Conservation Of A Koa Bench


843/4" Wide, 271/2" Deep, 311/2" High


Finish: Orange shellac, was thin, delaminating from surface and broken down overall and missing in many areas. The finish on the seat rails, arms, legs and top rail was applied by spray, and to the spindles by brush or pad. Traces of red paint exist in wood grain on undersides of seat rail to leg joints and under/around spindle tops, bottoms and spindle sockets. This layer was under the existing clear finish.

Seat planks, as are described below, were painted with a red paint as well, but appears to be a different, duller color. The bracing boards that the seat planks rest upon, have been painted with an ocher colored paint.

Wood: The seat rails and many of the spindles were extensively termite eaten. The tops and bottoms of the spindles as well as the sockets they fit into in the seat rails had been severely termite channeled. Little mating surface remained on the majority of them.

A "wood dough" type of filler had been marginally applied into some of the exposed channeled areas. The top rail appears to be a replacement, as no termite channeling extends into it through the spindle sockets, and this underside was relatively clean, unfinished and unstained. Many of the spindles were splitting and most had been hand pared at the tops in order to fit them into the top rail.
Joinery: All joinery was loose. Wooden tongue-and-grove planks made up the seat platform that was at one time, apparently, strung across with cord. Areas around the empty holes and grooves for the cording had been extensively termite channeled. The planks, which average 5 1/4" wide, rested upon two fir braces that were attached to the inside of the seat rails. Nails had been driven through the planks into the seat rails from the top and underside, and also into the braces. Braces were nailed into the seat rails with what appear to be steel and galvanized nails. The nails were badly corroded and rusted into the wood, making their removal difficult. Planks and braces were redwood or fir. Seat rail tenons were pegged through leg posts. Only one tenon per leg post is pegged; with the pegged tenon piercing the unpegged one.


Disassemble top rail and arms from spindles and spindles from seat rails. Mark/map location of each spindle. Drill out wooden pegs from leg posts and disassemble seat rails partially to separate from legs.

Remove nails from seat-plank assembly and disassemble; complete disassembly of seat rails from legs. Many of the rusted-in nails broke and needed to be drilled or cored out.

Areas around termite channeling masked off and a mixture of phenolic and silica microballoon filled and tinted epoxy resin mixture injected. Density of fill material was adjusted to be less than the wood,

Due to the degree of termite channeling, the cord holes were filled with this mixture as well; as were many of the spindle sockets. Missing portions of many of the spindle tenons were built up with this same mixture and then reshaped to the correct profile.

Clear finish on wood surfaces removed with methylene chloride/methanol based paint stripper (remnants of red paint on undersides of seat rails were protected/masked-off from stripper to preserve for future reference).

Loose and/or inappropriately applied "wood dough" was removed. Termite eaten areas filled as necessary with the bulked epoxy mixture as above.

Cracked and split sections of legs and spindles were rejoined as necessary with tinted epoxy resin.

Epoxy mixture drilled from cord holes and spindle sockets as necessary.

All French polished with orange shellac as necessary, reassembled joinery with hot hide glue, reinstalled new pegs through tenons into legs. Installed new Manila cordage into holes as necessary. Paste waxed and polished.

   Underside, back left corner showing remains of red paint.

 Underside, back showing ocher painted fir seat panel bracing.  

   Underside, back right side rail to back with pencil marking.

 Underside, back left with pencil marking.  

 Bottom of one back spindle showing termite damage and traces of red paint.  

 Top of one back spindle showing termite damage

   Top of back seat rail showing spindle socket with red paint traces and red painted seat planks.

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Conservation of Historic Furniture & Objects
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