The Herald-Times: repairing HISTORY

Two-man shop brings new luster to old furniture

By Bill Strother
331-4265 | moc.t1516520926dlare1516520926h@reh1516520926torts1516520926b1516520926

Monroe Furniture Restoration - Tim Puro and Peter Brockman

Monroe Furniture Restoration owner Tim Puro, left, and woodworker Peter Brockman hold a workbench consultation on a trundle bed restoration job.

Tools of the trade - square
Tools of the trade - artist's pigment
Tools of the trade - burning knife
Tools of the trade - burn-in epoxy-pigment sticks

Tools of the trade, top to bottom: Peter Brockman uses a square; powdered dry artist’s pigment; the burning knife; and, at bottom, the burn-in epoxy/pigment sticks used to treat wounds in wood, which with the burning knife, are used to repair finishes.

Tim Puro remembers talking to his banker boss in 2005 about his furniture restoration work — how much he enjoyed it and how he’d been involved in the work part-time for several years, taking classes and learning more along the way, with a career change at the back of his mind.

“Well, do it now,” his boss said.

“I don’t know if I got encouraged or fired — but here I am.”

That’s in his basement shop on Bloomington’s southwest side, where Puro and woodworker/musician Peter Brockman currently have about 20 restoration jobs under way, just starting or ready for finishing touches, all as part of Monroe Furniture Restoration.

A few projects are sort of resting before work starts. A Zenith radio cabinet, probably from the 1930s, is under way but sits waiting this day. “Sometimes, you need to set something on the bench and just stare at it before you begin,” Puro said.

The workshop is an organized jumble of hand tools, projects in the midst of restoration and benches to work from, but none of the power tools one might expect in a wood shop.

Tim Puro - restored spool chest-service counter

Tim Puro, whose specialty is finishes, explains how he produced a new writing surface for a restored spool chest/service counter.

The Business

Monroe Furniture Restoration
Tim Puro, Owner

On-site and in-the-shop repair and restoration of furniture and millwork

3748 W. Maple Leaf Drive

Repair Shop

Small business does restoration work of furniture

That’s as it should be, Puro said. “You don’t need a lot of equipment or machinery — It’s just your skill.”

This day, a finished piece, a spool chest that had spent decades on the shop floor at Kleindorfer’s grocery — of the same family as today’s hardware store owners but dating to the early 20th century.

Handed down through the generations until finally making its way to the shop, it had come in somewhat the worse for wear. Now, with careful restoration of wooden panels and other structural repairs — Brockman’s specialty — and an equally careful and sensitive refinishing — Puro’s area of expertise — it could have just arrived from the grocery, a piece of business equipment that retained its patina of having been well used.

To maintain authenticity, Brockton had inconspicuously signed the replacement pieces he had fitted to make the chest whole again. Puro had come across an inkwell to fill the hole where it would have been — but it turned out to be too big. Two wooden brackets were added next to the ink well, where pens must have been kept, but which were gone when the piece came in. Their research showed the pieces should have been there, Puro said, and the screw holes that would have held them in place were, he added.

The sheen of a century remained, with new parts indistinguishable from the original. The piece shouldn’t look new when properly restored, after all. “This is history. This color. And all that is history,” he said.

Such a restoration can run anywhere from $300 to $600, Puro said, depending on the project.

One, a tall china cabinet dating from the early 19th century, is scheduled for pickup in November. Much of the shop’s business is local but some, such as the radio project with its owner in Seattle, can come from just about anywhere, as long as a delivery truck can get there.

Puro also teaches at the well respected Marc Adams School of Woodworking just south of Indianapolis, where he was a student when starting out. One of his mentors, he said, is the senior furniture conservator for the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Materials Research and Education.

early 20th century spool chest restored

This just-restored spool chest spent its working life on the floor of Kleindorfer’s grocery in the early 20th century.

Brockman, who holds a degree in music from what is now the Jacobs School of Music at IU, is also a product of the fine furniture program at The College of the Redwoods in Eureka, Calif. Brockman, a trombonist, still plays professionally, picking up freelance gigs for shows and other events in the area and in Indianapolis.

Monroe Furniture Restoration takes work from Indiana University — about 40 percent of its business is on location away from the shop — and has done extensive work in Wright and Collins dorms, two of the older dorms on campus. “We did all the chair rails in the Collins building,” Puro said, a job that took three weeks.

Puro met Brockman when Brockman won a woodworking contest sponsored by Tru-Value Hardware in Ellettsville. “He was always kind of looking for a place to put his skills together,” Puro said, and has now been doing that at Monroe Furniture since 2011.

Brockman was working to tighten up an early 19th century trundle bed frame that a customer had brought in. Its “spring” was rope threaded from one side to the other, and the frame had loosened so much over the years that the rope would no longer work. The mortice and tenon joints had to be tightened.

He trained for this type of work just because he loved it, Brockman said. But with the music industry on hard times, he’s happy to have such skills. After all, he said, “There are a lot of out-of-work musicians that don’t have woodworking to fall back on.”