Friday, September 9, 2011

Rebuilding Legs on a Sofa

wobbly leg
This sofa arrived with three wobbly legs. Not sure what to anticipate, I told my client  it's like "pulling a thread". I'd have to open up the bottom to see what's actually going on. Word to the wise: Beware of light weight sofas!

(what's inside?)
This sofa is made of factory stretched leather, so I wasn't keen on removing any of it unless I had to. I unscrewed the leg, then carefully pulled the dust covers back (2 layers) by removing the staples with a small head screw driver.

Yikes! The inside.
And then I saw it:  Pressed wood and pine, all stapled together.  A couple of bolts, no screws, and that's it! I was surprised that the legs were still attached.  All the bases for the legs had split.  One even had screws drilled in it to fix a split at the factory.

split leg
I would have to custom cut each piece to fit the sofa frame. The biggest difficulty, and a design flaw of this sofa, is that the bottom of each arm actually bowed outward at an angle to create the line of the arm. This meant that the piece of wood that anchored the leg NEVER sat flush against the base. And on one side, it was only supported by the edge of the wood that held the leg, and a wood wedge. AMAZING!

not much support here!
By trial and error, I came up with a plan. After drilling the center hole and placing the screw fitting that encased the leg into place,  I attached metal braces, one on each side of the leg fitting. I made sure these screws were positioned so that they gave me the most room above and below the piece of wood.

I then pre-drilled a hole through the sofa frame and the piece of wood holding the leg. I drilled though the frame far enough to make a mark on the wood with the leg fitting on it, then I took it out, put it in a vise, and drilled through the length of the piece.

 After that, I put the piece back into place, used a 6" bolt screw (with a washer) and carefully drilled it through and into the other side of  the sofa arm. Now, the piece of wood holding the leg is not only stronger, but it is locked into place with glue, 2 bolts that go all the way through it, and anchored by metal braces.

This should now support heavy people, kids, and the occasional elephant.

locked and anchored into place

So.... again:  Since you almost never get a chance to see what's "under the hood" when buying a sofa - remember the weight. Good wood is heavy.   Pine and particle board is light.

You absolutely get what you pay for.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Late 1700's Dresser Gets an Overhaul

This piece was bought back East and damaged when it was shipped out
to Los Angeles.

It's an antique dating back to the late 1700's, made
out of pine, has a veneer top to it, and the finishing coat on it is
shellac. There were several scars on the top from previous wear.

Pine is a light, porous wood, and tends to "breath" when it goes
through humidity changes. Enough direct sun light, and the wood will
perspire. This moisture will actually work its way up through the
wood and then up through the shellac, creating small bubbles.

I repaired the piece first, re-gluing the broken legs, then, with the
one leg that had a missing section, I simply stained it to match the
rest of the leg. Because the stain is dark, the missing piece is not
even noticeable.

I replaced the back entirely with a new piece of
1/8" plywood. The top had some veneer pieces that had chipped off.
I glued those down, into place. There were a few missing pieces that
need to be replaced, but matching today's veneer with that of two
hundred year old veneer can be frustrating, if not impossible, so
like the missing leg piece, I opted to stain it to match.

Not one tool touched this piece when it came to removing the
shellac. Shellac removal is a long laborsome process, using a
solution of alcohol mixed with lacquer remover, and then rubbing out
the finish with a lot of elbow grease.

Once I got all the shellac off, I gave the dresser two coats of
stain. The sides were easy. They got a Mahogany Stain to match,
followed by a coat of Amber Shellac.

As for the top, the trim is American Walnut, and the center is
Golden Pecan.

I wanted to use the Amber Shellac on the top.
It would have given it a rich look, along with removing some of the
flaws and scars, but because the piece was going to get some direct
sunlight on it during the day, instead I went with Marine Varnish.
Not something I would normally use, but given its new location, I
thought this would be the least problematic. Each coat (3) was
sanded down with 400 grit sand paper. For the final coats (2), I
thinned the finish down with Mineral Oil by half, using 1200 grit sand

The owner wanted the pulls left alone.

And there you have it... a pine dresser from the late 1700's restored
and sitting in a Century City high rise.