A George II Ash Bureau – Part Nine

The high temperatures I mentioned in A George II Ash Bureau – Part Eight paled to those in the Tack Room.

Despite leaving the doors at either end of the shed open throughout the day to encourage a throughput of ‘cooler’ air, the temperature beneath the wriggly tin roof soared to 51.8°C (125°F) and the humidity reading was a meagre “10%” (the gauge is a bit fluffy below 15%).

The bureau was hot to the touch and I noticed several glue lines had become glossy. The join through the centre of the two-board fall eventually let go. This was a freak occurrence in unprecedented conditions; I won’t be modifying my techniques nor changing glues.


I’m not overly concerned about the split. If it closes up with a rise in humidity, I’ll incorporate it into the whole ageing and distressing regime. On the other hand, if the split remains unchanged (as I suspect it will), I will likely adopt some remedial step as otherwise the writing surface will be unduly compromised.

Jack Plane


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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12 Responses to A George II Ash Bureau – Part Nine

  1. Jim Pallas says:

    With the glue that hot would it be reasonable to clamp it up and wait for some cooling or is that just wasted effort. It would seem that the possibility of that piece being exposed to those temperatures again would be unlikely unless put at a window in the sun with uninsulated glazing.


    • Jack Plane says:

      The timber has received a shock that I doubt it will recover from: That sort of shrinkage (in timber that was well dried to begin with) usually causes internal cell damage. We’ve since had a couple of cooler days with humidity as high as 87% and I can perceive no reversion of the damage.



  2. TobyC says:

    Ouch! That’s unfortunate, but then again just think of all the odd conditions that old furniture has been through, including long voyages across the oceans. Just gives ’em character!
    From what I’ve read it has been wrongfully hot down there, hope you get some relief soon!
    Did you have any brush fires near you?


    • Jack Plane says:

      Exactly! I’ll have to fill the split as otherwise somebody’s pen will catch in it one day, but splits in falls are plentiful in period bureaux.

      We’ve had unprecedented temperatures here of late. There have been a few grass fires within a couple of miles of us, but they were brought under control fairly quickly, however, the wind filled our valley with smoke from distant bush fires in the east the other day which was eerie.



  3. Joe M says:

    If some moisture/water was introduced into the joint with heat, could it reactivate what glue is present, then reclamp and allow to cool/dry? or would you take the entire fall apart?


    • Jack Plane says:

      The glue would be simple enough to rejuvenate; however, the timber has just had enough. Clamping it now – without dismantling the fall and planing the edges again – would achieve nothing.

      I’m not inclined to dismantle the fall or replace it.



  4. Adam Palmer says:

    Honestly, if that’s the worst that happened, I’d count it as evidence of an extremely well-built piece. That’s considerably more than the average piece of indoor furniture usually has to go through in an entire year. Install a sliver and move on.


  5. John Wolf says:

    It’s – 5degrees Fahrenheit here and I’ve had to find a clean place in the basement to apply finish in, most of my woodworking lately has been splitting firewood. After reading your post, I feel very comfortable, thank you.


  6. Bad bit of luck with that hot weather.
    It would seem repair of the writing surface is the only valuable option.
    Hopefully, this is a once in a life time occurrence.


  7. Sylvain says:

    I understand your sorrow
    …. but I can not resist to send back your dry humor :
    The Efficacy of Animal Glue
    “April 7, 2013 at 11:56 pm
    There’s no doubt that centrally heated homes (and closed rooms with a sunny aspect) have contributed to some furniture becoming too dry. The solution is simple though: Keep a vase of flowers, a goldfish bowl or some other source of water in the room.


    A double roof with air circulating in between would help limit the oven effect.
    For a temporary solution, an awning would be adequate.
    You could make a kind of anti-fly curtain with ropes and keep them wet, (to be placed on the side where the air is entering the shed).


    • Jack Plane says:

      Perfectly sensible solutions, however, I was not prepared for such extreme temperatures and didn’t have the necessary equipment to hand. I likely won’t have the equipment ready for next summer either, or if I do, it will probably be buried behind stacks of timber. Such is the nature of this beast.

      I will keep a vase of flowers in the Tack Room from now on though.



  8. Pingback: A George II Ash Bureau – Part Ten | Pegs and 'Tails

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