|Me Looking At New Furniture|
Then they call a refinisher to see about getting it "restored." Of course, these people are people who actually have jobs and hobbies and spend their time doing other things than looking at furniture like they were in love with it.
So I have a series of simple questions, like: "What wood is it?" When they don't know, I ask the back up question: "Is the wood red (ie. possibly mahogany), brown (walnut?) or yellow (oak for sure).???"
Another series of investigation starts out "What do the feet look like?" To which the standard answer is "I don't know, I never looked."
The final question is the most obvious: "How old is it?" And I always get the same response: "It's old!" Which, of course, is meaningless. Old compared to what? Your car? Your dog? At this point I hit them with my best shot: "Is it an antique?" That is when they always say, "I'm not sure, but I know it's old. I got it from my grandmother." Always the same type of response. In the end I insist that they send me a photo since that is the only way I know what they have.
I anticipate the email with photos so I can find out exactly what kind of work is involved. The majority of the time it is disappointing, and some of the time amusing (to me; not to the client I'm sure) and in rare instances it is amazing and exciting. A good example happened this week when a caller asked about repairing water damage to their dining table. Here is the photo I received:
Clearly, if you have a table made of MDF with paper thin veneer and finished with a conversion varnish, it is probably not the best idea to use it outdoors in the rain.
I am writing this post since there were three instances this week alone which made me think of the consumer and modern furniture production.
The first one was a call which mentioned a Mission Oak Dining table and "several mahogany pieces." When I arrived I was shown a Mission Oak table which was very clearly brand new. The finish on the entire top had peeled away from the wood, leaving large bare spots all over the table. The finish which was not peeled was cracked and ready to delaminate. When I asked how old was the table, they informed me that they had bought it two years ago, new. The "mahogany pieces" were actually mahogany (African) and old (1940's). I sent them to another refinisher.
Then something exciting happened. A young couple came in and purchased 4 nice New York dining chairs from me. These chairs were made in 1850 and were solid Brazilian rosewood, with the original seat upholstery. They told me they had been buying IKEA furniture, but it always fell apart after a few years, so they wanted to "do the right thing" and buy something with a "low carbon footprint." I think that furniture manufactured over 150 years ago must have a very low carbon footprint. Actually, I think at that time it was a whale oil footprint.
When I delivered the chairs, they immediately placed their IKEA chairs out on the curb and, within 5 minutes they had disappeared. Talk about recycling!
But the most amazing story just happened here at work. The door bell rang and I opened it to find an older gentleman. He asked me if I could fix his drawers on two chests he had. I started to explain that wood drawers often wear out on the lower edge of the sides and the wood runners would also need some repair. He said that wasn't the case. I then said that some more modern drawers have a center slide under the drawer, and if that was not in the right place the drawer would be hard to open.
He said "No. Actually there are metal slides for the drawer."
"Oh, I see. What you have is more like office furniture?"
"No," he replied, "It's high end furniture I just bought it, and I paid a lot of money for it."
At that point I told him that I couldn't help him. But he said that what was wrong was the screws holding the slides were coming out and he could see that they were in the way.
"Why don't you just screw them back?" I asked.
"Because it would void the warranty," he insisted.
"But, if it's high end furniture and under warranty, why don't you just have the store fix it?" (I suppose this was a dumb question, but I was now in new territory.)
"They have already sent out a repair man twice and he can't seem to fix it!" He was exasperated. All I could mutter was "I am sorry, but I can't help you."
As I closed the door of my workshop, I was relieved somehow that it was actually closing out the modern world, and that I could return to my glue pot and workbench in peace.