Mason Monterey Wingback at the Oregon Caves NM (NPS)

Smokey Maple Mason Monterey Wingback circa 1930

Two wingbacks with wide paddlearms were conserved by MPF Conservation. One went into the Museum collection (the orange at the far left above with its original upholstery, shown on Oregon Caves NM Museum Collection page, link above). A second one shown after conservation above, right, was restored and used again in the Chateau lobby at the Oregon Caves NM (NPS).

When MPFC first encountered the Wingback it had been previously reupholstered at least twice (see excavation, below).

Unfortunately someone had tossed the original innards, especially the historic spring-filled cushion, and replaced it with foam. This is recognizable across the room to anyone with educated eyes. The polyfoam was already failing, though the 1970’s showcover was in decent condition. It is inappropriate for a historic Mason showcover.

The historic painted Smokey Maple finish was intact, but damaged in places, modestly worn and very dirty. Also, someone had overcoated the glaze at one time, but unevenly, as if they started then stopped, shown left.

Mitchell excavated all the historic stuffings from the wingback, above, tagging and saving each in the order used. Mitchell cleaned stuffings which could be reused in the chair, not shown.

The last or third showcover, photo one, is probably from the 1970’s. Photo two is bits of the sisal deck filler. Photos three and four show past showcovers, and from this we know that the first showcover matched the historic wingback shown in the top image. The second generation showcover was a nubby green /turquoise crossweave tweed, likely from the fifties.

The frame exposed, above and right.

Image right shows shortened tack strips. Various upholsterers chose to tack into the sides of the frame, which eventually weakens a frame. Many open tack holes are shown; Mitchell filled these with hard picks and hide glue to help preserve the frame, and allow for a substantial tacking surface for present and future upholsterings.

Because the frame appeared to be in relatively good condition, Kate chose to modify the finish treatment from invasive to topical.

Before finish work can proceed, the entire frame was cleaned of accretions of oils, cosmetics, cleaning products, etc.

The order of finish treatment shown, above:

  1. Finish was skip-sanded to raise or open the grain.
  2. Kate applying a top coat of Smoky Maple glaze.
  3. The top coat of thinned Smokey Maple glaze applied.
  4. Rottenstone applied to polish the bright Smokey Maple.
  5. Mitchell using rottenstone to polish the bright Smokey Maple.
  6. Wax applied, and rubbed out.
  7. Finally, image right, the Smokey maple finish as it should look, a warm semi-gloss finish.

Also, image 5 shows us where Mason placed his “Monterey” stamp on this chair — where no one would see it unless it was undressed! Right, the horseshoe burn.

The finish was allowed to cure for 48 hours.

Unfortunately, after the finish was completed and Mitchell was into the upholstery phase, he discovered looseness in the connection of the front legs to the seat assembly, requiring treatment. Joint compression failure had occurred in that critical area, making it necessary to amend and reglue.

Once the frame front was dissembled, image two above, we could see glue adhesion failure around the dowels, which also included compression wear and shrinkage around the companioning mortises.

On both left- and right-facing sides of the opened chair front, warm hide glue along with thin veneer splines were used to resecure the dowels.

In order to complete the repair it was necessary to remove the huge screws for the decorative strapping iron which wrapped the front and side seat aprons.

The lag screw bores were also conserved by introducing hide glue and pins into the misshapen bores.

Once cured, the pins were leveled and rebored. The entire seat apron unit was united with the frame, making the frame structure reparation complete.

Before he began the upholstery buildup, Mitchell also retrofitted the historic, too short tacking strips and corner blocks, shown above, by replacing them.

This retrofit served two important purposes:

  1. They provided an uninterrupted seat deck tacking surface;
  2. They insured that all present and future upholsterings would be secured into the interior rails instead of indiscriminately tacked onto the decorative historic frame surfaces.

Note on structural changes:
Forward thinking upholstery practices include reasoned restorative decisions relative to infrastructure efficacy and occasionally, such as in the case of the Mason wingback, include the introduction of prosthetics and engineered structures in order to preserve the object

Now the frame was ready for buildup, shown right, and the tacks would be placed in the proper areas, not into the historic frame.

