Monday, August 4, 2014

Antique Sideboard

There are a number of names for it. Sideboard. Credenza. Buffet. Cupboard. Press. Cabinet. Hutch. It's a narrow piece of furniture for holding articles of table service. It's top is convenient for preparing dishes or storing hot dishes you're about to serve. They tend to be found in the dining room. I bought mine in a desperate attempt to extend my counter space before the fabulous kitchen overhaul of 2013. It was on craigslist for $150.

The top is solid marble, and the cabinet is 100% quarter sawn oak. It is put together with mortise and tenon joints, dovetail joints on the drawers, wooden pegs, and very little hardware. No glue, no nails. and the only screws are there to keep the drawer hardware on. This is a true antique. I'm guessing - and I am no expert - due to the way it's made, the hardware (which I think is original) and the art deco designs on the front, that it was built around 1920-1925. If you are an expert, and I'm wrong PLEASE contact me. I'd love to have an accurate date for this beauty. 

And I scooped it up for $150. 

Now. Don't get me wrong, when I bought it only one of the drawers had a drawer. The other drawer face had just been screwed into the frame to keep it from moving. The door moulding on the front was cracked and in danger of falling off. The paint was chipping and awful. There's a couple holes in the top where pegs obviously once fit to hold two long since broken and discarded shoulders in place. The backsplash rocked and wouldn't stay put due to the shoulders being gone. It was in crappy shape.

My dad built me a drawer for the other drawer face and I used wood glue to fix the moulding on the front. But other than that, I pretty much just used it as it was.

Until now.

See that? That's the back of the sideboard coming away from the side. Because of the amazing craftsmanship of this piece, it's survived for almost 100 years. And yet, because it doesn't have any fasteners at a lot of the joints, as the wood ages, dries and shrinks, the joints don't fit together quite as strongly as they once did. And that marble top weighs like 150 pounds. It's not connected, and the rocking back and forth has caused a few of the joints to become loose. I knew if I wanted to keep this piece for another 100 years, it needed some attention.

Some idiot had spray painted the entire cabinet this steel blue - including the hardware. I painstakingly removed the hardware and saved the tiny little slot head screws in a  cup. Then I sent all the hardware for a bath in boiling water.

When the water was cool enough, I pulled the hardware out and started to rub them. The paint came right off with no stripper, no chemicals, no stink. Yay! Underneath they were a very shiny yellow brass. I didn't like that, so I hit them with a metallic spray paint in a dark color. 

Next, Boyfriend helped me remove the immensely heavy marble top. I added the tiniest amount of wood glue to the joints, and Boyfriend held the joints in place while I added the smallest finish nails I could find. You can barely see them, but they are holding the joints in place very well. Once I got the piece square again, the door started to swing a lot better. 

I wanted to fix the paint job without stripping it, and without sanding away all the neat detail work on the front. So that meant I had to paint it. But I sanded anything that was flat back down to nice clean oak and stained it. A coat of mustard yellow, and voila!

While I was at it I removed the lock from the cabinet, and took it to my local locksmith, Brian and Sons. I wanted to have a key for the lock, so I could use it as a liquor cabinet or something. I don't know. I just felt weird having a lock that wouldn't lock. t really thought they would take one look at that lock and laugh at me. Or tell me it would be a monstrous amount of money. 

They calmly took the lock, fit a key to it, and told me it would be $15 for the first key and $7 for any key after that. I bought two, and it was ready in a day. Amazing! They're professionals who do good work and I would highly recommend them. And they didn't pay me to say so either. 

The only thing left to do with this piece is replace the shoulders on the countertop. I would probably never match the marble, but I'm thinking if I can find a nice thick piece of oak, that would serve. Problem is, finding a nice thick piece of oak lumber of the correct proportions these days will take some doing. But I have not given up hope. 

I've been looking for some similar sideboard from a similar era to try to see what it might be worth - not that I could ever sell this. But it seems to be fairly unique. Everything that's anywhere near close is between $1000 and $1500, and none of them seem to be a similar construction. So I'd say I struck a pretty good bargain, wouldn't you?