A Clean Register is a Happy Register

The gnats are still here. I think the nearby creek and the puddles from the recent rain have something to do with their annoying appearance. I certainly don’t mind me some nature, but I think the bugs would have a better chance pollinating things outside as opposed to inside.

Last week I told you about a register that we were working on – the one from the 1890’s. The labels on it are still in good condition, making it more valuable.

1890 register

I decided to investigate where it came from, which means I went to google and typed in the name on the label.  I saw variations of the business name but nothing solid came up.  Either the name changed or the place isn’t around anymore.  So it could be a candy store like I was hoping! But there’s still the possibility of it being a manure store. Or a book store.  I could deal with that too.

The register had some burn marks on it, as well as some other “aged” characteristics (ie. dents, scratches, missing pieces, etc.).  I’ll show you some pieces so you can see our process.

Let me put up the picture I had from last week’s post.

1890 register

See in the corner there? Under the black design? That’s one of the burn marks I was telling you about.  The unfortunate thing about extremely burnt wood is that there’s nothing to work from.  Carbon can’t be stained, glazed, colored…it’s just black.  So we had to excavate.  (As a side note, digging on a piece this old is something we do only when requested to by the customer.  Some marks on old pieces add value due to the stories or memories associated with the mark.  In this case, the register needed to look almost new.)

1890 register

Here’s the piece after it’s been cleaned.  The nice thing about these old pieces is that they’re finished with shellac which makes clean up easier. I’ll have to get into shellac later as it’s a blog post in and of itself, but I’ll let you know that it’s a finish that’s easy to apply, easy to fix, shines up nice, rubs out beautifully, and easy to strip!

1890 register

The lighter colors you see are new veneer pieces.  The register, which is over 100 years old, has seen lots of dirt, sunlight, grease…many things that caused the wood to change colors.  That begins our next step, which is to color the new wood to match the old wood.


Now on to the final reveal!

(dramatic pause)


1890 register

Tada! In the end our process included cleaning, taking burned pieces out, re-veneering, button replacing, and color matching.  The whole register was then finished in shellac, which kept it historically accurate (shellac was THE finish used on furniture until the 1920’s) as well as beautiful!

I hope to get a picture of what it looks like when the customer puts it all together. I’ll share it if we get it!

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