Saturday, March 20, 2010

100 year old church pews woodworking project

A church in San Francisco is undergoing a major renovation and getting rid of the old pews as part of the renovation. The church was first built in the 1800s but destroyed, along with much of San Francisco, in the 1906 earthquake. The church was rebuilt after the earthquake and has not been renovated since. The person who sold me the pews wasn't able to tell me much about them except that the cushions had been in use since when she became a member of the congregation since the 1960s.

The pews are oak and slightly curved. A cross section of the pews shows that the seats are made of many slim boards glued together while the seat backs are of thick flat sawn lumber that was sawn into thinner boards then laminated back together with a thin piece of a different wood in between. This was done in order to curve the wood, likely with some industrial steam bending machinery.

The cushions are a nice red cotton upholstery weight velvet stuffed with what looks like a mixture of hair (horsehair?) and shredded textile (wool/cotton?).

My plan is to remove one end of the benches, cut the benches down to a size I can use and put the ends back on, ending up with a bench that looks like the original, only shorter. I will then cut and re-sew the cushions to fit. I will also put the hymnal holders back on the backside of the benches; I think they are really cool.

I bought the last four benches even though I am only certain of where I will put one. I just couldn't resist because how often does one get the opportunity to buy 100 year old church furniture? And at $2/foot I couldn't beat the price. The longest bench was 22 feet so it only cost $44! The cushions were $5 each. What a bargain!

Now all I have to do is figure out where to store the things until I can work on them, and what to do with the extra leftover wood.

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