The Keck Group has been specializing in on site refinishing since the mid 60’s when most of the finish removal and the application of new finishes were accomplished by hand.
Over the past 30 years we’ve honed our on site skills by refinishing the woodwork in many of our nations landmark buildings, including three state capitols, Federal courthouses, museums and colleges around the country. Experience has helped us develop the technical awareness needed to complete our latest challenge yet at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey.
Refinishing of the Basilica's woodwork in progress.
The woodwork surrounding the sanctuary is two feet deep, with a triple layer of carvings extending to a height of 15 feet. When constructed, the woodwork was carved separately, then finished and joined. Applying the finish originally was not difficult. Refinishing, however, because of the inability to separate the three sections proved extremely difficult and bought all of the Keck professional knowledge into play. Not only did the finishes in the recesses have to be completely removed, but the new stain and finish had to be applied evenly to these recessed areas.
Bob Koeck standing next to the nave walls
To add to the difficulty, the original stain was limed oak, which is a greenish/milky finish popular in the late 40’s and early 50’s, and particularly hard to remove. And, if the finish is not completely removed, the new stain has a tendency to be absorbed unevenly (Most finishers hide this unevenness by adding color to the finish.) All of the finishing on this project was accomplished with clear pre-catalyzed top coats.
The woodwork along the nave walls and surrounding the decorative marble Stations of the Cross also presented challenges because of the intricate carvings, statues, and grape entablature along the top of the ten foot high panels.