furniture restoration, restoring antiques, care of antiques, repairing & restoring antiques, waxes & brushes, unrestored furniture for sale, period furniture for sale

Waxing & Cleaning

To keep and improve patination, furniture should be waxed with a natural-wax based polish (never a silicon-based one) and indeed we now sell our own clear and dark waxes that are ideal for antique furniture. Pieces should be waxed no more than once a month. More frequent waxing is actually counter-productive as wax will soften previous layers of wax and if frequently applied, the furniture will take on a smeary appearance. The best technique is to apply a thin layer of wax, allow it to harden for a short while, then burnish with a soft, clean cloth. Always rub in the direction of the grain and if leaning over a table or other large piece of furniture, pay attention to buckles, rings or buttons which may scratch the surface.

A mixture of vinegar and water should never be used to clean the surface as the vinegar acts as a solvent and can remove generations of patination in a matter in minutes. It is essential to place mats on the furniture before putting hot or cold dishes on to polished surfaces, and it should be remembered that cold water in a flower vase can reduce the temperature of the polish and produce a white "chill" mark. As with any surface damage, such a mark needs the specialist's hand. A French polished surface is made up of many layers of shellac polish which has been applied with a "rubber" - a linen cloth enclosing a wadding material inside. The "rubber" is coated with shellac polish which is applied with the aid of linseed. With an area no bigger than a finger nail actually being in contact with the surface, numerous thin coats are built up over a period of time that enhance the grain and colour of the timber.

When water damage or the like occurs, if the polish and not the timber has been affected, a skilled polisher can remove one layer of polish at a time until he reaches the undamaged surface. He will then carefully reapply polish to the localised area, binding it to the original untouched surface, thus eradicating the water mark. Such a technique takes many years of training and application and should never be attempted by a novice as inexperience could result in a dark area which actually looks worse than the original mark.

The cleaning of brasses is very much a case of personal taste. Some people like brass handles to develop a bronzed patination and therefore will never clean them, whilst others will clean handles until they shine like a soldier's button. I prefer the middle ground, with only the highlights being cleaned, leaving a natural build-up of wax around the backplates and knobs. Should traces of original lacquer or fire gilding be in evidence use just a damp cloth to lightly wipe them when required. A wadding cleaner is best used when cleaning handles as a liquid spillage on a patinated surface will remove all traces of patination. When cleaning brassware it is better to do a little bit at a time as once they have been over-cleaned is impossible to return them to their previous state.

This is not expensive and if you are at all unsure please contact us!

restoration techniques, waxing, staining, caning, metalwork, carving, polishing wood, leathering, guilding, cabinet making, upholstery, repairing fire & flood damaged wood
© William J Cook & Sons, all rights reserved