Monday, October 7, 2013

Grandmom's Desk

My grandmother on my mom's side was a wonderful lady; the quintessential Grandmom. We spent countless summer weekends at my grandparents' place on the Sassafras River while growing up, and I have many wonderful childhood memories there. She passed away in October of 1999, just five months short of her 100th birthday. When my aunt moved into a nursing home several years ago and Grandmom's house was sold, one piece of furniture that I wanted to keep was a secretary desk that had been in her front hallway.

When we got it, it was badly scratched up, with some water damage to the finish in several places. A couple of the drawer pulls were completely missing, and others were broken or damaged. We could also tell that the pulls had been replaced at some point in the past with cheap ones that didn't match the style of the piece. From faint outlines on the drawer fronts and some internet searching, it was obvious that the drawer pulls had originally been "swan pulls" mounted on a pair of small rosettes.

Having assessed everything, the project entailed the following:
  • Dismantle the entire piece.
  • Remove the complicated letter slot/ drawer insert inside the fold down part of the desk. We saved this, but it was pretty beat up and would have been impossible for us to sand and refinish (well, without making the project take forever...). The piece, while losing some of its authenticity, will be much more practical now, as the interior space is much larger than before.
  • Sand the entire piece down to bare mahogany.
  • Do some basic repair work on the ball and claw feet.
  • Replace the plywood backer with a new piece.
  • Do a little repair work on the drawers so they move easier.
  • Stain the entire piece (two coats).
  • Two coats of polyurethane.
  • Replace the drawer pulls with new genuine ones ordered online.
  • Reassemble and admire.

We began in late July, dismantling and sanding, and worked on it periodically over the next month or so. Amparo gets most of the credit for doing the tedious work, which involved hours of careful sanding. At that point it was hard to imagine the end result, or ever being done for that matter.

The staining and poly coats were not difficult, it was just a question of putting aside time to make some progress. We stained in batches during September and did most of the first poly coat. The drive to the finish line began last week in the evenings, and completed over the weekend.

I wish I had taken a good "before" picture, but I don't seem to have done so. The picture below is the earliest I can find. We have dismantled the piece and sanding is just beginning.
Sanding down to bare mahogany

The bare mahogany was lighter than I would have expected, but would get dark again the moment we began to stain.
Almost ready for staining

I am amazed at the end result. We did a good job (especially considering that this is really our first effort at this sort of thing).
The Finished Product

In addition to having a nice piece of furniture, it makes me smile to have a tangible memory of my grandparents' house sitting here in mine...

No comments:

Post a Comment