By the Skin of the Teeth

October 29, 2013

The 1920’s sideboard and table restoration was a compound cruncher.  All work had to be done by Thursday night, Oct. 3 at the absolute latest, ’cause I was leaving Friday morning for a 12-hour auto trip to St. Augustine, Florida for a friend’s wedding on Saturday.  Also on Saturday, the owner was coming to the shop to pick the pieces up for delivery to New York on Sunday for an important function up there,    AAAAAAAAAA.


Here’s How It Worked Out

The pressure started on Friday, Sept. 20, when the job came in.  The tops had to be stripped, repaired, and delivered to the finisher on Monday the 23rd.  I started right away.  The sideboard top stripped so easily. I thought I was good to go.   Saturday morning, though, it was raining — then cleared enough to get back into it in the afternoon, when I stripped the table leaves.  They proved tougher to strip, with an extra thick 90-year-old varnish.  I thought I’d knock them out — and the table top –, but all I got done was the leaves.   (And ended up having to do them over.)

By the time Saturday’s daylight started waning, there was no way I’d get the top done, too.  This was WORK.  So I squared away and hoped for the best the next day.  Thankfully, Sunday was gorgeous, in the eighties.   I had just enough time to strip the table top twice, just to be sure.  Then, by the time I went over the leaves again, then squared away, the table top had dried enough for me to do the considerable veneer repairs needed.  After that, the leaves were dry enough to do their repairs, too.  Next I glued down some more loose veneer I noticed at the last minute.  Then, good night.

The repairs had all Sunday night to set up.  Monday morning, I completed all followup repair steps, mindful the finisher had said he could finish them on time if I got them to him “by Monday”.  I did, right on schedule.  Whew.  I also took a double drawer from the sideboard for color matching,, and we discussed what to aim for.

Man, times like this, I just pray and keep on.  Just do what I can right now and try not to worry about the rest.  When I see  special game-changing things “fall” into place at critical moments, I know where they come from, and that buoys me up to persevere with renewed heart.   With so much to do, and probably not enough time, that extra bit of hope and confidence  can make the difference.

After all, you can’t control all the variables.  For example, to strip outside, you need: no rain, and no less than 65 degrees.  At the end of September in Pennsylvania, that’s not likely.  But I had perfect conditions until I was done — then the temp dropped and rains came.  Definitely encouraging.

From then on, I worked on repairing and re-gluing the sideboard.  By Friday, Sept. 27, I picked up the tops.  The color was perfect, possibly better than the original.  Not too perfect — some of the “character” still showing through, but just a hint, not the obvious damage of before.  He hit the nail on the head — and that was another boost.


A Real Lifesaver

Toward the end, running out of time but still discovering more work to do, my son John (“one shoe off, one shoe on…”) came alongside. He helped  on one intensely creative task – restoring damaged, or making new, applied ornaments to replace missing ones. It was a good thing.  Most of the last day it was pretty obvious there was no way I was going to get it done.  I just kept working and praying anyway.  I was still at it Thursday (the last possible) evening when — who’s this coming in?  It’s John with a carryout meal from a favorite restaurant.  The timing was exquisite.  He also helped do a couple of things I needed an extra hand on, then I took it the rest of the way till It all came together at the last moment.  I mean late Thursday night, October 3!

So, the old 1920′s sideboard which, the way it was, I might’ve left in the dump – now showed its former glory.  Plus the indefinable patina of age, use, and family history.  And my, it had a presence that I’d not seen before in that type of furniture.  Now I saw what the designers (perhaps) were aiming at.  Definite class.

Yes – and so it was with the restored table as well.

So, the day of our  friend’s wedding in Florida, our daughter called with the news that the restored heirlooms were  on their way to New York, and the owner was “very happy”.   Ahhh…a happy ending for all concerned.

Now for some pink flamingos, palm trees, white beaches, and dear friends obviously enjoying marrying the one they waited for so long.

And now I get to complete the 1880′s rocking chair!