Bring Your Antique Furniture Back to Life
If you have just found an old antique piece of furniture in your attic or basement or have recently bought one, the most obvious thing you would want to do with it is clean it. For most of us it does not stop with that. There is a number of things we can do to restore at least some of its good looks.
The first practice that should be mentioned is refinishing. This procedure is not as common as it used to be some time ago. It involves stripping the old finish and painting a new one. Some furniture pieces deserve this kind of treatment but most don’t. If in doubt, you can get some expert advice on whether this treatment is worth it. Mass made factory products are certainly worth more with a new finish rather than with a chapped and ugly original factory lacquer surface.
Re-coating is a much better practice, even though it’s equally time and energy consuming. For this process you have to clean and wash the wood with soap and water. Wax and oils are removed with mineral spirits. Disassembling the furniture piece for this purpose is a must. The most important part is determining what finish to use.
Knowing what sticks to the given surface is crucial. Urethane, lacquer, shellac and varnish stick to any cleaned oil surface. A shellac surface sticks to an old shellac but not urethane or varnish. Familiarize yourself with this before starting to work on the piece. A rubbed-oil finish for hardwood such as walnut, oak, teak and maple is a simple and appealing option. It’s much easier to get the stunning looks that you want this way. Varnish has a toxic smell and a glossy final look.
Try finding the best option for your piece because this will make maintaining it much easier. Maintaining an oil finish on a piece is fairly simple. Use coasters on table surfaces since they are susceptible to rings. You can reapply the oil occasionally to keep the oil finish resilient. It may be useful to know that between coats of oil finish, a quick and thorough scrub with ultra fine steel wool allows the wood to absorb more oil – it opens the wood pores and enhances the final finish.
Reconditioning involves most treatments that were mentioned earlier concerning refinishing, with the addition of lightly sanding the old surface in the end. This removes imperfections, as well as the oxidized finish, and smooths out the surface. You should clean it with a tack rag, and then apply a coat of oil based stain uniformly over the piece. Be careful to remove it before it dries. You can apply a couple of coats of stain again until you achieve the desired effect.
There are other materials, like bamboo, wicker, paper cord or rattan that you may need to work on. This procedure is simple and will give you the satisfaction of reviving that rattan chair you found in the garage that is perfect for your desk. Clearly finished rattan is cleaned with a soft-bristle brush and clean water, and should be left to dry after you’re done.
Dull rattan finish should be refinished with clear spray lacquer or wiped down with lemon oil. Wicker should be treated like this as well, but it can be washed with soapy water, and then allowed to dry. Then it can be touched up or re-sprayed. Paper cord generally shouldn’t get wet. Use a soft bristle brush to clean between the cords. Leaving woven seats outdoors for long periods of time may damage them. Sealing the surfaces to protect them from stains and spills is a good idea.
Upholstery is very important. The first thing that you should probably do once you have bought a chair is to determine which style it belongs to. You should try to find the best pattern and fabric that fits with its style. It is always the best to choose a professional upholsterer. You may be surprised by the fact that your chairs have been upholstered a couple of times prior to your attempt. This is because most 19th century furniture can still be used and has been made to last.
At the time these chairs were made, upholstery was far from conservative. Polka dots and zebra patterns were quite common. Today you can also find many factories that reproduce these materials, but they are more expensive. Just in case, you should always purchase a little bit more upholstery material than you have measured. Patterned fabric requires matching so you will need to acquire more of it.
If a professional upholsterer did this for you then that should be the exact measure. Antique restoration professionals emphasize that if there is a need to do wood restoration on your chairs you should do this prior to sending your chairs for upholstering. Anything you try to do after you have the new upholstery on them could easily damage the fabric.
By purchasing and doing all this remaking to the furniture, be it tables, desks, chests or chairs, you will have the pleasure of using beautiful and comfortable pieces that you have put your mark on.