Friday, October 28, 2011


I decided my life needed a reset. I think I've been mostly successful. I got the water on before the kids got home from school. The stop payment order beat the check to the bank, so I didn't get double charged for the water bill. The KH's trial is over. We replaced the faucets in the kids' shower, caulked every possible crevice, and threatened the kids with death if they splash water on the floor again. (Has anyone read the Yarn Harlot's new book? I almost choked to death laughing about the water balloon fight. Sounds like something that would happen at my house.)

The wedding book survived the flood mostly unscathed--just a little water damage to the cover and the edges of a few pages, which my husband assures me "adds character." The ceiling, walls, trim, and carpet have dried out, and the damage it mostly not noticeable.

As for the antique table, it was trashed. Really, truly trashed. The KH wanted to just throw it out. He's never been a fan of the table. It's incredibly heavy and has sharp metal caps on the feet that always seem to land on his toes when we're moving it. It has also long had a really ugly finish. To be fair, I don't think it was always that ugly, but it was finished with a high gloss varnish that yellowed over the decades, turning it a sort of shiny yellow-green-brown. To make matters worse, the legs started pulling away from the base many years ago and have defied all efforts to repair them, making it lopsided enough that putting a glass of red wine on it is an adventure.

Despite all this, I didn't want to toss it. Aside from the sentimental value--it was my mother's formal table when I was growing up, and before that, it belonged to an old lady who had inherited it from a relative and had it for decades herself, so it's really old, and I have a weakness for old things--when the leaves are removed and the ends are dropped down, it's the perfect size and shape for under the living room window. In that spot, it's also only a few feet from the end of our regular dining table, which is extremely useful when we have to seat more than eight for dinner. The old table is exactly the same height and width as our regular table, so we just pull it out and set it up end to end with our dining table to make one really long table and toss a tablecloth over the whole thing. With all the leaves in and the tables combined, we can seat 18 people for Thanksgiving, all at the same table.

Also, I love a good project, and I hate throwing out anything that might still be useful. So for the past three days, I've been crawling around on the floor of the garage, revamping the old table. I pulled the legs apart, shaved down the swollen wood pegs, poured in about a quart of glue, and pounded the legs back together with a rubber mallet and clamped it all in place. After it dried, the legs seemed to be totally solid.

Then I stripped the whole thing--not my favorite activity--with chemical stripper and large quantities of steel wool and mineral spirits. I was shocked to discover that the wood under that scary finish is a beautiful red mahogany. I sanded down the water damaged sections as best I could and stained the whole thing with oil based stain. I haven't used oil based stain in many years, because it's a pain, and I wouldn't have used it this time, except that I accidentally grabbed the wrong can off the shelf at Home Depot and didn't realize it until I opened the can. But I'll tell you what: it makes for a gorgeous result. I topped it with a couple coats of oil based polyurethane, and...Wow. The thing is beautiful.

Seeing how pretty is was after its little refurb sparked my curiosity about its origins. A little internet research revealed that it's a Duncan Phyfe style table. Duncan Phyfe was a furniture maker who worked in New York in the late 18th to mid 19th centuries. There are tons and tons of Duncan Phyfe reproductions, but not many confirmed originals from his workshop, since he rarely signed his work.

It is very difficult to tell whether a piece is an original. Some of the indicators are a very old finish (like this, on one of the leaves I haven't refinished):

Beautiful mahogany wood:

Reeded legs with brass claw or paw feet:

Urn shaped pedestals:

And very old, heavy, brass hardware:

Original Duncan Phyfe tables with the original finish fetch upwards of $30,000.

Now, I'm sure this isn't an original and it doesn't matter at all that I let it get water damaged and then refinished it. But dudes, if I'm wrong...I don't want to know.


kmkat said...

Clearly, obviously, unmistakably a reproduction. Definitely. But beautiful after your makeover!

Linda said...

Wow! My grandmother had that exact table in her living room. It had 2 Duncan Phyfe chairs to match. I wish I had that set now; she passed away when I was 14; don't know who got the set. You did a beautiful job on the refinishing!

Tracy Purtscher said...

Ah memories. I grew up with that table with the full compliment of chairs. It was one of the few things my siblings and I "discussed" when our mother passed away. Our table was prob'ly the same age as yours, it is going on its 4th or 5th generation but it was never re-finished....thank heavens. :)

Knit and Purl Mama said...

What a beautiful table.