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This page is to clarify the erroneous information which has been
disseminated widely by a very few, about the Crater Lake Imperial Project falsely claiming that MPFC "refinished" the original finish. The persons disseminating the information never bothered to discuss this with MPFC nor the curatorial staff, who would have happily explained the unusual circumstances of the project.

This page will be up for the months we are actively rectifying the misinformation, then we hope to put this unfortunate endeavor behind us.
To go to the page of images of the Imperial Collection, click here.


Initially, a firm (Firm X) was hired by the NPS to treat the finish on the Superintendent’s original Imperial Monterey furniture collection. They recommended MPF Conservation work with them to appropriately restore and re-upholster both cushioned and strapped pieces.

IMPERIAL MONTEREYThe original painted finish was in poor to fair condition. Pieces had been stacked and stored in units prior to an interest in their use in the preservation project, with no consistent heat or humidity, and were extremely damaged.

IMPERIAL MONTEREYWhen the first pieces were delivered to us to upholster by Firm X, we could see there was a problem. Firm X applied an oily pigmented material which ultimately proved caustic to the painted finish, possibly interacting negatively with the asphaltum. The material reacted differently on the various pieces: it sat on the surface sometimes, undermined the rottenstone grain filler on some surfaces, wicked beneath the open pored wood substrata in others, and in many, caused the paint to lose adhesion. Grain channels filled with this material and clabbered causing additional surface textural problems not seen in the finish before application. Small blisters formed in surface areas where the oil migrated through open grain channels beneath the paint then surfaced and oozed.

Imperial MontereyAdditionally, Firm X applied Johnson’s Floor Wax over the top of the surface application, making the surface even more shiny. The wax did not treat the open splintering wood grain.

Firm X’s applications took place in the middle of a hot summer with temperatures rising to 100-degrees, in a workshop with no environmental controls, unlike the storage facilities the NPS used. These conditions may have further exacerbated the inappropriate materials.

Imperial MontereyMPFC has never collaborated with a firm with poor skills. Our intention was to work with Firm X to assist them in rectifying the condition. Our priority was and always is the collection. We contacted Firm X, and then together we met with the Curator, Mary Merryman. MPFC offered to supply Firm X with appropriate materials to properly correct the problematic finish, supporting them to do the work properly themselves. For personal reasons, they decided to bow out.

Imperial MontereyIt was then that the project was handed over to MPFC to conserve the finish and re-upholster the pieces. We had two months to create + apply strapping leathers, build or conserve cushions, to upholster new show covers, and now treat recently damaged finish on three dozen pieces of Imperial furniture. The date was firm as there was a statewide celebration and grand opening of the Science and Learning Center of the newly renovated Superintendent’s Home. It was an impossible task.

We removed the inappropriate finish material the Firm X had applied (priority toward preservation), then devised a plan to preserve what was left of the original finish (priority), while making the finish presentable for the anniversary celebration (priority) in a working facility. Remember, this was not a museum, but a medium traffic facility to be used by scientists staying at CRLA. Concerns of durability, toxic pigments, and heavy metals from the asphaltum were high. We chose a mechado treatment, which sealed in the existing flaking problematic paint. Mechado is a traditional conservation treatment for working pieces using pure natural materials, which we mixed ourselves. We filled splintering grain with waxes, which would have quickly caught on clothing and ripped, damaging the furniture. We repaired the broken parts Firm X had failed to repair, using traditional methods compatible with that era or museum conservation techniques, which are reversible.

We finished in just enough time, accomplishing the impossible. However, because of the curing time required, we had to abandon the final process of “rubbing out” and dusting the pieces with rottenstone, which is critical in completing the matte ash-antique look that is normal for both Mason Monterey Old Wood and Imperial "old wood" furniture. However, this final step was a process which we knew could be completed at a later date once curing was completed, with no harm to the furniture. Unfortunately, the furniture was left with a brighter sheen than would be normal, as it is the rottenstone used as a grain filler which dulls the opacity.

Imperial Monterey ropeFurther, the original ropes were unnecessarily thrown away by Firm X. We were told at the eleventh hour, after having been told that the firm would deliver them. The original ropes are a soft, beautiful hemp rope, shown left, which is hard to purchase two weeks before delivery . This is also not our doing, and we had no time nor money in the NPS budget to replace the original with proper rope

We hope that Crater Lake eventually has the funds to allow us to complete the project properly with rottenstone, and replace the lariat we used in a pinch.

Saturation is an unknown factor that adds difficulty when working with antiques. Whenever an object is coated with film, even water, the saturation or intensity deepens, until the water evaporates. When applying a permanent film on a clean piece of wood, the saturation will change, and deepen, even if the film is relatively clear. 

Antiques by nature may have many factors affecting the absorption of any material used, from the openness of the grain over a surface, to oils and other elements introduced over their lives. Cleaning the surface will not necessarily remove embedded chemicals. This unevenness of chemical attributes which life has added to an antique piece may not be visible to the naked eye, so there are quite often surprises in working with older pieces. One can modify the saturation factor through a variety of techniques, and unify the surface to a great extent, but there will be slight changes over a piece, and variations from piece to piece using the same methods and same applied materials. A light glaze might lend a depth of color to one piece, yet another piece might have to be coated twice. Mold, mud, greasy hands, various finishes and paints applied over 80 years, and new parts, are all factors to be worked with.

Now we have treated another group of publicly owned Mason Monterey Furniture, and the finish was conserved and/or restored properly, allowing time to cure. The pieces with finish intact were in varying grades of condition, even on one piece, where one side was nearly stripped of finish and pigment, the other side might be relatively intact. It was a difficult project, or as Kate said one day when she was working on a chair with three different containers in front of her, a balancing act. Her job was to balance color without over painting.

We are happy to discuss the Crater Lake Project with anyone who is interested in hearing the facts, however, we will not divulge the name of the person’s of Firm X. Anyone wanting contact information to corroborate this information should contact Kate Powell at MPFC.

NOTE: MPFC saw the Imperial pieces before Firm X worked on them, and had taken pictures at that time, which is why we have many images of the pieces in their original state, as opposed to the way they came to us.

Click here to see the pieces as we delivered them to the park.


We offer a free one hour assessment in your home or office
toward the restoration of your antique, contact us for an appointment.

Contact Information

dkatiepowell [@] / mitchellrpowell {@}
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503.970.2509 / 541.531.2383

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