Saturday, September 24, 2011

Experiments in Furniture Refinishing: Part 2

The great furniture refinishing experiment of fall 2011 continues . . .

After cleaning, patching (dog chew marks on one corner?), and sanding the disassembled parts, things start coming together to look like a chair again after the bits and pieces of the frame are glued and clamped.

After the glue dried the frame was feeling sturdy again.  No more soft, wiggly joints!  Additional sanding removed minor scuffs and scratches, and taking it all the way up to 400 grit left the frame feeling incredibly smooth.

Taking the whole operation outside, we applied several applications of teak oil with microfiber rags. The oil really brings out the grain and deep red color of the teak frame.  These chairs are going to be beautiful!

Like a good TV chef, I did some prep work off camera.  Thought the vinyl was in great shape, the 50+ year old plywood seats had started to delaminate underneath.  We carefully removed the outer-most peeling lamination and then made a template of the seat bottom.  At work one early morning, I used our shop and cut masonite boards to fit the seat so we could re-laminate the bottom and provide some additional stability.

After applying liberal amounts of wood glue to the new seat bottom, we clamped around the perimeter of the seat and left it overnight to dry.  I am not actually sure how this will hold up in the long run, but if this can give the chairs a second life without having to re-upholster new seats, I think we are getting our money's worth on the investment.

Fortunately for us, the design of the chairs features another panel underneath the frame with the manufacturer's stamp.  Had the stamp been imprinted directly on the bottom of the seat, it would have delaminated with the outer layer as described above and we would have lost a bit of the chairs authenticity.  Here I am putting a clear coat on that additional panel to help preserve the branding stamp.  We will be able to re-mount this board to the bottom of the chair once the seat is attached.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Experiments in Furniture Refinishing: Part 1

I have not been able to walk by the English Building Market here in New Haven lately without buying some new (old) piece of furniture.  A few weeks ago, we finally found the twin to a chair we have in our living room allowing us to complete the seating arrangement.  And just this week, I picked up a set of four dining chairs for pretty cheap.

These unique three-legged chairs were designed in the early 1950s by Hans Olsen and manufactured by Frem Røjle in Denmark.  The branding stamp is pretty clear on the bottom of all four chairs, and one of the chairs still has a sticker that says "Danish Furnituremakers Control."

The chairs are made of solid teak with a vinyl seat and the set of four were intended to nest around a small circular table which was, unfortunately, not available at the Market (see below; not my photo).  In good condition, I have seen the table and chair set sell for a couple thousand dollars online.  There is also a version of the table available that expands to seat six with two additional chairs--sounds perfect for our little family.  I guess that means we are on the lookout for two more chairs and a table now!

Though the chairs are in fair condition and I originally thought I would just clean them up and oil or wax them, wobbly joints, a chewed up corner, and a split frame on one have made me decide to disassemble and re-glue all the joints of the chairs.  I have already disassembled and started cleaning up one of the chairs as a test.  I am reasonably competent around furniture and in the shop, so it seems like it will be pretty straightforward to put back together with a little wood glue and a strap clamp.  (I hope I do not have to eat my words later!)

I guess there could be worse things in the world to collect than awesome vintage modern furniture bought for cheap!  But something tells me if this little refinishing/restoring experiment is a success, I may have found a new hobby.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Memoriam

Ten years ago, I was a senior at Georgia Tech studying architecture. Feeling a bit under the weather, I had decided to skip my morning structures class, and I was sleeping when a phone call from a friend startled me awake. I could not believe what I was hearing when she said, "the World Trade Center has been attacked and one of the towers just fell." As an architect, I could not even grasp the concept of a building that large falling. It was surreal as I turned on the television to see replays of the tower collapsing on itself. Unsure of what was going on and whether other large cities such as Atlanta would be a target, we got a small group together and went to my friend's parents' house outside Atlanta and watched the news all day. It was unreal.

