A Visit to a Furniture Restoration Shop in Tel Aviv: Part 1

Shay Avrahami and two of the mammoth handscrews that he built.

Shay Avrahami opened his Furniture restoration shop in Tel Aviv in the early ’90s, and since then he has steadily established his reputation as one of the best furniture restorers in Israel. His experience stems from many years of apprenticeship in Israel, and a few years of mentorship in Scotland. I visited him two weeks ago to talk and take pictures of his shop and work. His shop is in a small space in the south of Tel Aviv that once housed a lamp shop. When I arrived to his shop, Shay (pronounced Shy) was restoring the carving on an antique oak chair. The chair also needed a new cane seat, but the cane work will to be done by another specialist restorer – a friend of Shay.

Shay’s shop smells great – not because he sprays it with air fresheners, but because of the scent of alcohol in the air. Why you may ask there is an aroma of alcohol in the middle of the day? Part of the answer is because Shay and his apprentice have a tradition of pizza and beer every Thursday for lunch – but the real reason is shellac – his finish of choice, and the finish most common on the antiques that he restores. According to Shay, applying shellac correctly takes a long time. To build a suitable thickness of new shellac, he needs to apply dozens of thin layers – one after the other, in a tedious process that takes hours. In the end, dull and gloomy furniture will light up and shimmer. 

The shellac “corner” in Shay’s shop.

When he isn’t working on a project, which is very rare because his waiting list stretches for months, he likes to frequent the Jaffa flea market – perhaps the best flea market in Israel. There he finds most of his tools. And unlike the proverb, “The cobbler’s children are always barefooted,” Shay’s tools receive top-notch restoration and care throughout their life. Over the years he also have accumulated a remarkable collection of Israeli made clamps made by the HaKhoret company, which unfortunately suspended their clamp manufacturing a decade ago.

HaKhoret heavy bar clamp

HaKhoret F-clamps

After buying this saw, Shay thought about discarding the old handle and making a new one. But he instead decided to patch and reinforce the old handle with butterfly keys.

Shay’s makeshift saw sharpening jig.

Shay restored some of the handscrews that he received or bought over the years.

These are mammoth, deep-reach clamps. They are made from beech wood, threaded rods, nuts and washers. To maximize the clamping potential of his handscrews, he applies additional pressure on the arms with an F-style clamp.

In Part 2, I will show more of Shay’s projects and tools.

— Yoav Liberman

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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.

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