When an antique furniture piece is restored, it often loses all value. This is a very hard concept for many people to understand. As our current generation adds or subtracts from the original work from a master crafts person, this is like painting a neon mustache onto the Mona Lisa painting that Leonardo da Vinci created during the 16th century. Our current neon paint may be fashionable, but it would change the work of a master.
True antique furniture pieces were created over a 100 years ago. The wood was taken from very old trees and will show a different pattern than our quick-growth varieties today. Furniture finishes were created through different processes than our mass produced varieties on the marketplace today. As an example, when a real fruit finish is removed from an 1820?s Duncan Phyfe table, it can never be replaced. A new finish will always be a neon mustache where the old patina of an aged fruit finish should be.
The art of restoration includes consideration towards the act of preservation. Everything that we do to a treasured piece of antique wood furniture today should be of a nature that is easy for a future generation to reverse. Refinishing wood is not an act of restoration or preservation; this is a permanent change being made to a valuable antique. Refinished wood pieces have their place in an active family home, and this process is fine to attempt on wood furniture that is not designated as an investment or family heirloom to savor.
Antique furniture pieces with scrolls and inlays will often have missing or broken small parts that must be replaced to restore the original visual beauty. For inlays, the professional restoration services will often try to find vintage materials to use that will match the age of the item. Tiny pieces of period veneers or shells will be carefully shaped to match the other pieces that are still attached to the furniture. These replacement pieces are attached with methods that can be removed easily later when our global technology advances into an era that can recreate the exact pieces that were once on the furniture. Missing scrolled parts are recreated through a mold process. A compound like clay is pressed against an existing scroll that must be duplicated in order to make a mold. This mold is then filled with plaster or a compound that can be used like wood when it is dry. The plaster part is then shipped to a high-quality woodworker for an exact duplicate to be created out of wood. Or, the simulated wood product that comes out of the mold is used on the antique furniture where it is needed.
Whenever possible, simply give your antique furniture piece a good cleaning and a rub with a light-oil based product. The older furniture can still be lovely to use with all of the original character flaws showing. With the older pieces of antique furniture, it is always better to leave everything alone if retaining value is an important issue in your family.
About the Author: Kay Davenport writes for Antique Furniture, her personal hobby blog focused on experiences related to antique furniture restoration. She helps her family and friends to learn how to restore and evaluate their antique pieces.