Restoring old wood pieces is a family tradition for James Vanderlin of the James Vanderlin Co. He founded what actually are two companies under one roof - Vantiques Restorations and Nippon Panels.
The former accountant's interest in woodworking was piqued while growing up in Newberry and spending time with his grandfather on his mother's side, Stan Rudinski.
Rudinski worked at the Armour Leather Company, but repaired and refinished old furniture in his spare time.
"I have a table that he actually made from the floor boards of the tannery," said Vanderlin. "His finish has held up quite well after all these years."
Vanderlin graduated from Kings College in 1975, with a degree in accounting and then worked as an accountant for several years.
In 1982, he opened his first shop on Arch Street called Vantiques Restorations.
After 30 years of being in the business, Vanderlin is the guy people call for help and instruction.
He's also the one people call for projects that require special skills. Vanderlin worked with designer Bob Esposito on an extremely complicated Millionaires' Row house.
This project required many hours of trial and error and research to get the mix of 100-year-old cabinets and new moldings just right.
"Williamsport has beautiful historic architecture and a renaissance of artists and craftsmen in this area that is exciting to be a part of," said Vanderlin. "We're on the path to becoming one of the Best Little Art Towns in America and I believe that those of us who are working in wood crafts are adding to that journey."
He once painted a rosewood grain on a newly carved pine piano leg that was shaped like an elephant leg going through the jungle grasses.
"After the finish was applied, you couldn't tell the original rosewood legs from my grained one," said Vanderlin. "I have even 'grained' metal doors from Lowe's to look like they are wooden doors."
Pianos are a big part of the business. The Robert M. Sides Family Music Center and the James Vanderlin Co. have a symbiotic relationship with Vanderlin having restored Steinway pianos for the company for three decades.
"Piano restoration requires painstaking attention to detail, unforgiving finish quality and many restoration steps," said Vanderlin. "There are not many folks who have our expertise in piano restoration."
Pianos make up a quarter of the business, furniture restoration makes up 50 percent, with plaques, kitchen restoration, doors, church pews, smoke/fire/water damage, custom picture frames, memorabilia shadow boxes, habitat bases and structural repairs constituting the remainder of the business.
The company works with items as big as a large organ that once belonged to actor Jack Palance, who starred in "Blazing Saddles" all the way down to tiny gargoyles found on Victorian furniture and home molding.
Vanderlin and his team want their work to stand the test of time for generations.
"To us pride in a job well done is not 'old fashioned,' it is the way we do business," said Vanderlin. "We have testimonials on our website, but if anyone wants to talk with a former customer we can put them in touch with someone who has a project similar to theirs. After 30 years of service we have pretty good references."
When asked why people should restore antique or broken furniture when there are so many inexpensive options for purchasing new furniture, Vanderlin had a lot to say in favor of restoration.
"Not only is restoration more cost-effective and a great method of preserving family history, but it is also a green choice because it reduces refuse," said Vanderlin. "You can replace your refrigerator but you cannot replace Grandma's rocker."
Vintage furniture usually is very well built with real wood versus the pressed-wood that a lot of new furniture is made from. A lot of the restoration work requires old-fashioned glazes and alcohol stains for historic items or a more durable modern finish when needed.
"When working with pieces of woodwork or furniture that can be 150 years old we sometimes have to incorporate the technology of today with the hand tools of yesteryear," said Vanderlin. "We might have to have custom-made carving knives crafted for use on a project. When it comes to finishing wood to give it a lustrous, glossy finish, our finishes are all state of the art."
Some of the projects that have benefited from Vanderlin's expertise are the YWCA doors (with Marqerite Bierman); First National Bank's historic mail slot system; 711 W. Fourth St. doors on Millionaires' Row; 514 W. Fourth St. kitchen (also on Millionaires' Row); Marsha Miele and Bob Ellion's kitchen in their historic home on West Fourth Street; and several items of furniture from the Park Home, including one table presently on display in the Taber Museum.
To find out more about the James Vanderlin Co.'s services, visit www.jamesvanderlin.com, check out their current projects on Facebook under "The James Vanderlin Co.," stop by the shop, 124 Reynolds St., South Williamsport, or call 570-326-4258.