Broke and lonely
August 3, 2007 3:42 PM   Subscribe

Why can't I find someone to fix my furniture in San Francisco?

I've been trying for months to get someone to do some structural repairs on a midcentury daybed that was a victim of a party foul. At first I called local stores that sell midcentury furniture, but they had nobody to recommend, so I went through the yellow pages, but either nobody answered or didn't respond after I told them what was wrong. Then I used the Cole Hardware handyman referral service. They sent me the number of someone who did not seem very interested in the job and didn't respond after I sent him the flickr set of the broken piece via email. He also did not respond to a followup I sent a week ago. Earlier this week I then tried the Cole Hardware referral service again in hopes of getting someone else who might be reliable. I haven't heard back from them this week.

I was telling someone on Wednesday about this and they told me to post it on Craigslist. Fine, so I asked in the CL help zone about where best to post for something like this, and I took their advice to post it in gigs/fixit. No response from anybody!

Someone else was saying that this is common and the idea is that I will just get rid of the daybed so that a furniture person can fix it themselves and sell it, or that dealers keep their repairpeople secret. I don't know if I subscribe to that paranoia, but it's starting to make a lot of sense.
posted by rhizome to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
If it's a decent piece of furniture, you could take it to my favorite guy:

Ottmar Umhofer
Edelweiss Furniture Restoration
(650) 369-4831
Redwood City Calif

...but looking at your flickr set, it looks like more of a project that you could handle (read: a pro like Ottmar will charge you more than the bed is worth). A couple of G clamps, wood glue and possibly a mending plate (if there's enough room) would fix that right up.
posted by jamaro at 4:02 PM on August 3, 2007

We've had luck calling antique stores and asking for referrals. Antique stores often get merchandise that requires repairs, so they have craftspeople who work for them. In particular, we had good luck with a guy referred to us from McCarneys Furniture, on 9th Street (a terrific store, BTW).
posted by jasper411 at 4:03 PM on August 3, 2007

Did you try Trout Farm in Berkeley?
You might also consider going out to the Alameda Antique Fair and chatting up some of the dealers there. There are quite a few mid-Century dealers there. It's the first Sunday of the month, so you can go this weekend!
posted by otherwordlyglow at 4:23 PM on August 3, 2007

But yeah, looking at the Flilckr set, it seems pretty easy to do as jamaro suggests.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 4:25 PM on August 3, 2007

Thanks Jamaro. I fancy myself a bit of a fixit dude, so maybe I'll try to ruin fix it myself before handing it over to someone else. If all it takes is glue and clamps I'm going to have to punish myself somehow for waiting this long.

The thing about the referrals is that I had called places that sold furniture like mine and they wouldn't refer me to anybody, hence the "sekrit repairman" thing. :)
posted by rhizome at 4:50 PM on August 3, 2007

Rhizome, that break looks quite easy to fix, though I might be missing something.

Does this sound right: The rails were held together with dowels, which have come out of their holes. Also, the wood is broken in one place, but there are no missing pieces.

If that's the case, then jamaro is right. I suggest you bring your pictures to Cole Hardware and ask them what you need. Wood glue is very strong once it's cured, and if you hold the break/sections together firmly with a clamp (or sometimes even tape can work) you'll have a long-lasting repair. Clamp for 24 hours to be sure.

If there's any glue residue on the dowels, remove it by sanding before you reglue.
posted by wryly at 6:05 PM on August 3, 2007

Jamaro is right. I've got a piece of furniture that is similarly repaired, one year later no problems. I can't even see the repair.

He didn't answer your question though. Hey, you're supposed to get upset when people answer the underlying premise instead. It's somewhere in the rules, I'm sure of it.

Dealers might not have repair people. Repaired furniture would not be in new condition, and customers might be unhappy with this. I bought my now-repaired furniture for less than half price because it needed this repair. As to why you can't interest a shop in doing it, I had a friend who knows more about this thing help me (but I was sure I could fix it myself when I bought it). It took less than five minutes, including getting out the right tools for the job. Then it sat in his garage for a few days with the clamps on till the glue dried. I think the repair shops aren't interested in cluttering up the shop with such a small, low dollar job while the glue dries, and they can't really do it on sight because it needs to dry with the clamps on.

Or maybe there really is a secret furniture cabal that all the furniture people on CL belong to, and they aren't responding to your post because they fear getting the legs broken on their antique chairs.
posted by yohko at 6:52 PM on August 3, 2007

Talk to the proprietors of Zonal in Hayes Valley. Their slogan is: "Never restore, always repair". It's been in the neighborhood since before the freeway came down, and its run by friendly people, who were genuinely interested in my early 1900's Morris chair.
posted by toxic at 10:10 AM on August 4, 2007

Sorry -- I do actually know an answer to part of your question.

Furniture repair people call what they do "restoration." They make a living fixing and sprucing up pieces that are valuable to the owners; thus, they can charge a lot. Restorers are probably assuming that their quote will be too high for you and for that particular piece, and that they'll have wasted their time in coming to your place to see the daybed. If the person came and did the repair at your place, you'd know how little time it actually took and you'd be angry about how much you had to pay them. A handyperson can make 75 bucks or more an hour, but he or she is not going to want to come to your house for an hour when there's an entire morning's work elsewhere. (A handyperson would be able and willing to fix your daybed if they were already at your place doing a bigger job.)

I can empathize with your frustration. I've experienced similar baloney several times when I've needed work done and it was "too small a job."
posted by wryly at 10:26 AM on August 4, 2007

For those still paying attention I'll address a few bits above.

It's actually broken out on two corners. It's not that the dowels slipped out, they were wrenched out by someone sitting on it...wrong...and folding the legs (which attach to these rails) underneath. there is no cracking on the mating surfaces of these two corners. Basically, one of the sides of the rectangle was twisted out of both of its joints. I did clamp and glue the cracked parts on Saturday, it looks okay so I think I'll try reassembling it this week.

I've seen lesser (but maybe more famously-branded) versions of these daybeds go for more than I paid for two of them, so I'm concerned about the quality of the repair, but really it doesn't sound like there's much to worry about there and a repair is a restoration all the same. That's fine, and I'm willing to pay for it.
posted by rhizome at 5:18 PM on August 6, 2007

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