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  • Reviving the Past with Liberon - by Carol Russell

Reviving the Past with Liberon - by Carol Russell

I saw this beautiful little English Oak hall chair in my friend’s workshop. It’d been stripped and was looking forlorn in the corner so I asked if I could take it back to my workshop and restore it using our range of liberon traditional finishing products.

Although it’s quite beautiful, the chair’s construction is frail. The solid timber back panel is attached to the seat by only three screws. Hall chairs such as this were designed more for form rather than function and were used as feature pieces in entrances and hallways in many fine old homes during the nineteenth century. If they were sat on at all, the person would perch on the seat and not lean back against the decorative back panel. At some point in its history the back has been broken and repaired. This was done well enough but the glue line needed to be scraped flat.

The chair had been stripped back further than would normally be acceptable and had lost all of the original patina. The challenge was to introduce some colour and depth back into the timber without making it look too new. I did this using Liberon Van Dyke Crystals a stain derived from crushed walnut husks. I chose Liberon Garnet Shellac for my finish and Black Bison wax to add final lustre.

This chair features a design of a couple in Georgian clothing in the centre of the shield. The design is applied like a transfer and this made polishing a little tricky. I needed to be very careful not to disturb it.

The glue was fatigued and the joint in the back panel had opened up. It was necessary to gently prise this apart and scrape away the old glue. The panels were reglued using Titebond III. To be totally true to the origins of the chair, I could have used Liquid Hide Glue or U Beaut Pearl Glue. This glue is generally what’s used in antique furniture and has the added advantage of being able to bond to old glue. I chose to clean the joint and use the modern glue I had in my workshop. The seat was also split due to the fact that it was glued to the base frame. This prevented the seat panels from being able to move across the grain, causing the joint to split. This too needed to be removed, cleaned and reglued.

The other problem with the chair is that it had a large piece cut out of the edge of the seat. It looked like someone had used it as a sawhorse and gone a little far. I made a paper template of the missing section and from a piece of scrap English Oak, cut a piece of timber to match. It’s important to get the grain going in the same direction as much as possible. Repairs like this are rarely entirely invisible, but a well-executed repair is a noble thing and should do justice to the original maker of the piece.

I was happy with the end result. I really like this chair, it emanates warmth and conjures images of gracious old manor houses. It doesn’t necessarily fit well into our modern home design, but after working on it for some time it feels like an old friend. When you restore a piece of furniture you become part of its story.

If you would like to read the details of the Hall Chair restoration, click here.