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FinishingFrench polishing

The finish on a piece of antique furniture develops its own character and patination over the years.  If the piece has been well looked after, its restoration should be aimed at minimal intervention.  Gentle cleaning and re-waxing should be enough to bring back the lustre and depth of colour.  This is especially true of older pieces which were originally finished with wax or linseed oil rather than french polish or spirit varnishes.

Minor damage to the finish such as small dents, scratches, water marks and cigarette burns can usually be repaired without refinishing the piece but this is not always the case.  Sometimes the old finish will have deteriorated to a point where it must be removed and replaced.  This may have occurred due to prolonged exposure to sunlight, heat, water or chemicals.  Serious damage to wooden surfaces sometimes requires scraping and sanding back to bare wood which again necessitates refinishing.

If a high gloss finish is preferred, I provide a complete french polishing service.  Using traditional methods a polishing "rubber" is used to apply layer upon layer of shellac to the surface until the open wood grain is filled and a lustrous gloss develops.  Some customers prefer the highly polished surface to be "cut back" with steel wool or fine abrasive powder [such as rottenstone] and then waxed, an effect which is more in keeping with older pieces. When a surface is liable to receive heavy wear, more durable finishes such as hardening oils and various lacquers may be preferred.

Veneering, inlay and marquetryMarquetry

Due to changes in humidity during the life of a piece of furniture [often caused by central heating], veneers, crossbanding, stringing and marquetry can lift away from the substrate they have been applied to and may become damaged or lost.  Sometimes they can be reapplied simply by reactivating the hide glue with heat or steam but missing pieces must be carefully copied and hand cut with a fret saw before being reapplied, coloured up and refinished.

I have a large selection of old veneers to use for this type of work and can also cut veneers to match from my collection of antique solid wooden parts salvaged from pieces of furniture which were beyond repair.

Missing pieces of patterned stringing can also be made up to match the piece by a process involving gluing up sandwiches of veneers into a slab which is then cut up into thin strips.

TurningWood turning

Turned wooden components often need to be repaired or remade.  Chair legs, table legs and bun feet are all in contact with the ground and as a result often get wet and become woodwormed or rot away.  Finials are easily broken due to their delicate shapes and exposed position on the piece of furniture.  Turned knobs become broken or pulled off and lost.

Almost any shape of turning can be reproduced in its entirety and it is also possible to cut out and replace any damaged sections and match colour and finish to produce an invisible repair.

There is also an engineering lathe in the workshop which is used to produce very accurate and finely detailed turnings with harder materials such as metals, ivory, bone, horn and dense hardwoods like ebony, boxwood and lignum vitae.

Wooden threads can also be reproduced to replace those damaged or missing on legs, feet, knobs and finials.

LocksmithingBramah lock

The majority of pieces of furniture which come into the workshop have missing keys.  The best way to remake one is to disassemble the lock, understand the mechanism, measure the size and shape of tags and slots. Using files and a jeweller's saw it is then possible to copy the shapes onto a suitably sized blank.  Styles of blank keys are quite limited however so it is often necessary to silver solder one up from scratch or from parts of other old keys.  The locks themselves also become damaged due to corrosion, broken springs and by being forced.  Most can be repaired but as a last resort, modern reproductions may also be bought to replace the most common types.

The picture shows a Bramah lock designed by Joseph Bramah in 1784.  Quite tricky to cut a key for and harder to pick.  Mr Bramah placed a version of this design in his shop window and offered a prize of 200 guineas to anyone who could pick it.  Someone eventually managed it after 55 hours of trying.

Brass hinges

Brass or iron fittings can be repaired and missing parts can usually be made and silver soldered back on.  Often though some components [usually handles] are missing.  In this case I work with a local foundry which makes a mould of an original item from the piece of furniture and casts a copy.  It is then a relatively simple matter to distress and colour the casting to match the originals.

Table leathers

Scratches, tears and burns on table leathers can often be repaired.  The colour and finish can then be given a new lease of life by sealing  with shellac prior to a wax polish.

If the damage is more serious, a new leather can be fitted with the customer's choice of colour and tooled design.

I can also repair scratched, torn and perished leather upholstered furniture.

CabinetmakingDovetail joint

Sometimes a piece of furniture becomes so damaged or neglected that component parts need to be entirely remade and refitted.  Missing drawers and broken legs can be remade, then distressed and finished to match those that remain.  Cabinet carcasses become so woodwormed that remaking some parts is the only option.  I use old wood for such work from the same period as the piece of furniture.  If I don't have it in my hoard I can usually source it.

Paint effects  Distressed paint effectShabby chic paint effectStripped pine dresser

Previously stripped  furniture can be given
a distressed paint effect to give the appearance
of age.

To achieve what is otherwise known as the "shabby chic" look, one layer of colour is rubbed through in places to reveal a previous coat of another contrasting colour.


If upholstery is required after restoration, I work closely with a local craftsman who has a lifetime's experience.  His name is Perry Cudmore, please feel free to contact him directly if a job only requires upholstery.  However if you would like me to restore the item first and then arrange the upholstery, just leave it with me.