Cousin Ruth's Chairs up ↑

Ruth M. Kershner was a cousin of my maternal grandfather, Carl Rudolph Kroekel. Ruth's mother, Bertha Daetwyler, was a sister of Rudolphina Daetwyler, C. Rudolph's mother. Cousin Ruth was an expert seamstress, who lived and worked in the Philadephia area. She was once featured in an article in an issue of the Land's End catalog, which I now wish I had saved and could reproduce here. What I remember is that she would go from one rich family to another, staying in their home while she made custom dresses for the women of the family. I recall her as a cheerful person with a great sense of humor, who told interesting stories. She was very spunky. I recall that she once resisted an attempted purse snatching, to the point that her shoulder was dislocated. She was still alive when Syauchen and I were married, and Syauchen also remembers her with affection.

When Cousin Ruth died, two pieces of her furniture made their way to me, via my mother. One is a platform rocker and the other is a loveseat, both in the same ornate style. When we received them, neither of them was safe to sit on, because the straps that supported the springs had come loose. It seems the chairs had already been reupholstered at least once, and the number of tack holes was more than the wood could sustain without splitting to a point that the tacks came loose. However, we kept them around, because they reminded us of Cousin Ruth.

This year (2018), I finally got around to repairing them, and having them reupholstered. The finish, when we received them, was thick and nearly opaque, a very dark red. (See photos of the loveseat below.)

After the upholstery, tacks, and springs were removed, it became clear that some major repairs would be needed. The following are some "before" images of the loveseat. The glider was in even worse condition, with much more serious splitting of the wood.

I tried various techniques, including inlays of new wood on the worst-split areas, and reinforcement with epoxy materials (Abatron "LiquidWood" and "WoodEpox") on the edges that were less badly split. I don't know what kind of wood the chair is made of. Some of it looks to me as if it might be American Chestnut. That is plausible, as there was a lot of that wood available when the trees were killed by the great blight. For replacement wood in visible places, I used some local native cherry and a bit of ornamental cherry wood that I had around. To get a good glue bond, in some places I used tongue and groove, and some places I used an L shaped cross-section wrap-around. To replace the split internal braces, I used pine.

With the new wood, and deep gouges in other places, it was not possible to blend the repairs into the old finish, so I scraped and sanded the old finish off. Lacking facilities for spraying, I gave up on reproducing the finish the chair had before, and applied a hand-rubbed finish instead. Unfortunately, the old thick finish had served to hide a lot of defects in the original manufacture, including knots, gouges, splits, pencil guidelines, and some very rough sawmarks. They are now very visible with the new, rubbed finish, going a bit beyond the patina that one expects on a vintage piece of furniture.

More photos to come, when the chairs have been reupholstered by Furniture Wizard...