Box House Antiques

Furniture Restoration – some tips

Cleaning and restoring antique furniture :

The best advice is to employ a good restorer for complex restoration but there is no reason why even the most amateur among you should not try your hand at some basic surface cleaning. If done following simple guidelines, you should not get into trouble. Surfaces of antique furniture are all important, so follow these rules carefully.

1. Carefully examine the surfaces you wish to clean, and decide if there is a surface underneath layers of dirt worth preserving. After a few hours of work you should begin to see remarkable results. Naturally there is not much you can do if you are faced with ‘french polished’ or ‘shellac’ type surfaces.

2. We are talking about ‘soft’ or waxed surfaces which have accumulated layers of dirt and grime over the years during which time the old wax polish will have long lost its effectiveness.

3. Choose the worst affected piece you can find and make a start on a relatively unimportant area. Providing the old surface is a waxed surface you will soon expose this by cautiously adhering to the following rules.

4. Many furniture restorers have their own concoctions for removing an accumulation of surface dirt and, if you are lucky enough, your local restorer may let you in on his secret.

5. The most basic cleaner consists simply of white vinegar and water. If the surface is particularly dirty, then you may only need vinegar. Try this simple mixture with cotton wool and if this does not produce results go on to something more ‘adventurous’ (See 6).

6. Mix equal quantities of raw linseed oil (also known as flax seed oil) with white spirit (turps substitute) and a teaspoon of vinegar. Mix in a bottle and shake often to prevent separation.

7. Do not try too hard to get into awkward corners but concentrate on flat surfaces. A little dirt in corners is acceptable and even can be desirable as part of the ‘character’ of the piece.

8. Go carefully and, as under 3 above, make a start in an unimportant area as a trial.

9. Buy the best beeswax available, plenty of muslins and polishing cloths. Apply wax in a circular motion, leave for no more than 30 mins and then polish. Repeat as often as possible until you get the surface you want.

10. With particularly stubborn dirt you may try wire wool but only the very finest available : 000. Go very carefully as wire wool used too vigorously can damage the surface.

11. Restoring ‘french polished’ or shellac type surfaces is more complicated and best left to a professional. Never be tempted to use readily available spray polishes, rather insist on beeswax polish from a tin.

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