Abbey Group

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When our oak dining table was damaged during our move we didn’t for a minute think that anyone would be able to restore it to its former state. The table was a wedding present, and so we are thrilled that you have not only repaired the damage so well that we can’t even tell where it was, but the table looks better than it has in years. I’m sure we’ll be back in future, and will be recommending your restoration services to our friends

James and Vanessa McNiven, Toft, Cambs

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Fire and flood

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Antique Furniture Restoration

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Terminology of antique furniture restoration

20th November 2014

 

The pieces that turn up for antique furniture restoration can date back three or more centuries, and part of the skill of the modern restorer is to use modern techniques to restore or repair 17th, 18th or 19th century pieces. Alternatively, today’s furniture restorers may have had to learn processes that their grandfathers and great grandfathers would have used, in order to achieve a finish that is both authentic and does justice to the original workmanship of centuries ago.

 

This has led to a language that mirrors both 18th century workmanship and 21st century development. Here are some of the key terms that you will encounter in the field of antique furniture restoration.

 

Common Terminology used in Antique Furniture Restoration

 

Conservation: Detail-oriented process designed to preserve as much original finish and materials as possible while bringing the piece back to as close to its original condition as possible.

 

Finish Restoration: This is the ultimate aim of the antique furniture restorer – to bring an existing piece of furniture back to life. The years of accumulated dirt and grime are removed. The process also involves re-emulsifying the original finish to protect the item in the future. This is done using either shellac – a tough, naturally-produced resin – or varnish. If the finish is very thin, additional layers of the same finish may be applied to bolster the restored finish and ensure longevity. Finish restoration results in an original finish rating: for example, 85% of the original finish remains. The more original finish that remains, the more the value of the antique is retained.

 

Gilding: The application of gold leaf to an object, generally to wood or metal.

 

Inlay: This is the process of setting pieces of wood, ivory, metal, stone or other materials into the surface of a piece of furniture, generally at the same level as the surface, to establish a decorative pattern.

 

Preservation: this process is usually used on museum pieces, for furniture that is for home use a restoration process is more appropriate. Preservation is the process of stopping or slowing deterioration. It does not usually involve actual restoration or attempts to return the piece to its original condition. Damage and finish deterioration are left intact, but prevented from going further. In most cases this is a chemical process that prevents further oxidation of the wood and metals, and in addition adds moisture to the existing finish.

 

Refinishing: This refers to the process of removing a finish and replacing it with another. As the process diminishes the antique value of the piece significantly, it should be avoided at all costs. Refinishing will often be needed if a particularly bad repair or restoration job has been carried out previously.

 

Repair: This is often necessary with pieces that are broken or have lost their functionality. It involves the physical structural replacement or reinforcement of parts of the original piece. This may involve the addition of new materials altered to appear aged or the application of antique materials to improve appearance of repair and preserve as much value as possible.

 

Restoration: Bringing a piece back to close to its original condition including structural and finish repairs.

 

Stripping: Avoid stripping antiques at almost any cost, stripping in its true sense involves dipping the piece in a chemical bath that will remove finish, patina, and in some cases the glue holding the piece together. A stripped antique is truly stripped, mainly of its value and certainly of its original look. Veneering may peel, joints will swell or break apart, and the piece usually has to be completely rebuilt. This applies in cases where someone has stripped the piece in the past and applied inappropriate finishes that must be removed.

 

 

Veneer: A thin surface layer, usually fine wood, that will be adhered to a substrate of less valuable or inferior wood. May also be horn, ivory or a host of other materials. 

 

 

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