Friday, September 30, 2016

BCM Tansu Repair (VI)

Wrapping up my work on the two tansu from the Boston Children's Museum. Here, I am taking a look at one of the large drawers:


I had been checking it out and noticed a few odd things, so I got my framing square out to have a look-see to confirm my suspicions.

This side of the box is decently close to square:


The other side however is not especially square:


That gap is about 1/2" at the end of the framing square:


Wayyy out of square. Can only be a manufacturing issue really.

The floor panel has definitely shrunk, and not evenly, shearing off a bunch of the kikugi:


Anyway, though it's a little odd how it is only way out of square on one side but not the other, and the drawer is closer to a trapezoid than a square, it fits okay into the drawer opening so no further steps were taken beyond re-affixing the floor to the drawer walls. To correct the drawer into squareness would have meant taking it completely apart and remanufacturing the rear wall.

Here's a detail shot showing the joinery used where the drawer side wall meets the rear wall:


The mizuya-dansu is ready to go back to the Museum:


 Another view:


As you can see, I've cleaned it up a bit, but still left plenty of evidence of its wear and tear over the years. The original finish itself is somewhat variegated, some places lighter or darker, some places smooth, some scuffed, and has been modified and re-stained over the years in past repair efforts, so it was not really possible to match the finish perfectly. There was no mandate to completely refinish the cabinet, just repair them to make them functional and so that they were not getting damaged any further from the worn out sliding door tracks. I did attend to a few other issues while repairing those tracks, but mostly I stuck to the project brief.

The living room cabinet is also nearly done:


I found that the boxes did not sit flat to one another when connected. The upper cabinet teeters on two diagonal corners, so I have clamped it flat for the moment at tow corners to see if it draws it back.

As I have not removed the rear or side walls of either cabinet, I cannot see where my repairs could have caused either cabinet to become twisted. I am unsure as to whether the cabinets were originally a good fit to one another or not, or whether something may have occurred in transit or in repair work. It's a little puzzling, but not a huge issue to resolve. The clamps easily brought the halves together. I'll have another look at it in the next few days and see what can be sorted out.

Another view:


That concludes this side trip into tansu repair. Thanks for following along, and look for more posts in the 'Ming-Inspired Cabinet' thread soon enough.

Thanks for visiting the Carpentry Way.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

BCM Tansu Repair (V)

Continuing work on the repair of a couple of tansu, each composed of two equal-sized halves, for the Boston Children's Museum.

The new track is now installed in the main compartment:


The lower rail has been repaired from the gouging of the drawer floor nails, reinstalled and re-stained.

This shot shows it while the stain is drying:


One of the drawer sides had a massive split:


No shortage of nails on the near end, huh?

It seemed simplest to glued the crack and clamp it up:


Main compartment floor panel is back in place, with the mouse-chewed corners repaired:


That cabinet could then be set aside.

Onto the final cabinet half of the four:


This one may not require sliding track surgery, though the sliding door lower tongues will need attention at a minimum.

The hinged door at the lower right, along with the two large drawers on the bottom left of the cabinet have been locked for the past 30 years or so, as the museum did not possess a key. I was able to remove the locks from the front fairly easily:


In the bottom right compartment, revealed were a pair of drawers, the lower of which also had a lock mounted:


Locked drawers contained within a locked compartment - interesting. I wonder what they used to keep in there?

The hinged door on that lower right compartment had some issues with its hinge leaves, so I removed them to flatten them atop an anvil. Here, I'm refitting the hinge pin:


After removing the upper hinge plate, also for the purpose of straightening the leaves, I noticed that the maker had made some errant mounting holes:


It's interesting too that the finish appears to have been applied after the hardware was mounted, not prior. A lot of tedious work that must have been!

Rooting around in the back of the lower right compartment, I found some receipts and other paperwork:


I imagine the museum will be interested in taking a look at those.

Also found in the lower drawer of the lower right compartment was a bag of long coil springs::


Possibly these were parts for a weaving loom (?).

Once I had all the locks out and the cabinet fully opened up, I decided to have a go at fabricating a key. I went to a local hardware store and bought a old style key blank, which I then modified by drilling it out, and making further mods with file and grinder:


Trying it out:


It works:


There are three different size locks on this cabinet however, and they are all larger than the biggest available key blank I can buy locally, so I'll have to see what else I can find online.

