Restoration of Tracery Bookcase Doors

Apparently while the owners of this circa 1775 mahogany bookcase were moving house, the removers had both doors wide open while they unloaded the books into packing boxes. When the bookcase was almost empty of books the weight of the open glazed doors caused the bookcase to topple forwards off the bureau and onto the floor with predictable consequences.

It’s a relatively common occurrence which in every case can be avoided by internally screwing the bookcase down to the bureau or cabinet beneath it.

The tracery doors as they came in.

All traces of shattered glass were disposed of and the unbroken panes were removed carefully for reuse later.

The damaged door frame was rebuilt and set aside.

The thirteen panes were also removed from the undamaged door which was then laid face up on a sheet of hardboard and the glazing bars carefully traced around to create a pattern on which to build the new tracery.
Incidentally, the majority of Georgian tracery doors have thirteen panes irrespective of the pattern.

The tracery was tidied up and numerous small pine guide blocks were glued to the pattern on the outsides of the glazing bar outline using a 9/64″ (3.6mm) spacer to ensure accurate positioning.

Laying out the new tracery.

Eight of the glazing bars consisted of two individual arcs which were replicated in chipboard to make formers around which the curved glazing bars were glued up. The curved glazing bars were laminated from three strips of 5/8″ x 3/64″ (16mm x 1.2mm) mahogany and held in place by dowels and wedges (in much the same way steamed hoops are bent for Windsor chairs). The straight glazing bar sections are of solid mahogany.

The chipboard glazing bar formers.

Where possible, the astragal mouldings were salvaged from the damaged door, but where absent, new sections were made up. A scratchstock was precisely shaped to the extant astragals and the straight sections were scratched in one continuous length. The curved astragals were turned on the lathe and they all then received a 9/64″ wide groove in their reverse sides to locate them on their glazing bars, thus ensuring maximum rigidity and strength.

A candle was rubbed over the tracery board in the vicinity of the glazing bars to ensure the glued matrix wouldn’t become stuck. The glazing bars were trimmed and assembled on the tracery board and glued at their intersections. Short strips of calico were glued either side of each junction to strengthen the joints (the calico subsequently being hidden beneath the glazing compo).

The finished glazing bars were sufficiently strong to be shaken quite vigorously.

The glazing bar matrix was secured into the door frame with one-sided dovetails and glued. The astragals were carefully mitred and glued in position on the glazing bars.

The restored tracery.

The salvaged panes were laid out in sequence and any new panes required were cut from blown glass rescued from old picture frames etc. Glass is a semi-liquid becoming more brittle with age and therefore reclaimed glass requires careful cutting underwater to avoid breakages. Each pane was secured in place with cabinetmaker’s putty and when dry, coloured appropriately.

About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
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3 Responses to Restoration of Tracery Bookcase Doors

  1. Jack you did such a great restoration. Thank you for sharing. I am gaining so much knowledge from your posts.




  2. potomacker says:

    Do you know of any online resources in reference to cutting glass panes underwater.


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