TLC and new-found skills gives old table new life

The school’s second intermediate student, Fiona Gilfillan, graduated last Friday with an impressive portfolio of completed projects.

During her month with us she restored three pieces of furniture and designed and made a beautiful ash and elm console table, complete with brass pillars and inlays.

Fiona is a keen woodworking hobbyist who has a workshop near her home in East Lothian, and first came to the Chippendale school two years ago on one of our one-week introductory courses.

She wanted to take her woodworking skills to another level and, under the guidance of the course’s head tutor Alan McGovern, has learned many more techniques that she will now apply in her passion for woodworking.

Her last project was to completely restore a century-old mahogany demi-lune table – so called because, when closed, the top is the shape of a half moon.

It belongs to a friend of hers who had bought a new house, and found that the table had been discarded by the previous owners.

Not that you could blame them.  The table’s top was no longer attached, it had no hinges, and the back legs had collapsed.

That’s not to mention that bits of it, including veneers, had become detached and that the top was buckled.

In a project that demonstrates that old and broken is merely a challenge in disguise, Fiona first embarked on a process of kerf cutting, using a plunge saw to cut grooves into the tabletop, then fill those grooves with veneer and glue, and return the top to its original flat surface.

The same process of dismantling and restoring had to be done with the rest of the table.  Indeed, there wasn’t a component of the table that didn’t need lots of TLC.

The last stage was to age the tabletop so that it looked authentic, including using a breakfast bowl dipped in pigment powders and placed on the table and, using fingers dipped in powder, creating the effect of minor water-droplet damage.  The tabletop was then lacquered to a glowing sheen.

Fiona now intends to source other neglected pieces of old furniture and to restore them.  With the market in “brown furniture” so depressed, it’s a buyer’s market that Fiona can exploit.

“I have learned so much on this course, and I now have many more skills than when I arrived a month ago.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the school, and I can now take those skills and apply them to my woodworking hobby,” she says.

Details of our intermediate course can be found here, with students able to specify, subject to demand, when they would like to start.  There are only a maximum of two students on any intermediate course.

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