One of the differences in this cabinet from the other three is that the drawers are put together with kikugi, wooden nails, rather than metal ones:


Another view:


Overall, the kikugi seem to have held the drawers together over time better than the metal nails. Presumably, season movement does not cause nearly the same amount of nail withdrawal as seen with metal nails, and even if the kikugi do get drawn out, they are not going to wreak the same havoc as do metal nail heads.

However, it is perfectly possible to split a drawer floor panel with a wooden nail:


I removed the drawer lock from on of the hidden drawers and replaced on the drawer at front which was missing the lock:


Wooden nails do not always hold perfectly over time, as this hanging drawer floor shows:


On the bottom of this drawer was a massive gouge:


The culprit? Metal nails holding the compartment dust panels in place.

Here's a couple poking out:


And another:


And another:


Should have these cabinets fixed up by the end of the week, at which time I'll return to work on the 'Ming Inspired Cabinet' series. I'll post one more in this thread in the near future.

Thanks for visiting the Carpentry Way. Post VI concludes this series.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

BCM Tansu Repair (IV)

Working now on the upper section (cabinet) of the mizuya-dansu:


My main task on this cabinet is to repair the sliding doors and track on the large compartment. However, issues abounded in other areas. For example, all of the openings for the lower bank of drawers were damaged on each side, as if by the action of the lower edge of the drawer sides:


I'll be repairing these gouges, probably by removing the lower rail, if possible, and rebuilding it.


These drawers do not have conventional sides with floor boards carried in a dado, rather the floor panel is simply nailed to the bottom, so the drawer sides certainly did not cause the damage. The gouges to the drawer openings are presumably the result of the drawer floor nails being drawn out by seasonal wood movement, the nails then gouging the outer edges of the opening at some point in the past. Someone noticed the damage -too late - and tapped the nails back up into the drawer floor.

The drawer side walls attach to the drawer rear walls simply by nailing, and in many spots the nails had rusted away causing walls to separate:


A nail driven from the drawer side into the end grain of the drawer rear wall is a connection doomed to fail however. End grain does not grip fasteners well, generally speaking. Given that the floor panel grain runs lengthwise instead of crosswise, it would have been more consistent, if that is the way you want things to move, to orient the end wall board so the grain runs vertically. That would have provided better nailing at least in the end wall.

In any case, I find the way the grain is oriented in these drawers, just like the way the interior walls backs, floors, and tops of the cabinets, is contrary to designing around minimal wood movement.

The drawer floor panels showed clear wear on their edges where they had been working against the drawer guides inside the cabinet:


A look at a nailed-on drawer bottom:


The bottom, characteristically, is more or less a flatsawn panel, which, again, leads to a maximization of wood movement.

On this one, the nailing was not especially precise:


The drawers are guided and stopped inside the cabinet by small strips of wood, nailed into place:


Here's a spot where a nail on the upper end of the drawer side had, at one point in time, been proud of the surface and had scraped a gouge into the opening:


An earlier patch was evident on one frame stile:


The main compartment floor panel has a couple of gnawed holes in each corner, presumably from a rodent of some kind. One task therefore was to remove the floor panels - easy since most of the nails were rusted out, then slice the damaged portion out in preparation for repair:


The track, like the ones on the preceding two cabinet halves I have repaired, needed complete excavation:


As with the previous cabinet halves, I'll be infilling with a piece of wenge for the track, then repairing the sliding door lower tongued ends to re-establish a good operation. Fortunately, the smaller sliding door set on this cabinet is in relatively good condition and will not require any significant reworking.

All for now, stay tuned for more in an upcoming post. Thanks for visiting the Carpentry Way. Up next is post V.

Friday, September 16, 2016

BCM Tansu Repair (III)

Here's something new on my blog, as we near the 1000-post mark, namely hammer meets nail:


Hah! The above photo shows how the POC panels came out with the stain applied.

