Restoring old furniture is a great way to gain a connection to your family’s past through treasured heirlooms or to add old-time style and charm to your home. Antique restorers can help you with the tough jobs, but there are a few ways you can restore your antique furniture on your own.
Identifying an original finish on antique furniture is important to avoid damaging the furniture’s finish or spending time on an ineffective technique. Professional furniture refinishers can quickly identify a furniture finish and choose the right restoration technique. In general, there are three clear finishes you’ll need to be able to identify: varnish, shellac and lacquer. Other finishes are very easy to spot. Pigmented finishes, such as those made by paint or enamel are fairly easy to spot, while oil and wax finishes can be identified by touch.
By using a little denatured alcohol, you can easily distinguish among the clear finishes. Apply the alcohol to the furniture in an inconspicuous area. If the alcohol dissolves the finish, you’re dealing with shellac. If it only partially dissolves, it may be a mix of lacquer and shellac. If the finish doesn’t dissolve, apply lacquer thinner, and see whether the surface becomes rough, but then smoothes out a few minutes later. If it does, you have lacquer finish. If the finish is not affected by alcohol or thinner, it is varnish.
Once you know what type of finish you’re dealing with, you’ll need to clean the furniture. Use a mild detergent and water solution at first, and only use cleaners in dire need. Make sure to use a cleaner that is appropriate for the type of finish on the wood you’re restoring.
When the furniture is clean, you’ll need to use reamalgamation techniques to restore the original finish. Depending on the finish type, use reamalgamation solvents to liquefy the original finish and then allow the finish to redry. If your finish is compromised by severe scratches, you may have to refinish the entire piece. The type of reamagamation solvent you’ll use depends on the finish. For shellac, use denatured alcohol, for lacquer use lacquer thinner. Antique furniture with varnish finish cannot be reamalgamated, and will need to be revarnished.
Maintaining Your Restored Furniture
Once you’ve completed all the hard work involved in restoring your furniture, proper storage can keep you from having to do it again. If you don’t plan to use your restored furniture, but instead choose to store it, proper storage can protect the investment of time and money you put into refurbishing it.
Temperature is an important part of furniture maintenance. Your restored antique furniture should be kept in a room with a constant humidity ranging from 55 to 65 percent and a 70-degree temperature. Avoid storing your antique furniture in barns, shed or outside. Rent a heated or climate controlled unit for the best results.
If you’re looking for a company that does quality furniture repair, California has many skilled professionals who can take what look like lost causes and bring them back to life.
With the right care and proper storage and maintenance, you can restore beauty back into antique furniture, allowing you to resell it or enjoy it in your home for years to come.