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Project Information

We often emphasize that Artisans of the Valley is one of those eclectic studios that often takes on the projects that most other restorers would shy away from. In this case, we took on a project to restore a solid mahogany coy pond bridge hand crafted by our client's Japanese American uncle shortly after his release from the WWII Interment camps. The bridge had a special place at the family farm, until it was passed on to the next generation when the farm left the family.

On arrival, the little red bridge was severely rotten, showing significant signs of weather damage which given its age of nearly 70 years honestly wasn't unexpected. This is a case where we go outside the normal steps to preserve as much as possible of the original piece, but of course having to replace sections that were simply too far gone to save. The technique employed to regain the integrity of the material is the use of a two part extremely durable coating very common to the boating industry, MAS Epoxy.

Epoxy bonds to the surface of wood, creating as close to an impregnable seal as possible over wood. Rotten fibers are encased in a tough and hard surface just as the thin strands of fiberglass are in the same process to create the hull of a boat. Once cured, an epoxy finish can be painted normally and that's exactly what we did in this case.
Shown above is one of the main arch beams reconstructed and sistered to new material to provide additional strength. This actually increased the width of the beams by 3/4" which was necessary to ensure structural integrity was regained.

If you have ever wondered why woodworkers are constantly browsing stores, catalogs, yard sales, flea markets, eBay, and anywhere else they may hope to find more clamps, simply look at the image above left! Projects like this often employ dozens of clamps to twist, bend, and "gently" nudge things back into position and hold it stable until the adhesive cures.

This prized family heirloom is the work of our clients uncle Kinzo Yamamoto, circa 1960. Mr. Yamamoto was the 3rd born out of six brothers, he hand built this mahogany bridge as a gift to their father. This traditional art form maintained a position of honor on the family farm, a property settled by the Yamamotos after their time served in the WWII internment camps.

We decided to honor this restoration by photographing it positioned over Stanley's coy pond behind our shop. We'd like to offer a special thanks to our coy and goldfish for finally cooperating and swimming into the frame after about an hour or so of coaxing and baiting.

Eric M. Saperstein
Master Craftsman
Artisans of the Valley
www.artisansofthevalley.com

Gallery

Comments

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2,833 Posts
An incredible story behind the piece and from the looks of it a spectacular restoration. Glad you were able to bring it back to its original beauty.
 

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4,258 Posts
Beautiful job Eric.
I bet it means the world to that family, and they were wise to pick you for the job.
Thanks.
 

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Yes - the family did have a great pride in it. We wanted to make sure the work of the original artists was preserved as much as possible, but had to conceede on the use of epoxy and replace certain key pieces. The epoxy allowed us to rebuild using sections where only a few fibers of wood were in place, it just made a plastic block out of the part but it kept what was there.

The family has enjoyed it for years since. We always hope o be a part of an heirlooms life - one that enhances its value and preserves is function for future generations.

Thanks for the feedback!
 

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a beautiful bridge and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story.

I also chuckled at the koi story .. an hour? Oh you are patient!!
 

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Wonderful story and restoration. Nice to see old pieces brought back for the family to enjoy once again. Thanks for posting.

God Bless
tom
 

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I have a koi pond, but my bridge isn't nearly as nice, nor are my koi nearly that HUGE! In fact, my koi are goldfish and my pond a lot smaller. but I did make my own bridge! 'course, it's nothing like yours… VERY nice!
 
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