Thursday, March 26, 2009


My father bought me a little chair when I was three. It was WWII. We were living in Aurora, Colorado, and Dad was a military doctor at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital. The chair had a maroon wool needlepoint seat with a flower pattern. I loved the chair; it was a part of my life and our home as far back as I can remember. It sat in my parents home for thirty five years, and five more children and many grandchildren rubbed their bottoms across its flowered seat. When my son Thor was born, my father gave me the chair which I hauled from Salt Lake City to our log cabin home in Alaska. Thor and Daphne sat on it from the time they were babies. The little flower in the center of the seat finally lost its threads, but the outline remained. Broken many times, it finally came to rest under the crawl space of the house, splintered parts of the back lay separated from the seat. Somehow I managed to keep all the pieces and moved it many times, intending to put it back together.

A few weeks ago, I found the chair under the house, dragged its broken pieces up to the shop and went to work. Most of the glue joints had loosened, so I took the chair completely apart and delicately removed the chunks of glue from the mortises and tenons. The shellac had mostly flaked off, so I lightly sanded the whole chair. The needlepoint had been tacked on. I lightly pried each of the 60 tacks and took it to the dry cleaners to remove the 60 years of crud. Now to reconstruct the chair: several pieces were splintered beyond repair, so keeping as much of the original as possible, I spliced new pieces on with a variety of hand-fitted joints. Next I filled in the dents and gouges with a wood slurry. Originally the wood had been had been stained a red mahogany, so I restained each piece, then coated it with urethane, rather than the original shellac. Finally I glued the entire chair back together, tacked on the needlepoint, and brought it into the living room. A labor of love!
The next day, my friend Rebecca brought her 3-year old grandson by. He saw the chair and made a beeline for it, smiling as he sat down. Kids know a piece that's made for them.

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