Help Restoring a 1930's Stickley Table

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kunkled
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Help Restoring a 1930's Stickley Table

Postby kunkled » Tue Jul 28, 2020 8:44 am

Hello All - I am new to this particular forum and glad to have found it. First, as an introduction to me and my project, I am an antique radio collector and restorer. I am active on the Antique Radio forum, mainly collect wood tube radios, and I am very comfortable with veneer repair, refinishing techniques, etc. Forums are great for collaborating on problems, I use them and help others.

So here is my problem. I recently acquired a custom piece that was a 1935 Philco 45C butterfly radio installed in a Stickley Early American telephone table by a cabinet maker. When I got the piece, it had been stored in a barn for at least 18 years, had multiple finishes on it, covered in dirt dauber nests, and has weathering damage. I have spoken with the Stickley museum historian and confirmed the original finish is orange shellac and it was a mixed species table. Per a 1932 catalog - as a general rule, Cherry was used for tops, drawer fronts, case goods, end panels while Maple was used for turnings, divisions, stretchers, and posts.

My problem is an end panel. The table is now stripped and cleaned. I am not worried about some minor splits and dings which add character but I have one end panel with severe checking. The splits have curled with minor lifting at the cracks - there must be about 100 of them. I have tried a damp cloth, ironed the panel and reclamped using platens and cauls with no success. The panel is recessed and I am not going to disassemble the frame so I am leaning to cutting a piece of new veneer and inlaying it over the existing. Figured I could card the curls flat first, good coat of glue and the clamping would secure the base veneer and stabilize the panel. Any advice on this part of the restoration?

The 2nd issue is I am not convinced the end panel is cherry veneer. The color is much lighter than the solid cherry top but darker than the maple. A picture of an original table where, again, a strong cherry dark tone is not seen. I am not sure how to definitively identify the veneer but any advice would be welcomed. 3 pictures are attached, the good end panel stripped, the bad end panel, an original finish table.

thanks
Dave
Side Panel Good s.jpg
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Side Panel Bad s.jpg
Side Panel Bad s.jpg (98.23 KiB) Viewed 340 times

stickley-cherry-valley-table-3100_2s.jpg
stickley-cherry-valley-table-3100_2s.jpg (77.33 KiB) Viewed 340 times

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Bob Boardman
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Re: Help Restoring a 1930's Stickley Table

Postby Bob Boardman » Tue Jul 28, 2020 10:19 am

Some random thoughts:

1) Are you sure that the end panel veneer is cherry, not birch. Hard to tell from pic.

2) Crack filling: This is an old timers method that I'm about to tell you, so test on a small area first. Mix up a solution of plater of paris according to directions. Apply over a cracked area. Don't go crazy trying to get perfectly level. Just apply and let cure overnight. Next day sand are in direction of grain with a 400 grit paper and vacuum up dust. Apply a spit coat of shellac. The shellac will turn the plaster transparent, filling the crack and giving it the color of the wood. If not happy with result remove shellac and use a coarse plastic brush to remove plaster.

3)YOU CAN TEST the following. If the material is cherry, the original coloring method was to fume with ammonia. Not something for us to try though. Some coloring tips are:
A) IF CHERRY Veneer adding MORE color:
1) Stain: Mix well -1 cup minwax spec. walnut, some golden oak, stick quickly dipped in venetian red paint, stick dipped in burnt sienna.
Do NOT SHAKE can of special walnut, or mix pigment on bottom. Let can sit for 48 hours. You want reddish pigment on top, not the brown on
the bottom.
2) Coat of Sealcoat diluted 3 parts shellac, 1 part den alcohol. When dry give good, thorough sand w/400 grit paper.
3) USE RAG to RUB on and RUB IN 1st coat. Let dry for 24 hours and evaluate. If color good, Apply finish of choice. If too light apply a 2nd coat of stain mix

B) IF CHERRY Veneer adding SOME color: Apply orange shellac. If using flakes you want 1/3 cup of den. alcohol to cup of flakes. Test mix. If too dark, wipe of and dilute mix. If using "amber shellac out of a can, you'll have to apply multiple coats
Bob "Boardman" Borders

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Re: Help Restoring a 1930's Stickley Table

Postby kunkled » Tue Jul 28, 2020 10:55 am

Thanks Bob - I have considered trying to fill the cracks including using natural grain filler. The problem I have is that most of these cracks have curled to the right side of the crack and lifted from the base ever so slightly. I have measured them using a depth gauge at 1/64" and they move so they have slightly delaminated and I can press them down. So stabilizing this so that future problems do not occur is an objective. My goal is for this to look correct and authentic as part of my radio collection. The panel is definitely not smooth with all of these cracks and there are a lot.

