Restoration In Progress–Antique Small Tansu

I’m currently in a state of limbo with several projects where I’m either waiting for something to dry, waiting on materials, or it’s just a big project and I’m spending a few hours a week on it and it’ll be done when it’s done. Fight me. But since I am not currently out of space, if I find something else I like, I might pick it up.

Enter this little one. A little personal Japanese tansu from at least the 40’s, but it could be older. I’m not quite sure what it’s specifically meant to be for, or if it wasn’t just for personal small storage. What I do know is that when I saw it I felt the itch in my pants heart that told me I needed to fix it up. Today you’re getting photos in my garage because I was a split second from taking sandpaper to it before I remembered that I hadn’t taken any “before” photos. And I really wouldn’t want to disappoint.

So let’s have a look!

One of the major reasons I decided to buy this is because I’ve seen similar pieces before, so I didn’t have to use my big squishy brain and guess what it was. Unlike some things. That also means I have a guide to go on, and I can do it some justice.

It looks like one of these:

Pictured: Look at their chest tansu.

There’s a few differences, but the dimensions are very close and they actually use very similar hardware, too. BEHOLD:

Vs. the…uh…intact one’s hardware:

Pictured: …this was the best image I could get.

If you’re interested in that one, you can find it on eBay if you search “zelkova Tansu,” but you might get sticker shocked. I’ll be honest, I have no concept of what a good deal is for something like that. I just know I didn’t pay anywhere that much for mine, and for good reason. Because she needs help.

As always, before I begin, I need to make it very VERY clear that in no way is my bitching or description of the damage meant to reflect poorly on the original owners. This is the nature of restoring antiques, and I am never out to make anyone feel bad. Except that guy who scratches his ass before opening the door in public. Fuck that guy.

So. What’s wrong with this tansu? Well, for one…

Pictured: …o-oh…

Judging from the old glue prints and broken nails, I’ma hazard a guess that it’s not supposed to do that.

Accompanying the detached top board is a good sized crack in it, too. It’s got some standard dings and scratches, and those are whatever. This crack though. Whooo boy.

Pictured: This is going to be the one that fucks with me. I can feel it.

That crack is also a bit warped away from the rest of the board, and it’s not a clean crack. It’s missing some chunks. But, there’s plenty here to work with. I’m going to attempt to tack it down to the little border there when I glue and clamp it. When it’s properly seated and sturdy, I can try to fill in what’s missing.

Next, we have this whimsical fuckery:

The bad news: it’s about as bad as it looks.

The good news: it’s not warped, and it’s surprisingly stable.

With just a little bit of pressure, it holds together well. So my plan is just to glue it back together, then patch what’s missing.

Speaking of shit that’s missing:

Mine is missing a drawer pull on the lower right drawer, and the back panel. I didn’t get a photo, because I suck, but there is evidence on mine that a back panel was once installed.

I’ve ordered a replacement pull. It looks like this:

Pictured: BIRB

It’s not a match, but it’ll do nicely. This is a matter of availability. I searched for a bit to find a more similar drawer pull with yukiwa (snow crystal) rosette, but I couldn’t find any. If I can ever find one that matches, I’ll buy it. But for now, this will be fine.

As for the missing back panel, I will have to make a new one. So I will. Party hard. I’ll have a better idea of what kind of wood this is when I’ve finished sanding.

Moving on, we have more damage to cover. There are scratches, gouges, and separating basically everywhere, like so:

Most of them actually look worse on camera than they do in person, so…yay? I’m going to have to sand down and refinish the whole thing, because there’s really just too many goddamn problems to try to spot repair. This thing looks like it spent the last fifty-some-odd years of its life engaging in violent street fights, and selling the organs of its victims on the black market.


Nah. I said what I said. She also lost a fucking foot in the battles.

Pictured: I had you all fooled.

Okay. I’ve shown you the damage. I’m going to start sanding now.

By the way, the kyodai will be done this week.


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