If the antique writing desk you choose is in need of some tender, loving care consider some of the following tips to restoring an antique writing desk. Done properly, restoring an antique can increase its value. Done incorrectly, restoring an antique can diminish or eliminate its value. Full restoration of an antique is a last resort and requires a bit of judgment and discernment on the part of the antique owner.
First, determine the origins of the writing desk. Take down a good description of any carvings present, the overall craftsmanship of the wood and the finish and any other details that might help identify the piece. This includes a history such as who bought it from where and when they bought it. Examine the desk for any stamps or markings that identify either the craftsman or the date of origin. Take this information to a furniture restoration expert or a museum curator and come to a consensus. If the antique writing desk is a rarity, leave it alone or have it done professionally to maintain its value.
If the desk is antique but relatively common the next best approach is a minimally invasive restoration. Give the desk a thorough cleaning, retighten any loose screws, and dab some glue in the joints if they are coming apart. Make the desk presentable without resorting to a makeover. Collectors of antiques appreciate the most original conditions possible even if it is not a rare antique.
If restoration work turns out to be necessary, evaluate the finish and keep the existing if it is at all possible. A detailed cleaning and a fresh coat of wax can rejuvenate the look. If the finish is cracking, peeling, flaking, or sticky after cleaning it needs to be replaced by stripping the finish. To clean the furniture start by applying a mild solution of soap and water with a clean cotton cloth, rotating the cloth frequently to avoid smudging dirt into the finish. Wipe dry with a clean cotton cloth. Avoid cleaning areas where bare (unfinished) wood is exposed. If the finish is coming off, stop cleaning and switch to a solvent based cleaner to avoid damaging exposed wood.
Talking to museum curators or furniture restoration experts or finding books in your local library can provide good tips to restoring an antique writing desk, but if ever you are in doubt remember than in restoring furniture less can actually be more.