On September 16, 2004, Hurricane Ivan slammed into the Gulf Coast at Gulf Shores, Alabama. Damage estimates ran upwards of 13 billion dollars in the United States alone. Our client Lesa lived a short 25 miles east in Pensacola, Florida.
After moving to Texas, she commissioned us to restore several family heirlooms that survived Ivan’s attack. This Victorian rosewood étagère is one example of the quality of her family’s furnishings. This piece started life in her ancestral home on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans. So, I’m reasonably sure Ivan wasn’t the first hurricane to try to destroy it. It is a testament to the quality of materials and workmanship of a time gone by that we had anything to restore at all.
We received the étagère somewhat intact with broken marble, broken shelves and shelf brackets, a leg in a drawer, and severe water damage. Several of the laminated screens weren’t anymore and a good bit of the carving was missing on the brackets that support the shelves. The base and back were dislocated, but surprisingly only one glass was broken. All in all, a good candidate for furniture restoration.
Here is what it looked like leaning on a sawhorse.
We disassembled the rest of it so we could begin work. First all parts were cataloged, then stripped and cleaned. The water stains were treated and everything was dried so we could begin the repair work.
Everything is partially disassembled with all the loose pieces. The marble has been removed to have the three breaks repaired.
The next step was to begin the puzzle work. Each loose piece had to be matched to a mate so we could see how much wood was missing.
You can see here that the brackets were in many pieces. Matching rosewood was obtained to replace missing wood and the brackets were reassembled.
John spent several days carefully carving the detail into the areas of new wood before the brackets could be sent to the finish area for staining and finish. The shelves were mostly just split. Reglueing was needed but the original wood was still there.
The repaired shelves and carved brackets are ready for reassembly.
The mirrors were partially covered with a pierced, laminated screen with a rosewood veneer. All the screen material was delaminated from the water and some of the veneer and substrate was missing. A high quality rosewood veneer was used to patch the missing areas and the laminations were carefully reglued.
Chad used the scroll saw to carefully cut the profile of the new wood to the original shape.
The screens were then sent to the finish area where the entire piece received some hand sanding. It was stained to its’ original color and finished. The back was assembled following the mirror resilvering.
With the back completely together, it is close to completion.
After completing all the woodworking, repairs, finishing, and assembly the repaired marble was put in place for a final test. Delivery to the client was in three sections – base, back, and marble. Here you can see the final result—gorgeous!
This was a long project, involving a lot of detailed work. Everybody in the shop participated in the restoration with spectacular results. A thing of beauty with a long history is restored for current and future generations to enjoy.