Greatest Hits (well, some of them)

During my recent trip to the Midwest for a variety of projects, including teaching the Parquetry Workshop for the Kansas City Woodworker’s Guild I was asked to present a public lecture at their facility Friday.  At their request, I reflected on the final decade in my career as Senior Furniture Conservator at the nation’s attic.  I tend not to obsess about the past, but it was a pleasant reminder of what a wonderful run I had there for almost three decades.  It was indeed an honor and privilege to contribute to the longevity of the aggregate cultural memory.

There was no way to include everything I did over a ten year span, but there were a number of projects about which I was especially pleased.  Ironically this particular menu included mostly projects for clients outside the Institution. The enthusiastic audience endured my fond reminiscences for almost two hours, then kept me captive with their queries for another hour before we all departed for the evening.  The KCWWG guys did seem to appreciate my 14-hour day on their behalf, since I was busy setting up the workshop before 8AM and wrapped up the evening’s festivities just before 10PM. In addition to the giant Chinese picture frame, which I included in the talk, and the Chinese pavilion model, which I did not include, I discussed these projects.  This posting is a necessarily brief account, mostly just the “Before” and “After” pictures; you will have to fill in the blanks rom your imagination or listen to me give a similar presentation some time somewhere.


First up was the artifact known as The Roosevelt Globe as it was Teddy Roosevelt’s when he was in Washington.  It currently reside sin the ceremonial Office of The Vice President.  The globe has suffered spoke damage during the fire at the Old Executive Office Building just before Christmas 2007.  The request for my services came directly from the Office of the Vice President of the United States (yes, my “client” was Dick Cheney, although i did not deal with him directly), not normally in my chain of reporting but our government relations office thought it would be a good idea for me to say “Yes.”


Here is a picture of the globe after I finished conserving it.


Next up was a cabinet by the French-born 19th century New York cabinetmaker Alexander Roux.   A gift to a Smithsonian museum, it needed a new base fabricated to reflect the original base — the original base had rotted off and been replaced poorly — so the project included  high-level woodworking and also designing and fabricating new bronze mounts that I cast in my home foundry.


This is the cabinet now on display in Washington DC.

Untitled-1 copy

A project prototype was the design and construction of minimally intrusive upholstery for this Victorian frame, which clearly needed a little TLC.

Untitled-2 copy

In the end we achieved a fully functional but also fully removable upholstery treatment that is a feast for the eyes and benign for the frame.  I hope to post the article about this one in the “Writings” section soon.


Another interesting project for a non-Institutional client was the finishing of a replica of the Daniel Webster Desk in the US Senate. Here is the original on the floor of the Senate, festooned with several of my sample-color panels.


The Senate cabinet shop built a remarkable copy of this desk, but requested the Senate Majority Leader to  invite me to execute the finishing of it.  I accepted in the invitation. and here is the result.


The final project I presented was conserving The Mace of the House of Representatives.  Next time you watch C-SPAN note it on the left side of the television screen.  Once again my client was extra-institutional, in this case The Speaker of the House.  C-SPAN made a segment for a documentary (the segment is in the second part), so everything was under the scrutiny of the camera.



After it was finished, I was photographed with it (as was my entire family) and I had the opportunity to shake the hand of The Speaker.  It’s pretty hard to top that one.

Like I said, it was a pretty remarkable three-decade-long run.