In our previous articles in this series, we discussed the wide range of choices for upholstery design and fabrics. This month, we would like to talk about the range of approaches that exist to renew the appearance of your wooden furniture.
When dealing with blemishes such as scratches, dents, or faded and worn finish, you want a professional that can assess your piece of furniture and decide upon the right technique and materials. Here’s an inside look into the way a restoration professional would go about deciding how to renew your furniture.
Cleaning: Wood furniture, especially chairs, can develop a thick coating over time. Chairs are commonly waxed to protect them and give them a sheen. However, if the old coating is not removed before the chair is re-waxed, a buildup of wax will inevitably develop on the surface. Dirt buildup can also come from hands as well as fats in the air in a kitchen environment. (The other day, as we were regluing chairs that were brought in to be strengthened, we noticed a thick black buildup on the back of a chair. As a complimentary service, we took turpentine and cleaned the wax buildup. It was amazing to see what a difference it made. The once opaque finish became translucent and clear.)
The cleaning process is not always easy. It can sometimes take an hour to scrub a chair to remove the buildup, especially if there are carvings and crevices that require small brushes. However, it is well worth the investment to renew your quality furniture. The thick buildup is also completely avoidable by regularly cleaning your furniture, preferably with a damp cloth and nothing more unless needed. It is a good thing to remember that wood is a living thing and the finish on high-end and old furniture is often organic too. It is not plastic and it is not glass. While it doesn’t demand constant attention, it will be much happier if cared for from time to time.
Light Sanding and Staining: In order to restore your furniture’s surface and color, we can employ light sanding and light staining. Light sanding removes residue and dirt, helps to level out surface texture, and prepares the surface for an even application of the stain. The stain color should match the color of the furniture to add richness and vitality without altering the original color. We use many different stain types to suit varied finishes. When applied properly, the staining blends in seamlessly, resulting in a fresher look with new vitality. Often a top coat of finish is applied as well, we decide on which type in accordance with the type of finish on the piece.
Local Touch-up: Most people are unaware that surface scratches, holes, dents, missing wood and an array of other cosmetic damage can be touched-up so that it almost disappears, using high-end techniques that can often be employed in the customer’s home. We recently saved a beautiful wall-length built-in bookcase by using a special colored filler and top coat to repair scratches and dents caused by someone leaning back in a recliner chair, thus providing a visually beautiful bookcase and peace of mind to our client. Other times it might be better to accept the damage as part of the personality of the piece. Either way, it’s important to know that almost all cosmetic blemishes are curable.
Traditional finishes: With modern finishes, there is very little that can be done to renew the finish itself. As stated above, light sanding, staining and a new top coat are often good enough to get good results. In contrast to the traditional organic finishes such as French polish or shellac, hardening oils such as linseed and tung oils, as well as wax finishes, lend themselves to repair far more readily. Shellac in particular lets the new coats melt and bond with the original shellac allowing a competent worker to renew and repair damage to a shellac finish effectively. It was once common practice to re-polish the furniture with shellac. We stock over 12 types of different shellacs, 4 types of oils and various waxes to allow us to appropriately tackle the finish on antique furniture.
We choose between these and other tools to create a touched-up effect. As opposed to refinishing furniture by stripping it down to the wood and making it new, touching up can refresh and revive the furniture less expensively, and it can be done in our workshop or in the customer’s home.
While refinishing gives you ultimate control, the touch-up technique is often more practical and economical. It is commonly done for larger pieces of furniture like buffets, breakfronts, or antiques and is considered very appropriate as the need for cosmetic work is there but not the need for total refinishing. In the end the work is non-invasive and the overall appearance of the piece will be corrected and enhanced.
The professional staff of Restorno will be happy to answer any questions that you have in the areas of upholstery, furniture repairs and restoration. Your questions can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org, and may be published in an upcoming issue of Bizness.