It hadn’t sunk in how old this dining set was when I bought it. They were marked 1942, still with the label of the manufacturer, Showers Brothers. One looked like a throw-away, braced as it had been with plywood. The rest seemed sturdy, that’s all I went by. That, and that the label underneath indicated “mhg” for mahogany, and we were enamoured with the idea of expanding our “Duncan Pyfe style” (we have lugged around a drop leaf table for 30 years) and we have mahogany (we thought) china hutches.

I didn’t know whether it was realistic to refinish them, or anything about the process. Once I had made the trip a hundred miles to look at the set, I pressed on and bought it. Not good logic, I know, but the price came down quite low as I examined each item closely, and before I knew it, a friend and I were placing and padding, bracing, strapping and bungeeing for the trip back home.

I went to a local furniture guy who fixed the table’s pedestal leg. So far so good. But he wasn’t a specialist at refinishing and I began to think there was more to this than getting a bottle of stripper and cans of stain and varnish. (I was right about that.)

The chairs came out very well–pretty color and finish to match the table, which my photo doesn’t show. Also “well” in the sense of healed–they are almost new in their sturdiness and first-rate finish. What the photo really shows is the construction underneath the seat. According to Kelly at the shop, that cross-piece business is the main key to the chairs’ longevity. They are relatively lightweight (some of the high-priced new chairs are heavy, not congruent with gracious living) and Kelly has seen almost new chairs in to his shop because they came apart, even at the $300+ price level.

I found the right shop. Kelly knew to glue the de-lamination I hadn’t even seen, then strip (by hand, no dipping), then glue again and patch a couple of places, then sand, stain with a special stain you and I don’t find. Then, because the chairs are mostly maple and very little mahogany, some “toning” to even out the color, and finally the varnish. Joyce, did I do right?  I didn’t buy new. $1,000 in refinishing went into the local economy, including the sixth chair that wasn’t a throw-away after all. 

Magogany?  Kelly said it’s too brittle–that’s why veneers and small bits are used, but maple for the main frame.

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