Imperial Monterey Chair Week 4: Shellac and Client

There was still a lot of cleaning to do on the chair. I was hoping to get to the leather working this week, but that didn’t end up happening. Oh well. In two weeks perhaps. Besides that, I learned a lot of interesting things today. During lunch, I was given a lesson on lacquer which amounted to a very fascinating botany lesson as much as a history lesson.

Some things I learned about shellac are that whenever a new layer is added, it dissolves the previous layer just a tiny bit because of the alcohol that is already present. For this reason, it’s best not to apply new layers too quickly because the texture will get too gummy.

Another thing is that it’s important to be aware when using wipes with silicone because the silicone will wick underneath the shellac and cause it to lift.

I learned about different plants used for shellac such as gumalini, gum frankincenseand dragon’s blood

Dragons Blood. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

I also witnessed firsthand Katie and Mitchell meeting a new client and his proposed project. The client came in with an old wicker chair. Some of the wicker popped off, the cushion was torn, revealing the charcoal colored course horse hair inside. As soon as the potential client placed the chair on the table, Mitchell wasted no time analyzing the chair. Mitchell and Katie asked the client whether or not the chair was going to be used for decorative purposes, or to actually be used. This was important because the answer would’ve determined what kind of restoration would be involved in this project.

Katie gave the man a tour of the studio. While she was doing that, Mitchell attempted to make an estimation about the chair’s history. He wrote a base outline of the different elements of the chair: Structure, Wicker, Grass Seat, Finish, and Upholstery.

From looking at the chair, and from his knowledge of what styles of furniture were made in what time period, Mitchell guessed that the chair was just barely made after the Civil War.

Turns out his estimate was off. He knew this by removing a couple of the screws at the bottom of the seat and found that the screws were made from a stainless steel boat nail, rather than iron, like a true post-Civil War chair. He then determined from the style of the nails that the chair was actually made around the late nineteenth century instead. He said this made sense because during that time, this was when McKinly or Roosevelt would’ve been president, and the National Parks projects were up and running.

Furniture like the kind he was analyzing would have been made for the lodges in these parks.

He determined that the structure had a basic frame with loose joinery. The Wicker was broken and needed to be strategically rewoven in some areas. The Grass Seat needed replaced. The finish of the chair was a shellac varnish which suffered from some aligatoring. The Upholstery needed to be replaced.






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: