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pgf

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Reply with quote  #1 

I asked some of these questions over on the W&G groups.io list, but response was underwhelming (i.e., nil).  

First, not a question:  I finally got around to getting some 3/4" rubber balls to act as treadle brakes. I figured that since I now have two W&G treadles, it would help amortise the shipping. :-) I installed one in my 1893 treadle, and I love it: I had expected to maybe hear the ball, and also that there would be some kind of delay or slippage as the brake engaged. But it's completely silent, and there's no delay at all: when the treadle is stopped, it simply cannot go in reverse. I wish all my treadles had the feature.

I ordered the balls from McMaster-Carr: https://www.mcmaster.com/1854t58 . They were $3.35 each, plus shipping. I ordered some other things as well, and haven't yet received the invoice, so I can't tell you what the total was. (That's just how McMaster does things.) McMaster shipping charges are always reasonable: basically, the minimum US postage for any given package.

Second, I'm in the process of cleaning up my 1861 treadle. When cleaning treadle irons I usually just use Orange Glo and a coarse rag, and maybe a brush. But this one is gunky and dirty enough that I think a good scrub in sudsy water would do it a world of good. So I'm starting disassembly.

How does one release the lower end of the wooden pitman arm from its pivot? The top end is mounted with a screw to the wheel, but so far I find no screw head at the bottom pivot. Note that this setup is different from the post-1875 treadles, which have an iron (steel?) pitman.

I can probably clean the pedal with the pitman still attached, but it's at risk of breakage through clumsiness while it's flopping around.

Finally, the treadle top is a single slab of solid walnut -- no joints, plywood, veneer, or edge trim (amazing!).  Unsurprisingly, it has cupped. It's concave by about 1/4" in the center of the table. Has anyone ever un-cupped a slab of wood this old? I have it lying upside-down on my cellar floor, hoping the increased humidity will help, but I'm wondering if wood this old will ever straighten.

paul


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JonesHand52

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Reply with quote  #2 
Paul, you do have a serious problem with the W&G, and I can tell you I have "felt your pain". Problem here is the age of the piece. If it were a modern - say, 20th Century - piece, there would be armchair officienados responding galore, no doubt. But, since the piece is A, solid wood, and B, Civil War vintage, we are getting into the realm of museum curator and restoration work. 

The only advice or recommendation I can give is to look to the musical instrument restoration sites. The walnut is cupped because it dried out over the years. The same thing happens when wood is under pressure from musical instrument strings, especially steel strings, such as we see in guitars where the neck has bowed and the top has pulled up and gullied. Generally, in those cases, gentle heat and clamping is often used to slowly - read glacially - move the wood back where it was while some re-hydrating added. Usually this can just be moisture, but often something like good oils like lemon or orange oil helps re-hydrate the wood. There are excellent articles, treatises and tutorials on this all over the web and in print. 

Since it took over 150 years to get like that, understand that there may be some time needed to correct it, if that is possible at all. I do know that walnut can be easy to work with and at the same time can fail catastrophically. Case in point, decades ago I thought it would be cool to make a neck for a banjo using walnut and add a mahogany fret board. Everything went fine until I started tapping in the frets into the slots cut in the fret board when suddenly the peg head cracked and fell off because of the vibration. Walnut cracks and breaks more than I have seen in maple, birch or oak, although oak is a close second. I think that is why - besides cost - that solid walnut was used in these early days. It was then plentiful, and it was easy to just work a solid piece of wood. That's why later we see more cabinets with solid edge material on a basswood core covered with walnut veneer. 

Be careful if you do try to remove the cupping. What you are after is a glacial movement caused by re-hydrating the cupped side. If you try to add pressure to the curved side, you risk splitting the cupped side of the wood. 

Some may disagree strongly with my comments, but that's fine. My words are based on my own experiences in working with wood. I live in a damp climate here in the Northwest US. More severe climate variances, such as Arizona or the Midwest can affect the wood differently. I have a Washburn Alpine zither with a long crack up the back, for example, that I got from the Midwest. It has set on a wall shelf with the crack to the wall and after a couple of years, the crack has closed considerably and is flattening out as it slowly absorbs moisture and hydrates (read: adjusts to the climate). Like I said - it took a hundred years to get like this, so it's going to take time to get it back, if possible. It will be easier to add moisture and glue down the road than if I had attacked it aggressively in the beginning. I prefer to work with nature and not be too aggressive in repair work. There is an old boat builder's saying - the longest road is the shortest way home. This, of course, gets a bit more difficult as I slowly approach my own use-by date. 

-Bruce
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Phyllis1115

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Reply with quote  #3 
I am allergic to tree pollen and wood dust so my cabinet refinishing days are long past. I agree with Bruce.

I have an 1860s American #1 with a solid walnut top. The top has a wide crack beginning at the cut out running to the right edge. One dau Ray decided to glue and clamp the crack. All went well for a couple hours after releasing the clamps. And then the crack reopened with the sound of a gun shot. We decided that the wood had been cracked for a long time and should remain so. The crack is part of the machine's story.




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pgf

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Reply with quote  #4 
Thanks, Bruce and Phyllis, for those warnings.  My treadle top is already split -- for a couple of inches, starting at both ends.  So extra care is in order.

I also realized last night that it's probably been cupped for a long time.  It was stored outside at the seller's antique/junk shop.  It was "covered" along with some other things by having a large sheet of stiff plastic balanced across all of them, and I think he had upended a bucket over the machine head itself, but lets face it:  it was very much outside in the elements.  So I'd been thinking the cupping might have been recent, and so therefore might come out by itself readily.  But when I removed the top from the irons, I found two scraps of cardboard under the screws holding the more severely cupped end.  So I think the last person to have it apart must have been trying to deal with the cupping already.  And it doesn't look like anyone has cared much about the machine for a very long time.

In any case, I think I'll treat the cupping and cracks as part of the machine's history -- the neglected chapter -- and move on.  It's no so important on a W&G anyway, since the raised cloth plate is sort of independent of the table top.

paul

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pgf

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Reply with quote  #5 
Oh -- as far as I can tell, there's no way to non-destructively remove the pitman from its lower pivot.  It seems to have been pinned and peened in place. 

paul

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