Repairing, Restoring, and resurfacing

A clean dent can be repaired in wood furniture. Lightly sand in the direction of the grain to remove the finish in and around the dent. Apply a few drops of water to the dent. If necessary, place a moist cloth over the dent and apply a hot iron. In most cases, the moisture will draw the grain back flush to the original surface and minimize the need for filling. This process can be repeated as necessary, but generally the process is effective only up to three attempts.

All wood furniture acquires a patina and will become scratched over time. There are many ways to address scratches. Use a good grade of wax without silicones or hydrocarbons and steel wool as needed. Mix paste wax into a fine steel wool and rub firmly in the direc­tion of the grain. After the wax dries, buff and polish the wax with a soft cloth. Dents can also be filled with a heated lacquer stick and a palette knife, but furniture refinishing at this level is a specialty unto itself.

A chronological overview of tools

Hand Tools

The evolution of hand tools from the Egyptian to the Greek civilization and into the Roman Republic is characterized by a general increase in the tools’ strength but reveals little typo­logical change. Copper was the standard metal used by the Egyptians for the bow drill, chisel, awls, and a range of adzes, axes, and toothed saws. Abrasives consisted of various stones and vegetable oils.

Greek carpenter’s tools consisted of a rasp, plane, measuring instrument, a box of pig­mented colors, a hammer, bow drill, heavy axe auger, gimlet, adze, and a punch. Improvements were also made in the handles of hand tools and in the materials of cutting surfaces.

Roman tools for making furniture were made of iron. Copper rasps with irregularly punched surfaces, saw blades with teeth set for traction cutting, a brace bit, a spoon bit, and a series of chisels were all improved due to the discovery of iron. An important tool for fabricating round chair legs was the turning lathe. The development of turning wood on a lathe generated an emphasis on straight legs as load-bearing elements.

During the Middle Ages, the primitive lathe evolved into the leaf spring type: a frame with risers and a leaf spring operated by the feet of an artisan that allowed the worker to set it in motion and work in less awkward conditions. An important improvement in furni­ture making during this period involved the methods for joining materials together. Joints were made with pegs of harder wood or with hand-made nails; dovetail and mortise-and – tenon joints were also used.

In the sixteenth century, the invention of the perfect lathe gave rise to a class of special­ized craftsmen who collaborated with joiners. In 1568, woodblock-cutter Jost Amman records the existence of a carpentry workshop with 14 tools, the historian Joseph Moxon in 1703 mentions 30 tools in his Mechanick Exercises: or the Doctrines of Handy Works, and the Wynn Timmine catalog in 1892 lists 90.2 By the Enlightenment, revolutionary changes had occurred in the tools and fabrication techniques of making furniture.

During the Enlightenment, fabricators developed better methods for representing shape and form using orthographic projection, which permitted greater control over work pro­cesses and the representational models employed in geometry, with ellipses, parabolas, and conical sections on rotatory bodies. Tools used during this period included 16 brace bits, screws, fretsaws, clamps, and workbenches equipped with iron vices. Pliers, chisels and gouges, squares, planes, and pincers were also common.