Bob Letterman

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The China Cabinet

September 22nd, 2012 by admin

I’ve had a lot of things going on and haven’t been able to spend much time modeling. I’ve been working on a special project for my daughter Gail that I have just finished up.

I had given the family antique Rosenthal china passed down four generations to my daughter Gail back in March, 2010. She didn’t have a china cabinet to put them in so, as she likes that kind of furniture that has been restored, painted with an artsy touch, I decided to find one and have a go at doing it myself.

I looked through flea markets and second hand stores for months. Finally I found an old china cabinet that had promise. I managed to buy it for $150. When I got it home, I started to prepare to redo it and took out the shelves, removed the hardware, etc. Then, I noticed a bronze plate inside at the back wall. It said it was manufactured by the Rockford, Illinois Superior furniture company. That peaked my interest as Ralph Koebbeman, my business partner in the Miniature World museum spent his life in Rockford. Ralph passed away in January of 2011 at the age of 96. I contacted his widow, Rosemarian, and inquired about that company. She too is 96 and had no recollection of the business.

Long story short, I did the research and found that the cabinet was made prior to 1880, making it at least 130 years old. That, of course, changed everything. I spent some time doing my homework on restoring antiques. It is a very delicate process and I set out to restore it instead of refinishing it. Here it was when i brought it home.

It was really dirty, had built up wax and dirt from all those 120 years everywhere, one leg was very wobbly and some of the scrollwork was broken off.

First came the repairs. The leg was far worse than I thought. It was held together by black wire tightened into two of the grooves. When I removed the wire, the leg fell off.

I disassembled the bottom leg assembly and found that somebody had really did a poor job of repairing it after it had been severely damaged.

I started rebuilding the leg using dowel pins and carpenters glue. Step by step, then clamping it and letting the glue cure. This took a couple of weeks.

As many of the fractured pieces of the leg were missing, after it was made strong and solid, I sculpted in the missing fragments with Milliput epoxy putty.

Then I went to work on the missing scrollwork using the same epoxy.

After all the repairs were made, I then went to work painting the repaired parts. AS the epoxy wouldn’t accept stain and match the original wood, I used artist’s oils to color the repairs and blend with the natural color of the wood. It worked beautifully. After it had all hardened, I thoroughly cleaned the entire cabinet with an antique wood cleaning solution, then applied a hand rubbed wax and polished.

Here are some pics of the finished cabinet along with the restored parts.

Now it is finished and ready to deliver for her birthday in december. It isn’t a surprise gift, she has been watching it being redone step by step with these photographs just as she watched me build the miniature Simpatico mansion for her last birthday right here on this web site.

A British doll house magazine published an article on the Simpatico project. Another Dollhouse magazine, this being an American one, just published an article about the miniature mansion in their december issue.