Abbey Group

People are talking!

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

We have extensive experience of providing restoration and repair from fire, flood and accidental damage.

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Bespoke furniture

Our craftsmen create bespoke furniture to meet your exact needs.

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Antique Furniture Restoration

We have extensive experience of providing restoration and repair from fire.

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Insurance

We work with insurers to ensure a seamless service with one point of contact.

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An art AND a craft

5th February 2015

 

How would you describe the restoration of fine pieces of antique furniture? Craftsmanship? Artistry? Carpentry? Workmanship? Well, people within the business are very clear that their’s is a profession that calls for the highest levels of craftsmanship, combined with intricate artistry. And with the clever use of powders, potions, waxes and polishes, you could even add the term alchemist to the job description. 

 

One antique restorer, describing his work, says: “A host of skills are required for successful antique restoration, from joinery and carpentry skills, metal work and lock smithing to traditional polishing and leather tooling.”

 

Looking at each of these aspects in turn, it is clear that an antique restorer has to be a master of all trades.

 

Traditional polishing:

This can range from polishing out a scratch and reviving a finish to a complete and sympathetic re-finishing of a piece. These days, restorers will have a far greater range of chemical treatments at their disposal to get a fine finish, but an experienced antique restorer will use a blend of waxes and polishes using traditional methods and recipes that replicate furniture makers from hundreds of years ago.

 

Joinery and carpentry:

A broken leg, a split frame, a splintered table top - all of these can be repaired and replaced with surgical precision and to an exacting standards by a professional restorer. Whether the piece needs completely taking apart and rebuilding or whether a replacement part needs making so that it exactly copies the original, such is the artistry and craftsmanship of the skilled antique restorer that the original damage is often invisible. 

 

Leather work:

Where the original leather on a desk, Davenport or writing box has been damaged or displaced, high quality hide is used to replace it. Often, the original will have been embellished with gold leaf - yet another skill that has been mastered by the professional antique restorer.

 

Traditional upholstery:

This craft dates back centuries and the methods used today have changed little in that time. Layer upon layer of wood, fabric and metal work has been used to produce a finished article, and replacing that upholstery is a painstaking process. The article, a chair for example, is taken apart and then the worn out materials replaced or repaired. The layers are then built back up to recreate the original. Layers are usually fixed using tacks, unless the wood is too fragile, and the process of stripping back the item to its bare frame, replacing the springs, the stuffing and the fabric, is carried out using century-old methods.  

 

There are a plethora of other skills involved: working with glass or metal for example, and most restorers will have areas they specialise in and areas in which they might seek help or advice.

 

One further aspect of the work of an antique restorer is that of historian and detective. What era is the piece from? What was the name of the original craftsman?  What substance caused the wood to dull? How did the craftsman get that particular shade of gilding? What was used to create the patina on that bureau top? Here is an extract from The Goldfinch, a novel by Donna Tart, in which the main character learns the trade of antique restoration: “The genuine pieces that passed through my hands were variable, crooked, capricious, singing here and sullen there, warm asymmetrical streaks on a rosewood table where a slant of sun had struck it while the other side was dark as the day it was cut. What ages wood? Anything you like. Heat and cold, fireplace soot, too many cats.”

 

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