Study Desk Refinish
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The Clarification of a Myth
The TV show "Antique Roadshow" on PBS has instilled the idea that repairing, refinishing, or restoring a piece of antique furniture diminishes the value. So, let's take a closer look at this myth:
- There is a huge difference between letting anybody with a brush and polyurethane try and restore a piece of antique furniture, and hiring a professional craftsman to do the job properly.
- The highest valued pieces are those that are in pristine condition. For this reason, no one in their right mind would do anything to damage them.
- Very few antiques have significant cultural or historic elements that will be lost in the proper restoration or refinishing process.
- Anyone that has considered a restoration or refinish on an antique piece has already acknowledged there is an issue with it.
- Most importantly, the primary purpose of any finish is to protect and beautify the wood beneath it. That is what the original maker of the furniture intended. Once the integrity of the finish has deteriorated through chemical deterioration, suffered dings and scratches from normal use, or darkened due to age, then the original purpose of the finish is no longer being met.
Each of our restorations, repairs and refinishes are specific to each individual piece. When asking for a quote, you will need to specify what process you would like done. Due to the uniqueness of each project, it is impossible to give you an exact quote. We work on each of these specialties for a material cost, plus our hourly rate. However, with over 20 years of experience, we can give you a fairly close range of what it should cost you.
When it comes to antiques, there are several aspects of the job that need to be considered. First, let's define the difference of each of these processes:
- Repair: 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 the appearance of the repair and preserve the value as much as possible.
- Refinishing: Removing a finish and applying a new finish in its place.
- Finish Restoration: The process of bringing an existing finish back to life. This involves re-emulsifying the original finish, shellac or varnish, by using the original solvents to liquefy the solids. As a result, their ability to adhere to and penetrate the piece returns. Also, the process removes the dirt and grime accumulated over years of use. If the finish is very thin, additional layers of the same finish may be applied to bolster the restored finish and ensure longevity.
- Restorations: Bringing a piece back to its original condition including structural and finish repairs.
Note: LaRue Woodworking does not use or recommend the process of Dip Stripping. In its true sense, dip stripping involves dipping the piece in a chemical bath that will remove the finish and patina. In some cases, it even weakens the glue holding the piece together. Consequently, the veneering may peel, the joints will swell or break apart, and the moisture in the wood will be drawn out. This makes it extremely brittle, and the piece usually has to be completely rebuilt. All for a cost greater than the piece is actually worth.
Things to consider before Repairing, Refinishing or Restoring
- Is the integrity or beauty of the wood compromised from a worn-off, cracked or completely missing finish?
- Will a cultural or historic element be lost if your antique is repaired, refinished or properly restored?
- How far do you want to take the refinish or complete restoration? Just enough to protect the antique? Or all the way to a museum quality piece?
- What monetary or sentimental value do you have with your antique? These processes are not cheap. If you are attached to your piece because of sentimental reasons, but you don't like having a worn or broken antique, what are you willing to spend to make it exactly what you want?
- Do you want to change the color?
- Do you want to have the original type of finish put back on it, or upgrade to a modern finish? Compared to the older kinds, modern finishes are much better suited to modern day polishes, chemical cleaners, and lifestyles.