Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life.

Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life. Sunset at Telegraph Point.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Restoring A Gateleg Table - Part 1

This particular table was a ruin when I got it.  Broken and in pieces.
It sat in a corner of the shed waiting for me to move it up my priority list.

When I finally got around to it, I thought to do a little research on its design origins.
 The design is very old - 330 years at least.

Here is one remarkably similar, dating from around 1680.

It is oval in shape with spiral legs.  The only differences are that the spirals are restricted to the legs alone, and do not include spiral cross bracing at the bottom as this one does.

The bracing on mine is plain, but the other similarities are uncannily the same.  This one - a Charles II gateleg table - is made from walnut, while mine is made from oak, English Oak I think.

Somehow I don't think that mine will fetch the same auction price that this one reached - 6,250 English pounds at Christies of London!

In its previous life mine probably looked like this next one - a stained oaken build, with near identical features.
Unfortunately the top had been used as a depository for coffee cups and wet glasses and bottles. It looked like several episodes of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey.

Add to that - the scratches and general wear and tear of daily life, and the poor old thing was showing signs of distress.

The oak has been stained with the same type of varnish as this.  Because of the damage to the top, a complete sand back was necessary.

Like the timbers in this table top, the boards used in the top's construction were not bookmatched - indeed, not matched in any way at all that I could see.  Apart from the fact that they are all oak, they have little in common.  Edge joins were proud of each other and badly aligned.

So ......... where to start.  All of the joints that weren't broken were loose.  Since they are all dowel joints, they come apart fairly easily with a soft faced dead-blow hammer.

Having successfully separated the pieces, and carefully labelled them for re-assembly, it was time to start from the inside out.
So the gatelegs were attacked first.  Each had to be extracted from its frame, and then disassembled.  The joints were cleaned, and all old glue scraped or shaved away with a sharp chisel.

When re-glued, it is important to check for square.  The two interior diagonals are measured with a pair of sticks, and if not the same, are adjusted by wracking with a long clamp - as shown here.

Only after the gateleg has dried, can it be inserted into the frame created by the two legs, and the upper and lower rails.  The gateleg is held in place by a pair of dowels that allow it to pivot as a hinge.

A trial fit shows that there is no binding along the top and bottom rails, and the gate swings freely.

The whole frame is then re-assembled with attention once again to square.

Clamps this time have to be much longer, and mine only just fill the bill.  I take care to use packing so that the jaws don't damage the surface of the oak legs.  Glue and leave to set overnight.

These steps have to be repeated for both sets of gatelegs and their corresponding frames.  Once both are done, the top and bottom side rails can be attached to form the table base.  I'll do this next time in part 2.

May your problems be enough to challenge you so that you may grow in the solving ...............

.............. and may your cup of joy flow over.


  1. Lovely legs Tom ........tables not yours Jacobean Twist. Look forward to seeing resto in completion.


  2. Thanks Ray,
    Been quite busy lately and have been away for a period, so no woodwork done. Will get back to it when time permits.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks Gwen.
      Old furniture can be quite lovely - even the cheaper versions like this one.
      Happy shavings