Spanish Red Mason Monterey A-Frame

MPF Conservation conserved and/or restored two dozen pieces of Mason Monterey furniture which were bought for the Chateau at the Oregon Caves National Monument (NPS); this page features the Mason Monterey Spanish Red A-Frame.

We are updating this page; please excuse our mess!

When MPF Conservation first encountered this Mason Monterey A-Frame, it looked like the images above. Completely stripped of color, broken, fractured, and rickety.

Right, the Mason Monterey burn-in: both the name and the infamous horseshoe. The pieces do not always carry both or even one stamp, but in this case both were present.

We disassembled the frame, by injecting warmed white vinegar into the joints. In the process we discovered the traces of red on the tops of legs and the splat.

An employee used a screw to hold the front left-facing leg in place, shown in the fourth image above.

Note the splat was historically shimmed using linen muslin.

The rear right-facing leg would not release; we left it intact.

One of the stiles-to-crest tenons was fractured, and both were left glued in both the stile and the crest. Further, someone nailed through the crest into the stile, causing additional damage.

Mitchell drilled out the dowel, cleaned the mortise and filled it with fresh hardwood dowel after coating it with warm hide glue.

Clean splits were glued using warm hide glue and clamped to cure.

MPFC designed and built gluing frames for the A-Frame seats, shown above. Pads were added to keep the frames from bruising when clamps were tightened on the seat face and along the sides.

The seat was ready for gluing:

The seat was fractured around two leg mortise. Mitchell planned where they keylocks were to be placed.

The the seat frame fractured edges were prepped before gluing, smoothed and matched up for gluing.

Parts were matched and glued as part of the prep of the entire glue-up.

Finally, the entire seat could be assembled. Ample warm hide glue was used, shown above and below.

The chair seat was set into the padded glue-up jig and squeezed, pushing excess glue out. A snug fit was achieved, and the excess glue was cleaned using warm water.

Clear plastic cauls also ensured the seat surface stay flat during the clamp and curing process.

Once the initial glue was setting up, the entire seat went into the frame and was cauled and clamped to set for several days, above.

MPFC was ready to move to the legs / mortise connections.

All leg mortise were cleaned of old glues. Mortise were compromised and repaired as needed to ensure a snug fit.

After the glue cured, two to four keylocks were installed for extra reinforcement across breaks.

Leg kerfs were excised. Tenons were repaired. Shown above, a nail driven through the tenon by NPS staff was removed and properly repaired.

Left, most of the pieces of the chair (stiles not shown) repaired and ready for re-assembly. Stiles were repaired as assembled.

Step one, legs were inserted using warm hide glue, and kerfs installed.

The repaired leg-to-seat connections were allowed to cure overnight. The next day the kerfs were cut then leveled.

Stiles were attached to the outside of each side of the seat. MPFC chose to follow Mason’s original decision to use muslin as a shim, rather than a traditional lamination of wood veneer to take up any gap between wood surfaces. Because of the softer more bruisible nature of alder and the inherent flexible nature of the construction design MPFC decided the addition of hard lamination surfaces might damage the historic wood.

Splat was attached to the seat mortise using warm hide glue.

Crest is attached to splat and stiles using the same technique: shimmed and glued using warm hide glue. The back of the chair is attached.

At that point the chair is leveled while the glue is still warm, and clamped to set the leveled position on a flat surface. We then tied the chair using heavy strapping cord and forced the chair to remain in stasis for a longer period while the glue cured.

Once the chair cured, we were ready for paint.

The chair was sanded to an acceptable grit to accept paint. The chair was primed with gesso.

Base coats were applied, ivory for the splat, and red for the body of the chair. We used Gamblin Artist Colors: 1980 Oil Colors, which are great for furniture as they have good pigment load.

We used a bass wood test board, which mimicked the original wood grain and color. This served eventually as a record of the actual 1980 Oil Colors we used on each chair.

Note One: Some base coat colors required more than one coat of paint for coverage, and each coat had to dry thoroughly between coats.

Note Two: Kate used brushes between 1/2-inch and 1-inch wide. It takes a bit longer to paint but there is no sanding, scraping, dripping, etc. When the coat is dry, Kate can move straight to the next coat.

The decorative design trace (second image) came from the best chair, the Chateau Green chair shown first image. A new black tracing was copied for each chair, image three and four.

The tracing was transferred to the splat using white “carbon” paper, shown right.

Layers of decorative 1980 Oil Colors paint was mixed to match the various colors of the splat.

The layers were applied as shown above, drying completely between coats as necessary. Both brush work and finger painting created the designs, as Kate interpreted the splat strokes.

Above, four steps of the splats before we began the overall Smokey Maple top coat. The undercoat of Smokey Maple was applied by hand, above and below.

Above, the undercoat of dark Smokey Maple was hand-applied, then allowed to cure.

A final Smokey Maple glaze top coat was painted on the entire chair, and allowed to cure for a week.

A glossy coat of Galkyd was placed over the entire chair for strength, and allowed to cure for several days. This was based upon a test done by one of Gamblin’s partners, Pete Cole, using Galkyd on his Bicycle!

The final coat was a dark carnauba-rich wax, applied then hard burnished, and allowed to cure.

After curing the wax was scuffed to make it look aged.

The Spanish Red Mason Monterey A-Frame chair is complete, above!