I have thought about the plywood panel might be birch and if I do replace/overlay the panel, that could be a good choice. Any other thought to make the panel flat and stable with this many cracks?

Dave
crack.jpg
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crack pressed.jpg
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Re: Help Restoring a 1930's Stickley Table

Postby Bob Boardman » Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:02 am

Make a mix of white wood glue and water. 2 parts glue to one part water. Brush this over the top and let dry for 12 hours. 320 grit sanding with a sanding block, and then another coat of glue mix and resand. The dried glue stabilizes the wood, but won't do much for crack filling
Bob "Boardman" Borders

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Re: Help Restoring a 1930's Stickley Table

Postby kunkled » Wed Jul 29, 2020 9:41 pm

Bob - I have to say the diluted glue seems to be the ticket so far. I modified the procedure and brushed the glue into the cracks, kind of 'pumped' the bigger blisters to get the glue under the veneer, then clamped it up with platens and cauls - came out much smoother and the veneer cracks have definitely stabilized. The veneer panel is only about 8"x9" recessed so probably will use a card scraper to smooth it out.

Concerning your old timer method with plaster of paris, I am probably leaning towards using natural grain filler but same process unless you have a strong opinion. We use grain filler on radio cabinets with stable veneer cracks often and I see a lot of them. Still some work to do but I am optimistic that the original veneer may be salvageable and I wont have to overlay a new veneer panel. But, that option is there if all else fails. On the shellac, I use a 1 LB cut for a seal coat using a pad then a 2 LB cut for building the finish. I am using flakes in both amber and garnet colors.

thanks!
Dave

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Re: Help Restoring a 1930's Stickley Table

Postby Bob Boardman » Thu Jul 30, 2020 10:34 am

Dave - Only reason I use the plaster of paris is that it becomes transparent when a finish is over it. In my experience with other grain fillers you usually have to do some color matching. The plaster just shows the natural color of the wood.
Glad the glue mix worked
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Re: Help Restoring a 1930's Stickley Table

Postby kunkled » Thu Jul 30, 2020 12:22 pm

Bob - not sure I will be happy with this. I went ahead and tried the plaster and the cracks are very shallow with all the glue. I did a test section with 1 coat of amber shellac and sure enough the plaster goes transparent leaving the black cracks. Any other suggestions? I am getting to the point of a new veneer overlay and move on but willing to try something reasonable. I will clean up the other end to get a better look at the veneer pattern. The panel is not birch which are on the added doors and I have birch in my pile. Definitely a different pattern.
Dave
Crack Repair.jpg
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Re: Help Restoring a 1930's Stickley Table

Postby kunkled » Thu Jul 30, 2020 9:12 pm

Here are the cleaned and sanded end panels - the good end and the bad end with all the weathered checking. I am very convinced this is maple veneer as the tone and grain match the legs and stretchers. Also just a little bit of birds eye also. The manager at the wood craft store agreed. New maple is much lighter so have made make several test pieces. I have Transfast dyes in Early American Maple and Light Oak which might give me the right tone color to be close. I will do some test patches to get the base color on new veneer and check for any feedback from the forum. These pictures capture the color tone of the stripped table very well. Any feedback is appreciated.
thanks
Dave
Grain Good.jpg
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Grain Bad.jpg
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Re: Help Restoring a 1930's Stickley Table

Postby Bob Boardman » Fri Jul 31, 2020 8:31 am

Dave - agree that Maple is the likely wood. If you've got TransTint dyes, and a decent eye for color matching, you can try adding some to the plaster of paris. Keep in mind that the dried color will be a touch lighter, but you can use a different strength dye.

The other option is to seal with shellac and then apply a light coat of pigment stain. The stain will sit on the shellac and add a touch of color to the dark spots.
Bob "Boardman" Borders

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Re: Help Restoring a 1930's Stickley Table

Postby kunkled » Sun Aug 02, 2020 12:27 pm

Well - I think this came out fairly well and worth a try to finish out. So to get some depth to filling these cracks with the dry weathered edges, I took a box cutter blade, made a slice down the black lines and then scraped out a groove. From there, I used Timbermate wood filler with a little Transfast dye power and filled the grooves. Used a extra fine paint brush to add a little more dye tint and looks fairly good or at least a whole lot better. I will go ahead this week with the orange shellac as see what I get. I do have a dye mixture to stain new maple veneer that is very close to the aged maple. That will be my backup if all else fails but I think this will work.

I will post pics after the shellac is applied.
thanks
Dave
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