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Antique Furniture Restoration Tips

The most important of the antique furniture restoration tips?  

Plan Ahead!!

details of an antique chest before restoration

Check moving parts:

Take stock - have a good look at your piece of antique furniture - what needs to be done?

Make a list.

Inspect all sides, not forgetting underneath, for structural damage.

  • Feet? - loose, wood worm or missing?
  • Mouldings or beadings - are they all there or broken?
  • Sides or top split?
  • Drawers - take them out - bottom boards all there? - loose sides etc.
  • Inside the carcass - loose runners, glue blocks?
  • Backboards.
  • Other structural problems such as loose joints, top lifting etc.
  • Veneer lifting, bubbles, missing etc.
  • Hardware - locks, handles, hinges, escutcheons...
  • Cupboard doors - warped - loose joints - hinges etc

Superficial problems  such as:   deep scratches, dents, splits etc

Identify the finish.

Identify the wood.

Antique Furniture Restoration tips
= Plan Ahead!

Refinishing tips - runners over used

You have your list of things to be repaired?

Now it is time to decide in which order.

Decide if the piece is to be just cleaned or stripped.

I find doing all the structural repairs first - before stripping or cleaning is normally the best.


  • If stripping - remove all hardware - mark and bag it - so you know where it belongs.
  • If just cleaning and you want to leave the Patina - it might be best not to remove fittings - remember that built up dirt around the handles is to be seen as positive.
  • When removing hardware - go very slowly protecting the wood where ever possible with cardboard or cloth etc - to avoid slipping screwdrivers.
  • If you are dismantling - mark every piece where it won't be seen - so you know where it all belongs - remember once you have glued it together it is not so easy to take apart again.
  • You might want to take photos or draw a diagram so you can fit it all together again.
  • Mark door fillings or panels - 'top' 'left' 'right' - why? Because they are often mirrored to match - and it will look very strange if they are put back in the wrong order.
  • The same goes for drawers - mark every piece so you know which belongs to which drawer.
  • It's best to do one drawer at a time - so you can't mix the parts up!
  • Missing veneer can be replaced or glued back in.
  • If stripping a veneered piece - try gluing down bubbles directly afterwards - the glue will be softened and might reset.
  • If stripping - remove mouldings where possible but if they are not loose and easy to remove - leave them alone.
  • If stripping - use a way to mark pieces that won't come off during the process!
  • If cleaning - do all veneer repairs beforehand. Deep scratches and other problems can be done also.
  • This will help them not show up so much afterwards.

Lovely Antique Chest repaired and refinished

The little chest shown here had to be taken to pieces and put back together again - there were some major veneer repairs, all the runners were replaced and then it was polished up to a nice shine.  A lovely end result!


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Related Pages

Polishing

Furniture Restoration

Removing Hardware

Refinishing

Paint Stripping