Friday, September 11, 2015

Abandoned Antiques

Brought Back From Dead
It seems that the market value and interest in legitimate antique furniture is officially dead.  For some reason, beyond me, people seem not to understand either history or culture enough to be concerned with saving "old" stuff.  I get the strangest calls every day that proves the absolute ignorance of the owner of furniture when they try to describe what they own.

For example, yesterday I got a phone call from a young lady who asked how much it would cost to "fix her chair."  I said I could not tell her without more information.  "Please describe it for me" I asked politely.  She said, "It is for an old person, and there are handles on the side, and it has a place to sit."  At that point I suggested that she should bring it in if possible so I could evaluate the problem.  Shortly a person showed up at my door with an aluminum walker, with a broken handle.  I said that I only work on antiques, and she said "I just called and you said to bring it in!"

On the other hand, mid century modern stuff is going for amazing prices.  I got an email with photos of an Eames chair knockoff, with a broken arm and back.  It looked like someone had tried to fix it with epoxy and screws, and badly.  I replied that I did not work on 20th century furniture, and the response was "It's worth $4800!"  (In what sane world, I thought...)

Don't get me started on what regular cars from the 1950's are selling for at auction...OMG.

So I was not surprised the other day when I took Kristen to drop off some glue shipments at the local post office.  Our neighborhood post office is next to an overpass where the homeless live, because it is behind a fast food place and they have everything they need.  Including antiques.

As we pulled into the parking space, Kristen said "Look at that rocker!"  Sitting in the grass was a childs Grecian walnut rocker with damask upholstery, a torn seat and broken arm and leg.  Even in that condition it was still providing comfort for the locals.

Since no one was currently using it, I found a way to relocate it to my trunk.  I am confident they will find a replacement in short order.  They are very resourceful.

Original Frame and Stuffing

Returning it to the bench I removed the seat and back upholstery frames and found that it still had all its original stuffing.  Even the screws were blunt and original, proving it was made around 1850, if not before.  The arm was broken but I put it back together using some of the original wood from the front leg to patch the missing piece.  The front leg was beyond repair, since it had at least a dozen nails in various positions holding the fragments together.  So I made a new front leg and re glued the frame with Old Brown Glue.

4 New Screws and 5 Old Screws

Next step is to remove the finish, add shellac and re upholster it with a nice damask.  It is exciting to realize that the rocker is only 35" tall and therefore must have been made for a child.  A very rich child.

Perfect Size for Young Adult

Close inspection revealed a maker's stamp in the top of the front rail.  Mr. J. M. Schwab would be pleased to know that his work still stands after a century and a half.

A Professional Mark

Now if I can only find someone crazy enough to appreciate "old" stuff...


Joe Sainz said...

Awesome that you are bringing that chair back to life - but did you really just grab it? Do you think that was the right thing to do?

W. Patrick Edwards said...

If you see a wounded dog laying in the street, do you pick it up before a car hits it?

I am confident that if I did not step in this poor artifact from the 19th century would not last another week out in the wild.

Free range is not a good term for antique furniture. They need a home.

Joe Sainz said...

Obviously I don't know the circumstances and wasn't there, so I shouldn't be stepping in. My apologies.

Looking forward to seeing you at WIA!

skoonz said...

As you point out about 50's and 60's muscle cars (and now, anything from that time frame)go for a mint. If you look at original Model A's and Model T's which my dad would have enjoyed, they have dropped in value because of lack of interest. One generation's memoirs are the next generations crap. That mid-century stuff is the hot item right now and is 75 years oldish. Not my cup of tea. If it isn't wood, lets go with chrome and glass! You did a good thing sir.