Family Furniture Revived

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Project by Joel Tille posted 12-04-2006 11:50 PM 3016 views 2 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Where to start?

First would be that this china hutch belonged to my grandparents, dad remembers them getting it second hand sometime in the early 1940’s. My father acquired the hutch after the death of his father in late 1960’s. To his knowledge his father did not repair where joints were broken, he believes this was done before his folks receive the hutch.

As small child in the early 70’s, I vaguely remember hiding in the lower cabinet and peering through the opening of the missing drawer. The drawer had documents of my grandfathers that went to the lawyers, somehow the drawer was never returned either from the lawyers or another family member. By now the cabinet has seen its better days and I am sure that my older sister, myself and two younger brothers did not affect the soundness of it what so ever. lol

In the past two years we have received several pieces from a friend who is an auctioneer; these pieces would not sell at the auctions. My wife Susie and I would fix them and take them back to the auction. The auctioneer would get his normal commission and we would receive the rest. Some pieces we made out OK on, others ended up being more of learning process than a profit maker. Not enough here to quit the desk job yet.

I asked Mom and Dad if we could repair/restore the hutch for them. Susie and I finally got around to pulling the non factory installed boards and nails off of the hutch. By the time we were done the main cabinet (not including doors or drawers) was in about 20 pieces. Time to strip, glue and clamp. While disassembling the cabinet a couple of thing we noticed. A decal on the back of the cabinet for the Waterville Furniture Co., Waterville, MN. Also there were small tie boards (similar to ones that held mirrors on dressers) at the top on the back as though to secure another top section to the cabinet. Dad does not remember anything being on top of it. But clearly the color variations in the stain indicate that these boards used to be upright not hanging down like they are now.

Wood above the glass on both side of the hutch was the worst. Many nails, brads and small wood holding these sections together.

Cap on china hutch and back above mirror; both were about 4 to 5 pieces each. Glue joints failed. Leg in back corner, chiseled out section and glued new block in place, reinstalled wheel.

Curved glass door; curved sections delaminating and corner joints loose. Could not pull apart so I drill put oak dowels in. This still did not tighten up as much as I hoped and I did not want the door drooping and dragging the bottom again. I pulled out my biscuit jointer and made slots across the joint in the bottom first and made oak splines to fill the slot. Looked Ok so I did the top also. This made the door very tight.

Drawers; purchased piece of 5/4 white quarter sawn oak; sliced a veneer off and laminated on the curved top drawer (veneer was missing off this one). Made new bottom drawer with rest (flipped the board and veneer so I had a book match affect.

Bottom doors; one was split in half at glue joint and bead edge was severely damaged. Cut bead edge off, replaced and remade bead.

Stained golden oak and spayed 5 coats lacquer finish

Now as Paul Harvey would say; the rest of the story.
I need hardware for the drawers and the lower cabinet doors. I called several companies I found on the web. But everything was more elaborate for the door handle than the one I already had. I did a yellow page search online for antique dealers in the Waterville and Waseca Minnesota area. I am sending one dealer (Mary) photos of the hardware to see if she can match it. Mary also gave me a name and number of another friend (Kathy) she had whose husband owned a lumber yard in Waterville.

I talked to Kathy for quite a while and I described the piece of furniture I was restoring, she had a book that talked about life in Waterville in 1916. So she sent me a few pages from it. When I received the pages, there was the logo that also appeared on the back of the hutch. As I read it talked about the furniture they built including a hutch combination. Model 22 made in quarter sawn oak, with a photo that matches our cabinet. On the back of our cabinet is a stencil marking “22”. The photo does show another top section that is missing from our cabinet. I will try to get a larger image so I can remake this piece. These cabinets were sold for between $11 and $18. Now a pair of ball tipped brass hinges 1-1/2” x 1-1/2” cost about $18.

Hope you enjoyed the story behind our restoration project.
Joel & Susie

-- Joel Tille

7 comments so far

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4821 days

#1 posted 12-05-2006 02:04 AM

Thanks Joel! I enjoyed your posting. Being able to restore furniture is an art in itself and it looks like you did a great job!

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4833 days

#2 posted 12-05-2006 03:29 AM

Yes, thanks for sharing the story (and backstory). Looks like it’ll last several more generations now!

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4806 days

#3 posted 12-05-2006 01:38 PM

Very nice Joel, Doing that kind of work requires a lot of work & patients. I bet building it from scratch would be easier. It’s hard to believe that something would sell for so cheap in those days, although I remember when I was a kid back in the 1930’s, I would put an empty milk bottle out on our porch for the milkman, with a Dime in it, & he’d leave a penny change. That was my profit out of the deal. My profit may have been equal to the milkman’s.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View Jon Spelbring's profile

Jon Spelbring

199 posts in 4760 days

#4 posted 12-05-2006 04:14 PM

Looks good! I might even get inspired to restore some of the older pieces that I have lying around.

As to the hardware, have you tried Lee Valley? They seem to have a pretty extensive collection.

-- To do is to be

View Joel Tille's profile

Joel Tille

213 posts in 4751 days

#5 posted 12-05-2006 05:28 PM

Thanks everyone for the comments.

I have watched the projects posted on WOODWEB for a couple of years, but never felt comfortable posting one of my own. I learned of Lumber Jock from Wood Smith magazine seminars I attend in Des Moines IA. I looked the site over, read some post and checked some links to your personal websites. I emailed Mark DeCou a couple of times, he gave me a little back ground on Lumber Jocks.

Dick – you are right, when Susie and I get a piece like a 5 drawer dresser we did this summer, I think from scratch would be easier. We took the badly warrped top off and the rest of the dresser pretty much fell apart. We received $190 at auction for it (it helps pay for tools and supplies). We just haven’t ventured to far into furniture yet. A few simple book cases or TV stands for family memebers.

JS - I have looked at Lee Valley, Horton Brass and a company affiliated with Horton Brass and Van Dykes online. The knobs would be easy to replace, the handle I have for the curved glass door is missing from the lower cabinet door. This handle is plain in design and has key escutcheon at the top of it. I would like to find another one like it first, if i can’t then i will replace both handles.

Again thanks for your comments.

-- Joel Tille

View Clark's profile


1 post in 4466 days

#6 posted 07-24-2007 05:30 AM

I am currently working on restoring a desk/secretary with a book case display on the top. this past weekend I found the little label that said the furniture was from the Waterville Furniture Co, Waterville, MN. Looking to see what I could find on the web about the company, your post was all that came up. My wife inherited the piece from her parents and them from her grandparents. I found some of the hinges that I needed from the Rockler Woodworking and Hardware company. They were the same brand as the originals and located in Minnesota. My piece was sound, but the exterior needed to be redone. I too took it apart, one board at a time and sanded, etc and have refinished the lower portion in a lighter color. Currently I’m working on the upper part.
Enjoyed reading your story.

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 4280 days

#7 posted 03-16-2008 01:45 PM

Hi Joel

You and your wife did a beautiful job on this piece. What makes it extra special is that it was your grand parents. Sold for $11 to $18, ain’t that something! Thanks for posting!


-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

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