In more recent history, I have been slowly but surely cleaning our basement, which includes going through and organizing a number of old boxes. It dawned on me as we approached the tenth anniversary of the 9|11 attacks that back in high school, I went with my father to photograph skyscrapers in New York City for a class project.  After looking through a couple of boxes marked "photos," I was able to find a pile of photos of New York and felt it would be a nice tribute to post photos of the World Trade Center.

Most of the photos are in black and white and they were shot with 35mm film.  They were probably taken in 1997 or 1998, but I cannot remember.  After I scanned the photos, I did a little bit of digital doctoring, but did not want to do too much to them as I think the tones and textures of the imperfect photos give them an air of nostalgia.

This photograph above was one of two photographs of the World Trade Center I chose to have enlarged for my class project.  I think I called it Tracks, and I paired it with the photograph below, entitled Chambers WTC, of the World Trade Center subway station.  I always felt the photograph of the station had an air of melancholy.   Though according to Wikipedia the Chambers WTC subway station survived the 9|11 attacks, I still think there is something sad about the photograph.

I think this photograph epitomizes the typical view of the World Trade Center and is taken from across the Hudson River in New Jersey.  Looking back at the photo now, I am struck at the scale and height of the massive towers, easily twice as tall as anything else around them.  (Note the Woolworth Building, just to the left of the World Trade Center towers.  It was once the world's tallest building!)

If my research is correct, I think this is a view looking south toward the north face of the base of the South Tower from across Tobin Plaza.  The sculpture is called Ideogram by artist James Rosati, and was destroyed on 11 September 2001.  The 200+ foot broad face width of each square tower easily accepted the full wingspan of the Boeing 767s that hit them in the attacks.

The view up between the towers can only be described as dizzying.  It is hard to believe that in 1974, French aerialist Philippe Petit strung a wire between this gap and performed a "dance" between the towers more than a thousand feet above the pavement.  (There is a great documentary about Petit's amazing feat called Man on Wire, which I very much recommend.)

Yes, I count myself among the architects who love to take photographs looking up the corner of tall buildings.

Another view up one of the towers through the leaves of a tree on the plaza.

In my attempt to be artistic, I had wanted to document the elevator doors of New York's tallest buildings.  I thought it would make a cool series to see how their design and ornament changed over time.  After having a difficult time getting permission to photograph in the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, and Woolworth Building, we were not only allowed to photograph in the World Trade Center lobby, but also to set up a tripod!  If you look carefully, you can clearly see the tripod in the photograph.  My father and I are also visible in the slightly distorted reflection of the chromed doors.

This photograph of the World Trade Center elevator doors was taken at the moment the doors were either opening or closing, I cannot remember.  You can see the ghostly image of people inside the elevator cab, and looking at the photograph now, I am haunted wondering if any of these people were in the towers on 11 September 2001.

We went up to the observation deck on the top of the South Tower that day.  Though I cannot remember if it was particularly windy, I do distinctly remember the uneasy feeling of the building moving slightly beneath my feet.
A view north toward Midtown that will never be again, with the Empire State Building front and center.  This part of the city has changed significantly in the past ten years, including the addition of the Time Warner Center, New York Times Building, Bank of America Tower, and Hearst Tower to the skyline.

A view south over New York harbor toward the Statue of Liberty.

Another view south toward Governors Island, with the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in the distance.

A view looking west up at the towers from Liberty Street.  The steel facade of One Liberty Plaza is in the foreground on the right edge of the photograph.  One Liberty Plaza suffered broken windows but no major damage in the 9|11 attacks.

This photograph shows the South Tower reflected in the facade of the Deutsche Bank Building.  The Deutsche Bank Building sustained massive damage, including a 24 story tall gash in the facade, when the South Tower fell and was subsequently dismantled.

I cannot be sure, but I think this staircase was near the base of the Deutsche Bank Building.  I am pretty positive the small amount of facade showing at the upper left of the photograph is the old Marriott Hotel, and that this view is of the South Tower.  (If anyone knows where this staircase is--or was, rather--please leave me a comment.)

At the end of our trip photographing around Manhattan, my father and I took the ferry back to Jersey City where we had parked and set up the tripod to catch the downtown skyline slipping into the night.