The trick I use to prevent any splitting of the board when driving in a nail so close to the end is to clip the head off of one on the nails and use it like a drill bit to pre-bore the nail holes in the board:


Some work remained on the second sliding door from this cabinet. It had a badly rounded outer arris on the tongue of the bottom rail, and that made the door not want to track cleanly. So, I rebated a chunk out  of the arris and prepared a piece of wenge as an infill:


The infill piece was glued and clamped, then later cleaned up by plane and a bit of stain applied:


The lower mizuya cabinet is more or less done, save for a reassembly of one of the doors. I need to bring some rice to the shop to use for glue, so that can wait until next time.

I set the lower mizuya-dansu aside and put the upper half of the heya-dansu on the sawhorses:


This is a wider and deeper cabinet than the other one, and unlike the mizuya-dansu, which is viewed on 3 faces, this piece sits within a closet and only the front face is exposed to view. Thus, where the maker took time to make the sides of the mizuya-dansu look presentable, with the heya-dansu only the front face received attention. The rest? Well, a little on the crude side, by any standard.

Cabinets like this remind me of buildings in a wild west town:


What you see on the front isn't what you find in the back. It's a stage set.

On the underside of the cabinet there is a stiffener added, presumably to support the floor boards mid-span. Curiously, the tenon shoulders are cut a wee bit back:


At first I was grinding my teeth thinking that they cared only about the appearance of a through tenon on the side and not making a sound joint - then I realized that you can't see the cabinet sides, so the reason for the joint to be configured in this manner is beyond me. The other end is similarly gapped. Every time I look at it I shake my head.

The bottom of the cabinet reveals the dabo, the floating keys used to align upper and lower cabinet to one another:


With the cabinet on its back, it was obvious that some of the nails holding the ceiling boards on had given up the ghost:


The shelf support pieces are affixed to the cabinet side walls with nails, which were simply driven right through and clenched:


The proportioning of the frame stiles to the rails does not seem to have been well considered in terms of depth - note the offset between stile and sill:


Same sort of thing where the stile meets the upper rail:


In a similar vein, the main frame rails at the rear of the cabinet are smaller sections than those on the front. Again, since the side of the cabinet is not normally viewed, the disparities in frame part sizes is concealed.

I noticed also that the inside of the right stile was dadoed to receive a tongue on outer stile of the sliding door:


That's a bit unusual, it seems to me.

The left stile, since it receives the rear-mounted sliding door, has but a little rebate to accept the door's outer stile tongue:


Anyway, that's a brief tour of this cabinet. Like the previous one, the main task was to renew the sliding tracks. With this cabinet, the tracks had remnants of track infill pieces, what are referred to as ume-gashi. They were trashed, but they were largely intact. I was able to extract these relatively easily with a chisel:


Ume-gashi are typically made from cherry, keyaki, karin, and, yes, plastic. They can be done as a housed insert, or as a sliding dovetail-shaped insert, however when done in the latter manner repair is more of a hassle if the sill cannot be readily removed for access. Ume-gashi is one term for this treatment; another is mizo-gashi; yet another is ki-suberi.

Once the two infill strips were out, I could see that a simple replacement of the strips was not a possibility as the divider in between was severely worn:


So, I routed it out:


That left a couple of remnants of the center divider at each end, soon to be removed by chisel:



Cleaning up the bottom afterwards:


I fabricated a wenge infill strip, fitted it to the sill, then glued and clamped it down:


 The result looked like it would work out well:


Another view:


If this is the original manufacturer's label, then the tansu was made in Kitayama (on the border between Mie and Nara Prefectures):


Here are the sliding doors. One is original and the other is more recently fabricated, probably on-site, when the building was installed into the Boston Children's Museum, and has a plexiglass panel fitted. Notice the ebony inserts which have been fitted to the lower tongue on the one door:


A closer look:


The inserts seem kinda cool as a repair at first glance, but after thinking about it for a few moments, you realize that placing a couple of hardwood inserts would only effect, at best, a temporary fix for a worn out rail tongue on a worn out track, and that the hardwood inserts themselves would tend to accelerate wear on the track (since they are harder than the track infill strips) from that point forward. There was very little left of the tongue on with door's lower rail, and I have simply jointed the edge flat in preparation for affixing a new piece on the bottom.

By fixing old tansu like these, I am learning things which will inform my own furniture designs, so I'm glad to have this opportunity. Wear and tear issues are going to arise with sliding doors in tracks, so what might be good solutions to that...hmm....

All for today, hope to see you again for the next update in this series. On to post IV.