Buildup began:

  1. A heavy 11 lb jute webbing was basket woven and attached to the fresh seat tacking margins, image one above.
  2. Over the jute Mitchell secured a 17 oz jute burlap to provide for additional support and reliable stuffing surface, image two.
  3. The historic batting was replaced onto the seat deck, image three.
  4. Upholstery weight jute tops the cotton batting, shown right.
  5. 9 lb jute webbing was basket woven and attached to the inside back tacking margins, shown right.

Note the seat webbing needs to be tighter, and includes additional twisted yarn fibers in its milling allowing for greater compressions during sitting, which in turn provides for longevity for the turn seat.

Upholstery weight jute burlap acts as webbing topper for the inside back, above, providing a reliable surface for softer stuffings to be affixed.

The seat deck showover topper was created, right, with our fabric and a 14 oz crosswoven linen.


  1. Tacking strips were placed into the seat.
  2. The seat deck battens were installed on top of the tacking strips. 
  3. The seat deck topper was turned under and tacked onto the tacking battens. 
  4. An inside back false tacking rail was placed at the bottom of the inside back, shown above (and below in the first two images), providing a reliable bottom edge where a typical upholstery frame construction might have supplied a pull-through feature for the cloth.

The buildup of the inside back, above:

  1. The first two images show the inside back before stuffings, including a detail of the less typical railing we inserted due to the lack of a pull-through.
  2. The historic cleaned pod was placed onto the inside back, image three
  3. A clean cotton batting topper was placed over the historic pod, image four.
  4. Mitchel lifted the pod to show the thickness of the pod, image five.
  5. 200 ct cotton sheeting muslin was tacked onto the inside back, image six.
  6. A second cotton batting topper is placed over the muslin, image seven.

Continuing the buildup of the inside back, above:

  1. A bias cut showcover welt was created using a cotton core, then stapled onto and around the inside back tacking margins.
  2. Another cotton batting topper went over the muslin.
  3. The inside back showcover was cut and overcast, allowing margins for underturning during the hand stitching process.

The showcover was turned under, pinned, then handstitched to the welt using a circular needle and a locking running stitch

The inside back and seat of front of the wingback was completed, above.

Turning to the outside back, the cleaned historic cotton pad was placed into the cavity, and a layer of new cotton batting was placed over the pad.

A 5 oz cotton muslin topper readies the outside back for the showcover, images three and four, above.

Architectural tape (less sticky) was set around the edge to protect the finish (image five) when the tacking began. First:

  • Upholstery tacks secured the outside back showcover, image five.
  • Over the tacks decorative nails were hammered.

The outside back was completed, left.

The historic spring-filled cushion was replaced with foam, so Mitchell had to create a historically accurate spring-filled cushion from scratch.

A cotton muslin cushion cover was sewn to act as an interior cushion so the showcover could be removed and cleaned without disturbing the interior stuffings.

Springs of this size are no longer sold in the USA; Mitchell used taller springs and slip-tied the spring orbits to the desired elevation and had to tie them down. The springs were covered with muslin, and handstitched into place using the Holbein and blanket stitches, above

The seat was wrapped with layers of cotton batting, then wrapped in clear vinyl temporarily to prevent shredding of the batting during the stuffing. The amount of cotton that is squeezed into a good cushion is often underestimated.

This temporary cover allowed Mitchell to fold the cushion in half and slip it into the cushion cover.

Once stuffed, the vinyl was carefully removed from the cushion and zipped up.

Mitchell pounded on the seat cushion, image six, and used a regulating needle to compress the cotton batting into the corners.

The three images of wingbacks above show the foam cushion, the historic cushion (a bit wonky at that time as we had not treated it yet) and the new historically accurate cushion.

The new cushion, left, compared to the historic cushion of the Mason Wingback which went into the Museum Collection.

The new cushion showcover was created from patterns, above.

Mitchell added a zipper (not historic) so the showcover could be removed if necessary and sent to the dry cleaners. The zipper was thoughtfully created so that the zipper sits back from the corners of the cushion, and secures within an overlapping boxing placket.

The cushion was stuffed and completed, left.

Before and after treatment, showing many angles.