Q An interesting piece from the estate of my mother is a small round table with drop leaves that go almost to the floor. It has a very narrow top, only about 6 inches, when the leaves are down. In doing some research in a small furniture book, I discovered the table is called a “Tuckaway Trestle” table. The drop leaves are supported by two
swinging pull out legs and the base of each side piece is shaped to form a shoe or foot. The wood has sort of a reddish cast but always had several coats of dark stain on it until I stripped it. The wood still has a reddish tone. Have you ever seen a table like this?
A Yes I have seen one. In fact I have one very similar in one of my offices. While I could not find a direct reference to the “Tuckaway Trestle” name, the term “tuckaway” is frequently used to describe that type table. I know that form as a “Sutherland” table, characterized by a top that is so narrow as to be almost useless as a functional table, at least until the leaves are extended. The end pieces are typically joined by a central stretcher which usually supports the bottom of the swing arm style leaf supports.
Tables that have even longer leaves have supports that are attached to the end pieces and fold underneath the entire length of the table. This type of table was first recorded about 1850 and was named for Harriet Sutherland, the Duchess of Pembroke at the time. Curiously enough, almost exactly 100 years earlier another table, the original Pembroke table, was named for that family.
Sutherland tables were popular in the late 19th century in Europe and England and were very successful in America in the early 20th century. Yours appears to be made of birch with a mahogany aniline dye, as was so popular just following the turn of the 20th century.
Q Perhaps you can help with my refinishing problem. The problem is an oak Stickley desk with an early decal mark. Unfortunately, the finish is marred by blobs and drips of white paint. I’ve tried picking with no success. I know I can carefully remove the finish with a paint remover and 0000 steel wool, but when the finish is gone I need to know how to recreate the original Stickley color and finish.
— J.S., Cincinnati, Ohio
A I wish I had a Stickley desk with an early decal. Gustav Stickley used a red decal with his famous “Als Ik Kan” motto as early as 1902. Of course L & J.G. Stickley, Gustav’s brothers, also used decals until 1918, and his other brothers, George and Albert, under the name “Stickley Bros. Co.” were in business until 1954. A Stickley decal covers a lot of territory. You can see the entire range of the marks members of the Stickley family used in “Stickley Brothers Furniture” by Larry Koon, published by Collector Books.
Therefore, prior to getting into restoration techniques and duplicating old finishes, it may be appropriate to get some expert advice on the piece you have. After all, Gustav red decal desks have sold in the $4,000 range in recent years, which is a factor to consider. Once you have the facts on the desk, if you choose to proceed, I recommend that first you try to remove the paint spots before you remove the finish. Assuming that the finish is original shellac or varnish and the paint drips are oil based or latex paint, as opposed to lacquer paint, we can be fairly confident that the paint has not penetrated through the finish into the wood. Therefore we are dealing only with the surface of the finish and hopefully will find no need to disturb the wood or its color.
First, clean the entire piece with mineral spirits to get down to the unadulterated finish. Then, rather than “picking” each spot, I would try to scrape it using a metal cabinet scraper with a sharp “J” hook edge. By bending the scraper into a slight arc you generate an edge that can be easily controlled and, with a little practice and a very light touch, you can catch the drips on the hook edge of the scraper and remove them with little collateral damage to the finish. After the spots are physically removed you need to lightly sand the area with 320-grit sandpaper to level out any marks from the scraper; be careful not to sand through the finish to bare wood if at all possible. Then use padding lacquer or French polish to go over the entire piece.
If this procedure does not produce the desired results and it becomes necessary to strip
and refinish the piece, one process for duplicating a Craftsman era finish can be found at http://bit.ly/1x915JJ written by Popular Woodworking’s Robert W. Lang.