Antiques Restorers

Amongst the emails I receive from readers, one of the most frequent requests is to recommend an antique furniture restorer. I know a number of quality restorers whom I am happy to recommend, but I always advise interstate or international enquirers to seek out their local antiques dealers association for guidance or a list of approved service providers. There are many high street operators whose profession is working with antique furniture, but there are precious few professionals who are conversant with, or competent enough to work on fine antique furniture.

The painted pine blanket chest below (figs. 1 & 2) doesn’t qualify as a fine antique, nor has it huge monetary worth, but it has nonetheless, obvious age to it and was of immense value to the historical society that owns it.


Fig. 1. Pine blanket chest with original painted exterior.


Fig. 2. Lovely old dry pine interior surfaces and original forged hinges.

The professionals entrusted with the restoration of the blanket chest have no affiliation with any antiques association – or any form of accreditation for that matter. They also restore lawn mowers.

The chest was mechanically sanded to remove the paint before being stained bright red (inside and out) and finished with shellac (fig. 3).


Fig. 3. Red-stained and shiny pine chest.


Fig. 4. Minute swirls created by an orbital sander.

Not once in four decades of restoring furniture did I resort to sanding a patinated surface: If I had done, someone would have taken a blunderbuss to me!

Along with the inappropriate and unsympathetic handles, a decision was made to remove the original handmade iron hinges and replace them with totally inappropriate wire loop hinges. However, instead of making up a set of wire loops from a nice bit of rusty old fence wire, four shiny new zinc-plated split pins were fitted through hastily bored holes. It’s bad enough that split pins were employed in the first instance, but their ends weren’t knocked back into the pine and the holes through which they were inserted were left raw (fig. 5).


Fig. 5. Botched wire loop hinge.

It is not my objective to identify the perpetrators of this abominable work; I merely wish to alert owners of antiques who are considering having them restored, to the perils of engaging unqualified restorers.

Australian Antique & Art Dealers Association list of approved service providers.

The British Antique Furniture Restorers’ Association.

The Art and Antique Dealers League of America, Inc.

Confédération Internationale des Négociants en Oeuvres d’Art.

Jack Plane


About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
This entry was posted in Antiques, Furniture Restoration and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Antiques Restorers

  1. hughjengine says:

    Gordon Bennett!


  2. confur says:

    Lovely job, also concerned about the lawn mowers.
    A number of good restorers/conservators do little trade work, also many dealers will not pass on the details as they wish to “protect” their commercial interests. I know one dealer who would refer, possibly “silly” requests to a well known, very expensive, pirate.
    Local museums and historical societies can often help.
    Bafra are a pretty exclusive lot and there has never been an association here in Oz, as far as I know.


  3. Eric R says:

    A tragedy and a unfortunate lesson.


  4. John Wolf says:

    Most of the (relatively recent) antiques see that people would like to have re finished are really just rather grubby and would look good with the surface cleaned. Any suggestions on cleaning agents or processes? The most interesting case was a wood bodied 1880’s threshing machine, which had the original paint, lettering and pinstriping under all that goop.


    • Jack Plane says:

      The public’s expectations are often skewed when it comes to antiques and having them restored. I always ask what it is they want from a piece of furniture. In most instances, I convince them to do nothing at all and learn to appreciate the piece as it is.

      I really can’t go into the processes of cleaning antiques within the confines of a blog post: If I recommend a basic water-based solution which is superb for non-porous polished surfaces, someone flicking through the internet will read it as being the best concoction for their fragile painted surface with disastrous results. I would need to dedicate at least a chapter of a book to the subject.



  5. bsrlee says:

    I am aware of a major museum that had an ‘expert’ offer to work on their collection of antique SE Asian weapons including a number of Kris and other etched iron objects. He used an angle grinder and made everything shiny & smooth as he liked things to be. The collection is no longer displayed.


  6. Adam Palmer says:

    I’m interested in what you would do to try to salvage the blanket box in this example. Is it possible to salvage this at all?


  7. hughjengine says:

    Anywhere we can see more of their work? Its ghoulish nature is strangely compelling. Akin to the Ecce Homo (aka Ecce Mono) ‘restoration’!


    • Jack Plane says:

      These restorers showcase a number of other conquests on their site; though I get the feeling the blanket chest (which belongs to a small local historical society) is the feather in their cap.

      I’m not going to ‘out’ them though.



  8. Cleremont says:

    They didn’t even finish the job. Where is the date and the initials that, as we all know, should have been carved into the front? Buy a new lawn mower.


  9. confur says:

    Stuffed and trussed !


  10. Simon Clarke says:

    Reblogged this on clarkeltd and commented:
    That may give me nightmares.
    better to leave something un touched than do that.

    One of those “I wish I hadn’t followed that link moments.”

    We are always happy to advise and help rather than see something like this happen.

    Unfortunately there are people who are either ignorant or who don’t care out there.


  11. Pingback: Nice Work! I | Pegs and 'Tails

  12. Pingback: Nice Work! I | Pegs and 'Tails

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