Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Added Value Subtracted

scroll back chair

I grew up with these chairs, so they’re at least as old as I am, and probably a good deal older. This is the second time they’ve been re-glued, and the first time that they’ve been stripped, neither of which I did.

I’m an okay carpenter and all, but there’s something to be said for letting a pro do the work with the pro’s tools. I’m taking care of the finish work, which I can just fine, thank you very much.

I’ve always thought about these chairs as being antique. They seemed old when I was growing up, and as they fell into progressive disrepair in the 80s (due in part to age, in part to the number of guests at our house, and in part to the fact that I was a teenager at the time and therefore not very considerate of anything or anybody who wasn’t me), my mother eventually had them re-glued.

Now it’s my turn to do the same. I’ve gone the extra step of having them stripped so that I can re-finish them nicely. And I discover this. A finger joint.

the guilty partyYou can see the joinery on the leg (just above the cross rail) where there’s a trapezoid-shaped piece infringing into the personal space of the lower section of the leg.

There are two finger joints on this leg, meaning that there are three pieces of wood joined together.

Now it could be that this is an old school repair job and someone took out the middle bit and fixed it. I don’t know. If you buy long moulding today (brick mould, casing), you’ll typically see it finger jointed on the side. This is nominally a really, really good joint, but the glue that folks use seem today doesn’t seem to hold up so well in inclement weather. But I digress (sort of).

On the underside of the scrolled back rails, you can see the marks of the band saw that was used to cut them out.

So are these chairs hand-crafted antiques, or are they the 1940s or 50s or 60s version of a mass-manufactured chair, simply mass-manufactured by different means than we employ today?

If they are antiques, is that the fact that I’m re-finishing them compromising their value?

Here’s the other thing. The seats are splitting. The pros who did all the initial work for me have re-glued the seats on three chairs (so far), and noted that some repair work had already been done in the past.

Two fixes

The upper repair is the classy one – a bowtie patch that thoroughly impressed my pro. The lower one is solid and strong – plywood glued onto the underside of the seat – and as ugly as all get out. In other words, one patch has craft, and the other just has structure.

Where is the value in these chairs, which I love for no good reason other than the fact that I grew up with them? They’re mighty uncomfortable if you’re at a long dinner.

I’m spending money and time to get these from their current acceptable state to an excellent state. I will not see a financial return on this investment. I tell myself that this is what money is for – not to have stuff (more chairs!), but to save things and give me the opportunity to put something of myself into them. So I may be trashing their re-sale value. This is possible. But I think I’m going to love these chairs all the more once I’ve got them all finished.

Especially when they’ve got seat cushions.


One response

  1. Your posts have the BEST titles!

    August 24, 2010 at 3:49 pm

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