The CCC Refectory Table was designed and hand-crafted by the Civilian Conservation Corps (see references below) for the Crater Lake National Park; MPF Conservation conserved the historic table for the NPS; This page documents the conservation of the table.
Table before treatment, left and below.
The table is built from native regional Myrtle wood using traditional milling and crafting methods. Because of its early Renaissance design with multiple non-joined wood slab-top and extreme cantilever over the structural stretcher apron, the table suffered damage that a more modest design might not have endured. As it lived for many years in the NPS’s historian’s office, thankfully laden with TONS of books, the obscurity of the table may well have saved it from further damage. All the paint and finish damage happened before it entered his office.
MPFC was tasked with with reparation and implementing a solution to mitigate the original engineering limitations without betraying the original design and decorative intent.
The table was frequently sat on by visitors over the decades, especially along the long, broad leading edge, as shown by Mitchell sitting (carefully) on the cantilevered edge, left.
Further, because these leading edges had NO support, the table planks were cracking along grain lines. The crack shown right was in danger of breaking completely through, causing irreparable damage.
Finally, the planks creating the table were drifting apart, as you can see in the image right with the measuring stick
NOTE: Because the table was symmetrical, we identified one end from the other by labeling it in chalk. The “white end” was where the large swath of white paint was when it arrived, or “not white”, the other end, so we could write our treatment reports with clockwise identifications when necessary. We used chalk as it is easily removed.
Above and below, images of the table before treatment. The overall table top above and right: “non-white” end, “white end” above, and center of the table right.
The undercarriage before treatment, above, showing the “non-white” end. This shows the construction of the planks setting into the surrounding edge which is not seen on top (see details above), and acts as a stabilizing molding. Details of the damaged table top below.
A beautiful addition to the decorative ambiance, shown right. The craft-person left a bit of the Myrtle wood tree bark, creating the mood of a primitive Renaissance working table.
MPFC began work on the table by repairing breaks and cracks, and then moved on to create solutions for the long life stability of the table.
An example left, a side apron with a damaged section in the original plank began to crack; this was glued using warm hide glue supplemented with gap filling agents, and cauled to cure for several days.
NOTE: The table appears very orange in some of the images below;
our camera was on the fritz, as the table was never bright orange!
To stabilize the table for generations to come, we devised two restorative options, shown above in Kate’s professional design sketches! We did these while explaining to the curator, Mary Merryman, how the table was built, the flaw in the design., and our ideas on how to repair it. The additions had to be reversible, and had to look like they were original to the table.
The first addition was to create cross bracing stretchers that sat inside the frame from indigenous Western hemlock, shown above. Each of these would be attached with vintage slotted cold-rolled steel wood screws to the planks from under the table, shown above right, and below, image 7.
Corner clocks were not fitted properly and nails were used to secure them. We secured them using vintage slotted cold-rolled steel wood screws in several places, shown right.
To solve the imminent loss of the leading cantilevered table top plank MPFC settled upon the introduction of structural corbels placed strategically along the sides, shown above.
MPFC chose an African tropical hardwood as a suitable substitute to the dwindling supplies of Myrtle. Iroco exhibited similar characteristics of grain color, density and stability including the manner in which it splintered slightly during carving.
As we could not purchase a proper block of Iroco from which to carve, we joined two planks together matching grains to obtain the necessary thickness to carve, shown above. These planks were cut into blocks, then cut at an angle and this was the proper fit for a corbel in the area between the molding and the apron.
We chose to replicate the historic tree carving from the legs. An adapted replica of the cedar tree design was drawn onto the angled side of each of the six blocks.
From there the carving began, left and above. Veining chisels were or primary use during the relief carving process. The Iroko responded with the right amount of splintering to reproduce the effect of the original leg carvings.
The corbel edges were chamfered to be compatible with the other design elements, and the hard edges were softened by sanding.
Above, the six carved blocks ready for finish.
We tested the finish before using it on the carved blocks, including the addition of a wax after it cured.
The winner was Sinopia’s Brazilwood Extract mixed with Tried & True Polymerized Linseed Oil. When brushed onto the finish ready carved wooden blocks it created a very close match to the historic table color. Additionally, it helped by adding body to the finish, which then mimicked the oil-varnished surface.
The following steps were taken on the blocks and the cross bracing stretchers:
- First coat of pigment after dry overnight then dry brushed;
- Second coat pigment light with OMS (odorless mineral spirits) brushed cross grain with grain until no pigment drops off.
After pigmenting, see below for the final finish.
The following steps were taken on the legs, apron and the blocks:
- Coat of polymerized linseed oil and bees wax brushed side and straight grain until thick viscosity and very thin — cures several hours;
- Two coats linseed and beeswax;
- One coat Tried & True Polymerized Linseed Oil and bilateral resin varnish brush/sponge.
The blocks sitting where they will be placed.
The following steps were taken:
- Sponge coat (two times) Mahogany Pigment wax;
- Sponge coat Black Ebony Wax.
The blocks were installed and the undercarriage completed.
MPFC applied multiple coats of non-pigmented 1lb cut shellac to the raw table underside to minimize absorption of ambient moisture, an issue in the area of Crater Lake NP, which has extremes of weather from wet to freezing to extremely dry.
The table was ready to be turned over, above.
When the table was set upright, the historic table top varnish was cleaned and prepped for treatment. Fizzures were troweled using MPFC’s tree resin and oil infused wax then leveled.
Three coats of 2lb cut beige shellac varnish was brush coated onto the surface, leaving several days between coats to cure. After the final shellac varnish coat was cured the top was rubbed out using rottenstone and Gamsol, Gamblin’s odorless mineral spirits to achieve a proper patina. Finally, the top was coated with a wax using a high percentage of carnauba, and burnished.
Unfortunately, we had a computer incident and the images of the surface losses infilled and shellac applications were lost.
Above, the CCC table in our studio before delivery.
Below, the CCC table before, left, and after treatment, right. This table is a stunning example of how a terribly damaged piece can be restored to grandeur with the proper treatment. In this case, we were able to keep the original finish intact
When the table was delivered, it was going into a new wing under construction, and so, for a short time, lived in storage. This is why we have no final installation image, only the images in our studio, above, and the delivery image of Mitchell polishing the table top one last time before we said goodby!
The CCC also built the matching CCC Bench, which we also conserved.
References or further reading for the NPS projects:
For other Crater Lake projects, see the following:
- Superintendent’s Residence (also the “new” Crater Lake Science and Learning Center)
- Superintendent’s Residence History
- Superintendent’s Residence Then and Now
- Superintendent’s Residence Design
- Superintendent’s Imperial (Not Monterey) Furniture
- Superintendent’s Imperial Furniture Collection
- Superintendent’s Living Room
- Superintendent’s Dining Room
- Superintendent’s Tilt-table Sofa (coming soon)
- Superintendent’s Strapping Chair (coming soon)
To return to Crater Lake National Park home page, click here.