Restoration of a teak sofa – part 1: Skin implant

Part of my responsibilities in my day job are to restore teak and mahogany furniture. I joke about it and say that my roles is almost like a plastic surgeon. Furniture that arrives to my "clinic" are made from solid reclaimed teak or mahogany. They are constructed in India using the best woodworking techniques, including pegged mortise and tenons, dovetails, lap, rabbet joints and many more drawer and carcass joints that are emblematic of excellent craftsmanship. However, because of shipping conditions on the high seas and transitioning between climates, they often arrive to our shop afflicted by some orthopedic or dermatological conditions that require my surgical intervention. I do my best to cure them and I succeed in almost all cases. So far I haven't lost even one patient. Moreover, in most cases the "cosmetic surgery" is so good you just can't tell the difference between the repair area and the the surrounding (existing) tissue.

Such was the case of the teak sofa that arrived to our shop this week. It suffered from two cosmetic traumas. The first was missing fiber tissue on the inside of the arm rest.

The way I intervened was to rout out the defected area and glue in an implant. Then, I shaved off excess wood and stained it to its original look.

Here is how I did this:

1. Routing the area using a makeshift router fence, clamped to the furniture.

I began by routing one groove. 

2. Next, I added to the base fence a strip of wood that acted as shim or as a parallel fence positioning aid. I did it to avoid moving the base fence and risking inaccuracy. 

I then routed the second groove. 

3. Using a chisel I cleaned the grooved area and turned it to a rectangular shape sink. I made an implant and matched it to the sink's shape. 

4. Lastly, I glued the implant in place and shaved any excess wood. 

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Yoav Liberman

About Yoav Liberman

Yoav S. Liberman is a woodworker and a teacher. His pieces have been featured in several woodworking books, most recently in Robin Wood’s CORES Recycled. Yoav teaches woodworking at the Rudolf Steiner School in Manhattan, and also frequently guest teaches in craft schools across the country.  Between 2003 and 2011 Yoav  headed the woodworking program at Harvard University's Eliot House. Yoav’s articles have appeared in American Woodworker and Woodwork Magazine. He frequently contributes woodworking web content to a number of digital publications   Yoav has a degree in architecture and later held two competitive residency programs: at The Worcester Center for Crafts in Massachusetts, and the Windgate Foundation Fellowship at Purchase College, New York. He lives in Chestnut Ridge NY.