By Michael Gelbwasser, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Dilapidated chairs find their way into Northborough resident Forest Lyford’s basement woodworking workshop and are helping Northborough groups raise funds during this holiday season.
Lyford, a retired hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, repairs chairs and, often, replaces their weaving.
This fall, he donated one of his projects to the Friends of the Northborough Senior Center for the raffle at its Nov. 22 Country Store Fair.
He also is supporting the Trinity Church of Northborough. Anyone wanting one of his chairs should donate their perceived value of the chair to the church, he said, adding that he first donated the proceeds of his refurbished chairs to the church four years ago, as a fundraiser for a stair lift.
He estimated he has repaired eight to 12 chairs, “exclusively for members of the church,” who then donated, he believes, $40 to $50 per chair.
Lyford noted that woodworking has been a hobby for most of his life.
Ten years ago, he also began caning, which he describes as “weaving strands of rattan, made from a vine that grows mainly in the Philippines, to form a chair seat or back.”
“Several years ago, my mother’s dining room set needed repairs. So, I basically dismantled that chair set and reassembled it,” recalled Lyford, a member of the Trinity Church and the membership chair of the Friends of the Northborough Seniors Board of Directors.
“Then, one day, I found a chair beside the road that needed caning. I thought, ‘This might be an opportunity to learn how to cane.’ There’s something gratifying about taking a piece of junk and disassembling it and putting it back together.”
He continued: “Some of these pieces, like this rocking chair, are works of art, at least in my eyes. So, after I work on them, I’ll put them on display in the living room for a while, just to enjoy the craftsmanship.”
The chairs come from a variety of sources.
In one case, a friend found one “in a recycle bin over in Southborough,” he said. Another chair came from a friend who “found it in her attic. She didn’t have any use for it.”
Lyford said he’s in his workshop a couple of hours each day.
“I like to have one [project] going all the time,” Lyford explained. “Typically, I’ll dismantle the chair. If it has broken parts, I’ll either repair those broken parts or replace them and put it back into shape to as close as possible to what it was originally.”
Craft supply stores sell the materials, however, Lyford orders from a supplier. Caning comes in about seven sizes.
“It depends on the distance between the holes,” he said.
Lyford tries to restore the chairs “as close as possible” to their original appearance.
“Typically, the chairs are in good enough shape so I can pretty much guess what they should look like,” he said.
Some of Lyford’s restored chairs have found new homes.
One friend was looking “an eclectic mix of chairs for her dining room. So, she came and selected a bunch that I’d done” and stored in his attic, he said.
“My daughter has a couple of friends, on two occasions, looking for chairs to help furnish an apartment. So, I just donated some chairs for that cause,” Lyford noted.
Besides the Trinity Church and the Friends of the Northborough Seniors, Lyford is a member of the Northborough Historical Society, leads weekly hikes at the senior center, and has been active with the local trails committee for 12 years.
“I try to stay busy,” he said. “This keeps my hands busy, the chair repair.”