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 surfaces.
Fig. 2. Lovely old dry pine interior surfaces.
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 handmade iron hinges and replace them with 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.