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Restoring an antique piece of furniture takes time, patience, and a vision of what your piece could be. We often hear about heirloom pieces of furniture, or antiques that have been recently purchased, with a desire to restore them. We hear about disasters from nail polish, water rings, or just wear and tear form years of use. Ultimately, the conversation usually ends in "how can I restore it", or "is it worth fixing up?"
There can be a lot of satisfaction in restoring antique furniture. I like to imagine what the piece was once like when it was new. I think about the craftsmanship it took to make all the parts, and what it took to fit them together perfectly, without the modern tools we have today. It must have taken some time and patience; hand sanding, smoothing, and turning pieces out. You can feel the sense of pride that the craftsmen took in making a high quality piece of solid furniture, and the happiness the new owners must have gotten from placing it in their home.
So how do I know if I should restore my antique?
We have compiled a list of questions to help you answer that.
1. Is there a natural beauty to the wood?
Most antique furniture will be constructed from solid hardwoods, or have high end veneers. Once you have a good idea what type of wood your piece is constructed of, you can get a better idea what the finished restoration might look like. Oak is the most common, but mahogany, walnut, and poplar are very common. If your antique is painted, it might be worth stripping the paint in a small area to see what your working with, before tackling the whole piece.
2. Is the design pleasing?
There are all kinds of looks and stiles to old furniture. Figure out what designs you like, and the general era of the piece. Some styles are more popular than others, but if your using it for your own home, as long as you like it, go for it!
3. Do you have a purpose for it in your home?
To fully feel the satisfaction of restoring your own furniture, you want to make sure you have a place in your home to use it, enjoy it, and show it off! Don't be afraid to use your antique for things that are different from what they are intended. Currently I am using an old wash stand for a TV stand.
4. Is it well constructed?
This is a question that could also be asked, "would it be well constructed, once glued back together?" Vintage furniture should have nice joints, strong construction, and quality materials. We have restored furniture that appeared to be strong when we purchased it, but after stripping off the paint, we found the paint was the only thing holding it together. However, due to strong joinery, it glued together nicely to make a solid piece of furniture.
5. Can missing parts and damaged pieces be easily and inexpensively repaired or replaced?
The nice thing about working with wood, is that it is readily available. However, it may take some special tools to recreate parts, along with the skills to make pieces without patterns or plans. New or replacement hardware is often expensive, and finding a matching handle, for the one your missing is nearly impossible!
6. Will the restored piece cost less than an equivalent new piece or build?
If money is no object for you, don't worry about this. For everyone else, the process can add up. You will want to consider the purchase price, stripper, sand paper, stains, varnishes, paint brushes, rags, and any tools that you might need to complete the restoration.
7. Is there sentimental value to you or your family?
This is sometimes the only thing that matters. Having a legacy piece of furniture that can be passed on is valuable. Once you lose that heirloom piece, it can't be replaced. This is often the single reason enough to tackle a restoration.
8. Does the piece need restoration or a good cleaning?
If you can clean it, and save the original color, finish and look, congratulations, you have something that you can enjoy without spending hours and extra money. Sometimes when you pull a piece of furniture out of a barn, and it has been protected from daily wear, a good soapy water scrub will make it look great!
What we believe.
At Revival Wood Works, we believe in preserving the quality craftsmanship in these old pieces of furniture. Original is always best. Paint and glue/stickers can often ruin the wood grain and make it unrestorable to the original finish. We don't recommend paint. Ever. But if you do, think about the work it will take to bring it back to the original design. If you ever want to take that piece back to the way it was when grandma had it, it will take some work. Preserving these old pieces takes a skill. Original finishes will always be in style. Painted trends will come and go.
If you have specific questions about a piece of furniture, give us a call. I would love to see what your working with and hear the story behind it.