Read these 19 Furniture Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Antique tips and hundreds of other topics.
Sometimes that Antique treasure you bought, found or inherited will have a musty odor you find offensive. To get rid of the smell or at least alleviate it some, take it outside first removing drawers, leaves etc. to air out for a few days. Sometimes just doing this will help. If not you can use a spray bottle of denatured alcohol and use on raw wood only. This will stop any mold spores from growing. Let it dry a few more days.
You could also try Febreeze or the last resort is sealing the piece [raw wood only] in any type of finish.
To determine what type of paint is on your furniture, brush some stripper on a inconspicuous spot and see what happens. If it is oil-based, the paint will wrinkle and bubble. If it just softens up into a slimy goo, it is latex or acrylic. Oil-based paint is the easiest to remove.
The wax of choice and recommended by furniture conservators and other caretakers of furniture and other wooden objects is paste wax. Wax polishing should be done no more than twice a year for areas of heavy wear [desktops, chair arms, etc.], and once every three years for table, chair legs, cabinets and similar areas.
Aerosols and liquids are not recommended due to solvents in them that attack varnishes and lacquers and introduce contaminants onto the furniture.
Fine particles of wood dust can infiltrate most face masks. These fine particles have been to known to cause dermatitis, asthma, nose eye and throat irritation, cancer to nasal and throat, eczema, lung congestion, headache to name a few. Please, when working with wood, whether it be, grinding, drilling, sawing and especially sanding, use a good exhaust system and or dust respirator properly in place.
If you are trying to repair a piece of furniture yourself, do not use any nails, screws, air-nail guns, duct tape, twine, metal brackets, coat hangers or other creative fasteners. It just makes things harder for the professionals when you do finally bring it in. Do not use any glue other than yellow or white Carpenter's glue or Hide glue.
Wood shrinks across the grain. If a round table top is perfectly round when measured in 2 dimensions, it's new. If the table is old, there should be a difference of about one-eighth inch per foot. Marquetry also tends to contract irregularly, usually sinking below the rest of the surface. If a piece with marquetry has a perfectly smooth surface, the marquetry was probably added later to add flash or "tart up" the object, as dealers like to say.
Pseudo-antiques are especially common among country pine furniture. Furniture makers get that handsome worn look by using old wood, often from eighteenth-century barns or houses. To make a table for instance, they will take four posts from a bannister for legs, the top of the bannister for rails, and floorboards or wall paneling for the top. "They're nice pieces," says Antique expert George Reed, "but they are not antiques."
Be cautious when buying furniture. Just because someone says it is "solid wood" doesn't mean it is good. Particle board and MDF [Medium Density Fiberboard] are still "wood", but they aren't what you think. They are very hard to repair and much heavier than "real" wood. They will NOT last if under heavy use. Always ask, "solid what wood"? Furniture marked Solid Oak, Cherry or Ash is a better bet.
Be aware of humidity when doing your own finish work. High humidity in the air will keep finish from drying or will make it "blush" [turn white and dull]. If you are having a professional do your finish work, please allow several extra days for your piece to dry completely before using it.
Dovetailing is the tongue-in-groove technique carpenters use to join boards at an angle. The grooves in 18th century dovetails were particularly wide, as much as three eighths of an inch. Although dovetails continued to be made by hand through the middle of the nineteenth century, tools and skills grew finer, and some examples made in 1830 or later may be as small as one eighth of an inch.
Location is a large determinant of furniture price. There are large differences in preference for various styles across the United Sates and around the world. Furniture is heavy and expensive to transport so these differences continue to result in large price differences for the same piece from state to state.
Although it is impossible to put an exact dollar value on the effect of a given repair, some repairs are minor and may reduce the value of a piece by 10 percent, while major changes may cause a piece to lose as much as 75 percent.
Any changes that are reversible.
Replaced hardware on European furniture.
Hardware added for embellishment.
New feet on any European furniture.
Missing castings on chair legs of French furniture.
Small alterations to the cornice of a bookshelf.
Replaced hardware on American furniture.
New feet on any piece of American furniture.
A damaged or stripped patina on American furniture.
A new top on a chest.
Marriage of pieces that don't belong together, such as a bookshelf on top of a slant front desk.
Reduction in the depth of a chest.
Replaced chair rails.
Spliced or repaired chair legs using all of the original parts.
Even worse-legs with newly carved sections.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|