Monday, August 10, 2009

Those Gorillas Broke My Leg!

Welcome back to the second installment describing the goings on in my shop! Okay, so the first myth I busted is "I'm going to post once a week!" It's been a while since my last post; where do you folks find the time?

A little background
: I designed and built a solid cherry lectern back in 2005 while renting time in a furniture maker's shop in San Francisco. When it was time to move to New York City, I paid a packing company a couple hundred bucks to build a custom cardboard moving crate for my beloved piece. When it was shipped to NYC, it went straight into storage, unopened. Sound ominous yet?

About 2 years later, I needed to display the piece in an art show in Long Island, so off to the storage locker I went to retrieve my two-hundred-dollar box. A shop-mate helped me unpack, and was the first to notice something was amiss. One of the legs appeared to be severely cracked - uh oh.

On closer inspection, the leg was shattered.
As far as I can tell, those gorillas at the shipping place must have dropped the piece and snapped off a leg. They super-glued the pieces together, packed it up, and shipped it to me. Keep in mind that this is a one and a quarter inch square piece of solid cherry hardwood. Aggghh! The photo below shows that damage as I found it.

What follows is a step-by-step description of the repair. If you enjoy it, please let me know!

1) First, the shattered pieces are glued back together as close as possible to the correct alignment. The repair is still ugly at this point. A board screwed to the ends of the legs holds the end of the broken leg in the right position while the glue sets. Any orthopedic surgeons out there that can give me the technical name for this procedure?

2) I decided to splice in a piece of cherry, spanning the break. The splice replaces the splintered wood and gives the leg structural strength. In the photo below, I've built a fixture to guide my Bosch plunge router (a cool tool!) and clamped it to the side of the lectern. At this point, the cracked wood has been removed with a spiral bit.

3) The ends of the hole are squared up using a chisel. A block of cherry is carefully cut to fit snugly in the recess and gently tapped into place with glue. The block is left a little proud of the leg and a couple of wedges fill in a couple of missing slivers of wood.

4) The block and wedges are leveled with the rest of the leg using handplanes, scrapers, and sanding blocks. In the first picture, you can see a long skinny piece which broke off. That is the leg's outside corner and the reason the repaired area is so long.

5) Several coats of sealer and polyurethane are wiped on to match the original finish. This piece is natural cherry, so no color matching was required for this repair.

6) A close up of the repair, with slightly different lighting. It's not exactly invisible, but it's appearance is certainly not jarring. People rarely notice it if they don't know it's there.

Overall, I'd say this repair was a success, and a furniture tragedy was averted. So now, my cherry lectern is back in storage and ready for the next display. Click here to see a professional photo of this piece on my website.