The Restoration Shop of the Remington Carriage Museum ( http://www.history.alberta.ca/remington/default.aspx ) in conjunction with the Reynolds - Alberta Museum ( http://www.history.alberta.ca/reynolds/default.aspx ), both in Alberta, Canada, are finishing the restoration of a 1907 Model N that was begun almost 25 years ago.
The restoration was started by the Reynolds restoration staff but not completed at the time. Stored for some 20 years, it was recently brought out to be completed when it was discovered that the original "made up wood" seat had developed serious cracking and checking in the outer layers of wood. The Reynolds' restoration team no longer included a wood worker so they contacted us at the Remington Carriage Museum for advice on how to fix the problem. The consensus was that any repair that would fix the cracking permanently would alter the original seat significantly. It was decided that a replica "made up wood" seat would be constructed and mounted on the body. This would allow the original seat to remain unaltered and will be retained by the Reynolds-Alberta Museum as an artifact.
The term "made up wood" refers to the language used in adverts of the era describing the formed wood seat. To modern eyes, the structure of the seat appears to be formed plywood. Contemporary plywood is made of many thin layers of rotary cut veneer and was not fully developed until just prior to the Second World War. (think Mosquito bombers or PT boats) The Model N seat is constructed of three layers of solid wood approximately 1/4" thick each. The layers would have been milled out and edge glued to make the panel size needed (approximately 1/4" by 24" by 48 "). The three panels arranged with the inner and outer layers with the grain running lengthwise and the middle layer running at 90 degrees to them, were formed and bonded in a heated metal press using male and female molds.
The re-creation of a hot press and the forms needed to replicate the seat were deemed to be excessive (we are only making one seat after all) so as an alternative, the plan was to use a vacuum bag press. Templates were made of the inside curve of the original seat. These were used to make a male wooden form that the panels would be bent over. The panels were constructed from 1/4" thick Yellow Poplar (aka Tulip Wood) which was commonly used in the period for carriage and automobile body construction and appeared to be what the original Ford seat was made from. As 1/4" thick Poplar is quite stiff, the panels were individually steam bent over the form prior to gluing in the vacuum bag. The glue-up was accomplished in two stages with the outer and middle layers being bonded together first over the form in the vacuum bag. The final stage was to bond the inner layer to the other two, again in the vacuum press over the form.
A paper template of the curved shape of the seat was made from the original Ford seat. This was then used to trace onto the new seat blanks the correct shape to be cut out. Two, three layer rectangular panels were formed and the template was reversed on one to make the new left and right seat backs. The backs were carefully fitted to match the original rake angles of the back and sides of the seat and then assembled to a new bottom frame.
Now in the paint stage, our restoration is nearing completion. The Remington's Restoration staff will be covering the new seat in leather, matching the original in pattern and material and using recycled (from previous restorations were foam was substituted) horse hair stuffing. We will also be making a new top for the auto. The Reynolds Museum intends the restored Model N to be available for occasional use around their grounds.
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