Flood recovery project #1: A call from a friend

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Blog entry by FreddieMac posted 09-08-2017 03:20 PM 857 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Flood recovery project series Part 2: A good start, I think »

During the flood, my neighbor and I became really good friends. We were at each other’s house doing various things to help each out. He is an off-shore worker, so he is one month on and one month off. During that first month he had to go to work and leave his wife alone to handle everything. I went over an helped her install a garbage disposal and dishwasher. Just small projects to help her get a working home.

One day while we were mucking out our houses, my friend’s wife called me over to look at a problem. She has this small armorior that has been passed down from her great grandfather through the family. It is not particularly valuable, had seen many years of use and abuse, but means a lot to her. We discussed various options to have it fixed. They both knew I did woodworking on the side to relax and wanted some advice. Over the years the door on it fell apart and her husband tried to repair it with metal l-brackets and OSB. But in this case the flood had taken a toll. One side had split and due to water and contents, it cracked under the weight. A bad crack.

Originally, she asked if I would give it a try to fix it, I said sure, with no guarantees. I have done some minor repair, but never full restorations. I was totally honest with both of them, I have done minor repairs before but never a major piece of furniture. But I told them I could not do anything until I got my workshop back up.

About three months later my friend came over to the house and told me he found a furniture place in BR that would do the job. They were going to do a full restoration for $700. I told him that was great and really did not think anything about it. I felt bad I could not help but I told him I really need to finish my house and shop before doing any projects. I helped him load it in the trailer and forgot all about it.

So, I am sitting at my car during lunch when I get a call from a buddy. He has a problem. The furniture place had keep the item in storage for the past 9 months and had not started on the project at all. They were suppose to have it done by Aug 31. The reason for the deadline, they are expecting their first child and wanted it to put in her baby room. Needless to say, the wife, 8 months pregnant is upset about the situation. I told him I would do what I could.

He brought it over to my shop and well, 9 months in a non climate control storage place after a flood really hurt.

The damage is really bad since the last time I saw it. Everything has mud and dead mold all over it. It obviously dried out to fast after the flood becuase the crack has now gotten 10x worse and there is many warped boards. He told me to do what it could and keep it as original as I could.

It is in really bad shape, but I started labeling boards and getting at it. The wood was really brittle but I managed to get the damaged size apart without causing much more damage.

Here is the major problem with the item. The mortise cracked under the strain from the water and the contents.

Now I need to figure out how I can fix this and salvage the original wood. I also have a broken tenon at the top of which I think I can simply glue back together.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

4 comments so far

View jeffswildwood's profile


4276 posts in 2610 days

#1 posted 09-08-2017 04:10 PM

Im no pro but my advice FWIW is to talk to them and let them know some of the wood can not be salvaged. With that in mind, check each board and replace any that is too far gone. By doing that they will have their original piece back, with a lot of the original wood, but stronger due to bad portions replaced. Appears to be oak, correct? I see there is some bad but I see a lot of wood that appears in good shape!

-- We all make mistakes, the trick is to fix it in a way that says "I meant to do that".

View FreddieMac's profile


147 posts in 980 days

#2 posted 09-08-2017 04:27 PM

Yes, I think it is red or white oak. It is hard to tell. Yes, there is a lot of good wood, most of the problem is panels that have warped. This piece dates back to 1905ish, so there is individual panels instead of plywood back. I have been given the do whatever you need to do. This piece has no glue on it, all held together with nails. Some of then nails are in panels that I would have expected to be free floating for expansion and contraction. Many of those have cracked. I think I am going to document all the parts pull it all apart for cleaning then glue back up all the mortise and tenon joints.

View DonSol's profile


249 posts in 1875 days

#3 posted 09-08-2017 11:50 PM

I have done some work like this for a friend that had a refinishing and restoration shop. When he had something like this and wasn’t comfortable doing some of the repairs he would bring it to me. After buttering me up until I couldn’t stand it I would say “OK John I’ll do it”. I agree with Jeff.

If you have a board that is good except for part of one edge make a template just a little bigger than the bad area and make it kind of wavy instead of straight. The repair will be less noticeable. If there is a piece that has split off an edge flatten that area and make a piece a little oversize to fit. After glueing it in work it down to the original board.

I hope this makes sense to you, it does to me.

-- Don Solomon, New Castle, IN; Quality is not an act, it is a habit. Aristotle

View FreddieMac's profile


147 posts in 980 days

#4 posted 09-11-2017 01:24 PM

It does, try to make the repair match the exiting boards. To perfect or straight on a piece that wave to it will stand out.

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