The Altar is the centerpiece of the Portsmouth Masonic Temple Lodge room.  Over the years it has suffered significant “wear and tear” that calls for some restoration work.  Early in April of 2011, the altar was sent out to be stripped of its finish.  Afterwards, it was transferred to the shop of Brother Tom Hand where he and Brother Rod  MacDonald began repair and restoration work.

The restoration project can be followed below.  New postings will be added as the project progresses.

The lodge room altar

Damage and wear to the finish can be seen in a number of places.

Parts of the base showed significant damage to the corners and edges

The altar arrives in Brother Tom Hand's shop after being stripped of its old finish

Brother Tom Hand (left) and Brother Rod MacDonald begin the long process of detail scraping and sanding

Repairs had to be made as damaged or missing pieces were discovered during the initial stages of restoring the woodwork.

The altar's base shows a fair amount of damage from chipping, denting, and gouging.

Detail scraping and sanding completed on one column (bottom, front) revealed the rich mahogany stock that was used in the original making of the altar

Brother Tom Hand works to refinish the altars intricate "swag" carvings

The swag carvings appear on the front and back panels of the altar. Both received only very light sanding and scraping so as to preserve the intricate carving's details.

The dovetails appearing below the swag carvings on the front side of the altar were missing (scraping revealed the outline of the dovetails location). Tom matched, carved, and glued new dovetails to fit in place of missing the ones .

The altar with all detail scraping and sanding, and repairs completed.

Certain edge areas at the top and base of the altar were rounded, worn, or "dinged" to a point repair was not feasible. The decision was made to clad these areas in brass trim - not only to cover the damage, but also to offer better protection to the edge areas. Twelve foot sections of brass bar and half-round stock were obtained for making brass edging pieces.

Rod begins surfacing and polishing the brass stock

The top edge of the altar's top was routed to receive two-inch wide flat brass trim. The trim was set with an epoxy compound and clamped to hold it in position until the compound hardened.

Recessed brass as the new edge of the altar's top

The brass miter joints were smoothed, detailed, and polished

Four inch mitered brass flat stock being fit as a protective edge to the base of the altar

Mitered half-round brass stock is pinned to the face of the altar to form both a protective and decorative edge

Completed top edge

Close-up of completed brass work on altar top

Protective brass stock installed on base

Two coats of dye were applied to the area above the brass base strip to enhance the mahogany finish and help blend in repairs

The altar with a full first coat of finish. Because the base is a poplar wood that does not match the mahogany finish, it has been painted a colonial red that compliments the mahogany sections of the altar (all sections of the base below the brass strip will be covered by the cushions that surround the altar)

Each coat of varnish is buffed before another is applied

The brass dedication at the base of the altar, which was heavily tarnished and scratched, had to be removed, cleaned, polished, and buffed.

Tom begins applying another coat of finishing varnish

Detailing work

Waxed, polished, and ready to "go home!"