This next project is an early twentieth century oak hall tree that was in quite a state of disrepair when I went to visit its owner and finally brought it back to my shop. Thus far, I have not been able to find any background information on this piece, but I am certain that I will discover its origins eventually.
The oak shows signs of water damage and having been bleached by the sun in areas. It was kept in a sunny laundry room with a south facing window, so I am sure that the piece has been exposed to extremes in fluctuating temperature and humidity levels.
This photo shows an example of one of the several mortise and tenon joints that have come apart. Also viewable are the cross sections of medullary rays, seen here as diagonal lines inherent in most Oaks.
Here is some rather obvious evidence of a previous owner attempting to secure one of the loosened arms with a nail; yowch!
The previous owner had also painted the entire piece with white gloss paint. The present owner did a fair job stripping the white paint, but oak often has very open grain which allows paint to sink deep down beneath the surface, making it difficult to remove all traces. I ended up picking all of the paint out of the grain by hand with metal picks.
The lower back panel is shown here with additional water damage as well as splitting and separation of the veneer. Let’s have a look at what may lie beneath.
Our hidden treasure is Stachybotrys chartarum, colloquially known as, “toxic black mold.” This is the mold that causes panic in a great many hearts. There were a few child death cases in the early 1990’s that were linked to this mold; however, the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) has yet to make any connection between Stachybotrys chartarum and human death. I have worked with this mold in the past, not knowing what it was, and I never suffered any ill effects from it; however, if you discover this in an area of your own home and are concerned, call a professional and they will be happy to assist you.
Visit the CDC page on Stachybotrys chartarum for more information.
Since one of the arms had a gaping hole in it from being nailed through, I made new tenons for both and secured them in their mortices with hide glue, but added an oak plug to disguise the nail damage. I did this on both arms for the sake of symmetry. Here, you can see the same medullary rays a bit more clearly.
Here is a much more recognizable example of medullary rays. These are radial structures in woods that have a chatoyance, or an iridescent effect, and are found in species such as curly maple, birds-eye maple and tiger oak.
I discarded the damaged lower back panel that hosted the black mold and replaced it with birch plywood. I hammer veneered the birch with birds-eye maple and added decorative inlay banding for a little character.
Here is the completed hall tree. It needed complete disassembly, numerous repairs and many hours of meticulous paint picking. Some grain filling was needed and that was done with bees wax and shellac. Finally, it received several coats of super blonde shellac and a top off with paste wax. The customer’s happy approval made it all worth it.
*Watch the somewhat humorous video of some of the process below.*
Sincerely and respectfully,
(Originally posted on 20 February, 2016)