Thursday, April 21, 2011

ME: One of These Things is Not Like the Other

It's been a while since I have updated you on the chairs... which are going slow but steady! It's tough with only a couple hours a week of class time to work on them, but they are coming out great and should be completed soon!

We did run into an issue, tho. It's a minor issue, but I know it will drive me nuts for the rest of my life. So, let me back track a bit.

I found the chairs at a Goodwill, looking very 1950's. And then after I started stripping them fabric off them, we found out they were from the late 1800's to early 1900's. Major clues came from pulling out materials like horse hair and straw, but also the condition of the wood.

See how (1) dry and (2) damaged it looks. The chairs have been upholstered and reupholstered many times over (the holes are from where the tacks were pulled.) Dealing with the wood in this condition takes a bit more finesse, creativity, problem solving and time. And, to be honest, this should be the last time they ever get upholstered (that's a lot of pressure for me to get it right.) They had already been repaired probably in the 1950's - 1960's or so when last upholstered (notice the lighter, more solid wood added in for support)...

So, after seeing this, I had to try to figure out how to refinish the legs. I didn't want to use stripper, in fear of damaging the wood further. That meant good old fashion elbow grease and sandpaper (sigh.)

And it took quite a bit of time since front legs were covered in some type of milk paint while the back legs were covered in schlack (probably home made including who-knows-what in the mixture.) As the sanding went on (and I worked on one chair at a time) I realized the front and back legs were different woods (one was possibly better for turning for the decorative legs?) At this point, I named them "Frankenchair 1 & 2" and decided I needed to give them a bit of a color to tie the legs together.

I decided to go with a pickling finish, to lighten it up and kept some of the dark paint/schlack in the groves to show the age. As I went to finish the chairs (still working on one at a time), I noticed the two were taking the finish differently. I just couldn't figure out why. And finally... FINALLY... I happened to put the chairs next to each other and what did I discover...

THEY DON'T MATCH! One chair (left) is nearly 2 inches taller than the other and made from different woods. HA! I have no idea if they were intended to match or made at different times or what.

Sooo... what to do, what to do. If they were different, yet similar, fabrics I could live with them as a pair. But I already purchased so much fabric, I can't justify buying more. And after much discussion with Sal, I decided I will break up the pair and sell one when I'm done. So, if you are looking for a fully restored antique chair finished in a French Country style, let me know! If not, I'll put it on consignment in a local decorators shop or something or maybe on Etsy.

But this is still a fabulous adventure! And it is really helping my understanding of the craft because I'm working on one at school and repeating the steps on the second at home. And I'm tempted to mix it up a bit, play around with the 2 fabrics, and see if I can come up with a slightly different design for the second chair. But I'm not sold on the idea yet... we'll see!

More photos soon!

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