Monday, March 10, 2008

The Life And Death And Then The Life, And Death Again, And Finally Life.... Of A Rocking Chair.

Working on furniture probably my most favorite thing to work on, regardless of what kind of a piece of furniture it is... is family pieces. Something handed down for a few generations and used. When customers bring them in, I usually get the story about how Great Great Grandma carried this chest of drawers on her back, across the Chisholm Trail while fighting Indians with the other hand and dodging charging bison, while Great Great Grandpa rode in the wagon suffering from cholera. Sometimes the stories are even better, but I love 'em all. I truly do.

This little report is about a rocking chair. In particular, this rocking chair.

The lady (Dianna) that brought in this dainty little thing was originally from our neighborhood, since moved away and had come back for a weekend visit with her mother (Frankie Mae) who lived down the road from us, and unfortunately has since passed away. She was a treasure and a half. Anyway I got the story about how many generations it had been handed down and it was so special to her and I assured her that it would be returned to her in fit condition to be handed down for many more generations in her family.

Now looking at the picture, it's a little tough. Lots of square nails driven into it and wire tying chair parts together, the normal "make do" type of repairs that I see a lot of. But the killer was someone over the years had tried to weave a new seat for it out of binder twine... and had done a pretty poor job of it. It originally had a woven cane seat. Not to toot my own horn, but I seem to be able to sort the roses from the rat turds when I see a piece of furniture in the rough... and this one was a definite "rose". To this day I don't think I've worked on a rocker that was so dainty, so light... it weighed just a few pounds. It was so ornate with all the spindles and beads and the turned "beehive" side spindles, I WANTED to work on this chair for Dianna.

And I did.

An unbelievable amount of work went into it. "Disrepairing" the crude repairs that had been handed out to it over the years, replacing broken pieces to make them look like they'd always been there, a new woven seat went into it, a complete reglueing from top to bottom and finally, the finish. It looked awesome. Of all the furniture I've worked on, this silly little rocker still stands out in my mind.

So it now has "life" once again. Dianna came and was moved to tears when she saw it, she was in love with her families small legacy. She just said over and over "It's beautiful Jace". That's part of my payment. When they cry, I know I've done my best.

Now then... let's get a little more in depth with this tale of this chair.

Not to be rude or crude or anything else, but Dianna is a large girl. Too large to fit into this delicate little chair, it obviously was going to be the centerpiece of a corner of her living room and that was it. Anyway, I put the chair in Dianna's car and she left to go to her Mother's house to show it off.

30 minutes go by, my phone rings. It's Frankie Mae. Now Frankie had a pretty severe Missouri drawl. One syllable words always became 2 syllable and often times 3.

Frankie Mae: "Ja-ace?"

Me: "Hi Frankie, what's going on? Did you see the chair yet?"

F M: "Ye-es, it's just beeeutiful."

Me: "Dianna seemed real happy with it too"

F M: "Oh ye-es, she was just thrilled to pieces, but Ja-ace, she had an accident."

Now as if on cue... waaaaay back in the background from Frankie Mae's end of the phone I hear the mournful wail of Dianna.

Phone background: "Ohhhh noooooooooo ahhhhh"

Me: "What happened? Is that Dianna? Is she alright Frankie?"

F M: "She's a little skinned up Ja-ace, but she'll be juuust fine."

Me: "Skinned up?"

F M: "Dianna was carrying the chair into the house so I could look at it and Ja-ace... she tripped on a cra-ack in the dumb old sidewalk and fell on the chair."

Phone background: "Ohhhhh nooooooooo waaaaaaaa waaaaaaaa" Frankie Mae paused while Dianna finished her mourning before starting to speak again.

F M: "Her chair needs a little fixing Ja-ace"

Now in my mind I had Dianna pictured, her frame and stature, tripping and falling on the most delicate little maple and pine rocker on earth... and I had pictured nothing but a small box of broken chair, smashed to smithereenies. No longer a chair. Never to be a chair again.

Me: "Uh... how bad is it?"

F M: "There's some pieces busted clean offa it."


We both waited for Dianna to take a breath and I told her I'd be right over to pick it up and see what we could do. And I left.

I've never seen such a pitiful sight as what I saw when I walked into that kitchen. A skinned up Dianna and an even more skinned up rocker. Dianna just sitting there with a box of tissues in her lap and washcloths on her knees. I looked it over and it did look much worse than it really was. I assured her that it was gonna be just like it was and she seemed to be a little better.

I hauled it back to the shop, did some massaging to it and a little gluing and she came by the next morning and I loaded it back in her car again. I've done several pieces for the family since that one.

How did it look all finished? Like this. It lives. :-)


Fletch said...

Oh, my God! I can only imagine your heart stopping with that phone call. I was thinking Dianna had tried to just squeeze a little into the chair and it had given way. For both the chair and Dianna, thankfully, that was not the score. A beautimous job, Jace. You amaze me at your craft. Is the color close to the original?

Vicky said...

I had visions of Mel Gibson in "Patriot" sitting in that rocking chair! LOL.

It's beautiful, Jace! Simply beautiful! Now to just keep Dianne away from it! LOL

quiltmom said...

What a nice thing that you did for Dianne and the rocking chair- You gave them both caring and kindness-something that this world can always use....

debijeanm said...

Oooooo. Ahhhhh.

Kim said...

Love that rocking chair--you did a wonderful job! I bet after you put that much work into something, it's probably a little hard to give it back!

Darla said...

Your work is truly outstanding! I was so sure she had gone and tried to sit in it! I hope she was ok too!


Bon said...

Beautiful job on the chair. Great story too.

vEr0n!c@ said...

Hi, I stumbled across your blog from a link from a friend's blog and all I gotta say is, wow, that's a wonderful piece of work there. I'll definitely be dropping by again.