Restoring Your Antique Furniture
Antique furniture appeals to millions of people throughout the world. Reasons for this broad-based appeal run the gamut from aesthetic appreciation and monetary considerations to general historical interest and the chance to have a personal connection to the past. If you own antique pieces, chances are you want to maintain them in the best possible condition.
To achieve this condition, you typically need the services of restoration expert who specializes in preserving the appearance of your furniture while correcting any underlying issues. In Southern California, the gold standard for antique furniture rehabilitation is Rahn’s Furniture Restoration. Regardless of your furniture’s style and historical era, our staff of dedicated experts combines old-world techniques and modern processes to produce a restoration outcome that meets the most exacting requirements for quality and care.
Restoration Vs. Repair
If you need to have work done on your valuable antique furniture, it’s critical that you understand the difference between a repair job and a restoration. During repair, the goal is to restore a piece of furniture to reliable, functional use. As a general rule, the person performing the repair focuses on this goal and gives secondary consideration to other issues.
In some cases, a simple repair job may meet all of your needs and expectations. However, if you own a valuable antique, it’s crucial that the work performed on your furniture does not end up diminishing that value. That’s where restoration comes in. A properly performed restoration focuses on returning an antique piece to its aesthetic condition, not just its functional condition. Typically, a key goal of this process is to retain the piece’s original patina (a word furniture experts use to describe the distinctive, non-reproducible surface sheen that develops over time when wood ages and goes through decades or centuries of normal wear and tear).
Your goals are essential to the restoration process. In some situations, you may simply want a restorer to remove the buildup of dirt, skin oils and grime from the surface of your antique piece. However, you may also want the restoration process to address more serious issues, including such things as flaws in the finish, upholstery degradation, structural problems or even missing pieces of wood. In extreme situations, you may even need to have your antique furniture completely rebuilt with non-period materials.
At Rahn’s Furniture Restoration, we have a comprehensive understanding of every aspect and phase of antique furniture restoration. When you bring us your treasured piece, we begin the process by getting a detailed picture of your restoration goals. Once we have this information, we’ll explain the steps needed to achieve those goals. Then, after receiving your approval, we’ll perform a flawless restoration job that truly meets your expectations and returns your furniture to your desired final condition.
The least invasive forms of antique furniture restoration focus on relatively minor condition issues in the protective finish layer. Our restoration staff can clear away accumulations of dirt, skin oils, polishes or waxes with a basic cleaning procedure performed with a hot water-based solution, a water/ammonia solution or mineral spirits (i.e., paint thinner). In addition, we can address tougher accumulations of dirt and other materials (as well as minor scratches) with a tougher cleaning method that relies on an abrasive material such as a pumice stone, super-fine steel wool or even toothpaste.
Finish issues in antique wood furniture can be corrected through any one of several methods, including processes called overcoating, reamalgamation and patching. During overcoating, our expert restorers use new finish added over the existing finish to rehabilitate areas that have thinned or worn down over time. During reamalgamation, we repair damaged finish by breaking it down with a solvent such as lacquer thinner or denatured alcohol, then reapplying it to the furniture surface. During patching, we use sticks of shellac or wax to patch over finish areas affected by gouges, scratches or other serious condition issues.
The upholstery on antique furniture may have several layers, including the outer covering and the padding that sits beneath this covering, as well as batting and springs or webbing at the bottom. Problems can occur in any one of these layers. This means that an appropriate upholstery restoration job may include such steps as cleaning or replacement of the outer cover, replacement of the padding and/or replacement of the batting, webbing or springs.
The main structural issue in antique furniture is typically frame looseness. This looseness may have one or more of several underlying causes, including weakened glue in the piece’s joints, damaged or broken dowels in the joints, and damaged or detached corner blocks. Other potential structural problems include cracking and warping. After determining the nature of the issue, our professional staff may take steps that include joint re-gluing, dowel replacement, corner block replacement or reattachment, sealing of minor cracks, and careful straightening of any warped furniture members.
Replacing Missing Parts
The antique furniture you now own may have had a rough life in the past. In relatively extreme cases, this can mean that parts of a piece are missing or damaged beyond repair. If possible, our expert restorers will address this issue by replacing the missing or damaged parts with matching, period-correct vintage materials. However, in some circumstances, the only option may be using non-vintage materials or fabricating an entirely new part.
In this worst-case scenario, your antique furniture has major condition issues that cannot be corrected through less invasive procedures. After making this determination and explaining their findings to you, our restorers will develop a detailed rebuilding plan and get your approval before beginning the work. By necessity, the specifics of the rebuilding process depend on the type of furniture in question.
The Antique Furniture Restoration Experts
Only truly qualified professionals can call themselves antique restoration experts. At Rahn’s Furniture, we back up this claim with demonstrable results accumulated through four decades of operation in Los Angeles County and Orange County. Whatever level of restoration you’re aiming for — from a simple cleaning job to a museum-quality final presentation — we have the training, hands-on experience and dedicated facilities needed to suit your aspirations to a tee. Call us today to arrange a consultation.