glue where the shrinking bottom pulled free.  This glue will have to bee removed and the drawer bottom refitted.

Here are the three original cut nails which were hammered into the back bottom of the drawer to hold the bottom in place.

The drawer bottom has now been refitted back into place.  We do not glue the front side back in place as was done originally.  Gluing it at the front prevents it from expanding and contracting with changes in humidity.

We will drill three small holes in the rear of the drawer bottom and put the three original cut nails back into the draw.  These three nails are the only thing holding the drawer in position allowing it to shrink and expand.

The side of the dresser shows the surface scratches and abrasions in the finish.  Aside from being d irty most of this damage will disappear with top coat of shellac once it has been cleaned.

The front of the dresser showing where the base plate goes at the bottom.

One of the drawer rails on this side was seperated from the the carcass and will need to be reattached.

Here you can see where the baseplate will go.  Note the glue blocks still attached to the frame. These will be removed, the glue removed, than reglued to hold the baseplate. Cut nails are applied as was done originally.

These are small risers on the frame for the top drawer.  They are there to draw the drawer firmly into place when closed.  They are broken and seperating from the frame.

This is one of the side glue blocks for the base plate, one on each side.  They will also need to be removed cleanded and then glued back into place.

I have applied a product that will soften up the glue on the glue blocks which will then be steel wooled and sanded to bare wood.

Here I am preparing to tap out the broken cut nails which we used to help attach the base plate.

The original porcelin casters were with dresser but the insets were shattered cast iron.  I would have loved to reuse the original casters but unfortunately I could not find a source for the inserts.  

These are the more commonly used casters of this period which were used to replace the originals.

The missing chip in the base plate is replaced with a two part epoxy patch.  When dried, about five minutes, the patch will be hard and shaped, sanded and colored to match.

The cured patch prior to be shaped, sanded and ultimately stained to match.

The base plate is now being reinstalled.

While reattaching the base plate we discovered a crack in one end of it.  Using a hypo needle we shot some glue into the gap and applied clamping pressure to effect the repair.

This is a split in the side of a drawer which will need to be glued shut.

Two repairs at once.  The seperation we showed you earlier to the back of a drawer and the crack in the side were glued and clamped at the same time.

The first step in repairing the broken handle and missing shaft was removing all the glue left from a previous failed repair.  We than tapped it to create a set of threads for a piece of threaded rod replacing the missing shaft.

Here we see the effected repair with the new shaft.  It will be trimmed to proper length at the time of installation in the drawer.

The bottoms of the sides on two of the drawers were badly warn.  Here we are scribing a straight line from front to back.  We will trim the sides back leaving a nice straight edge to fit a patch to the side.

The side trimmed and ready to have a patch glued and fitted into place.

Here is our patch, made from tulip poplar the same material as the drawer sides.

Here are the two drawers with the four patches glued and fitted.

The drawers have been thoroughly cleaned with fine steel wool and my own special magic mystery cleaner.

Each drawer has two small wood blocks which act as stops when the drawer is closed.  Several of these were damaged or missing.

The remnants of the original drawer stop have been removed and the original glue removed in preparation of gluing the replacement in place.

Replacement drawer stops have been fashioned from walnut to the same dimensions as the originals and fitted in place.

Here is our replacement for the broken keyhole escutcheon.

First step remove the remains of the old escutcheon with damaging the surface which will be visible after the repair.

The replacement escutcheon has been stained to match, glued and clamped into place using the key as a guide to insure proper placement.

The drawers got four coats of shellac over the original finish which was bad on the drawer fronts but in good shape everywhere else.  These will be sanded, steel wooled and vacumed between each coat.

The cabinet has now received its first top coat of shellac.  Notice how all the scratches and abrasions have blended away.

Our handles have been repaired, lightly steel wooled, cleaned and then coated with a lacquer formulated specifically for metal.

We have finished applying the shellac to the cabinet and will now begin work installing the hardware and cleaning the marble top.

We apply parafin wax to the drawer rails and the bottoms of the drawer sides.  This will allow the drawers to glide open and closed effortlessly.

The dresser completely, fully assembled and waiting only for the marble to be done.

The marble will be polished with a series of diamond abrasive sanding/slash polishing disks starting at 200 grit and ending with 1200.  It will then have a marble sealer applied followed by a marble polish which will be buffed out.

That's it folks!  Hope you enjoyed seeing the process from start to finish and have a more enlightened perspective on what it takes to restore a piece of antique furniture.  Thanks for looking.

Rich did a WONDERFUL JOB on a Antique Rocker for my husbands Surprise 50th Birthday Party!! I was Beyond Pleased with his work!!

- R. Deisher Lilly