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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Simple Inexpensive Furniture Restoration

Everyone loves a "before and after".
This is the story of how an old desk top became a blanket box.

We acquired this old sturdy piece from a friend when they were clearing their mother's estate. It's a little broken about the edges but still solid and appears to have been a desk top at one stage now without legs (if it ever had them?) First things first was a thorough vacuum, then a good wipe down with a damp cloth.

Next I used a fine steel wool (#00) and some methylated spirits to clean off the old grungy layers of dirt and perhaps ancient wax or shellac layers. To do this, take a modest wad of stainless steel and apply a generous amount of metho, rubbing lightly with the grain and using clean rag pieces to wipe the grunge to remove before too much metho has evaporated leaving a sticky residue. This method works well on naturally finished woods like wax and shellac. Other varnishes or polyurethanes may require a caustic stripper.

Fine steel wool is excellent for cleaning up brass too, like these hinges. I'm not repairing the broken, chipped corners. This is not a "fine" antique and there is no use pretending it is. It's the broken and the scratched that tell a story and make these rustic pieces the treasures that they are.

My original plan was to shellac this piece but I felt the lovely high glossing would perhaps not be as appropriate as an oil and wax treatment to nourish the wood and the gentle glow somehow more honest and in keeping with it's altered nature.

Many old pieces can be brought back to a beautiful life very simply and inexpensively. This took me only a few solid hours of cleaning and polishing. You could do it too. To give you some idea, this project required 
about 400ml of methylated spirits
about six wads of #00 steel wool pulled from a roll
One old shearer's singlet
and wax and oil for finishing.

To nourish, I tipped small amounts of furniture oil onto the pan of wax and then used a soft lint free cloth to apply and buff - inside and out. Before deciding on the finish, I experimented on the back to see if I liked the effect.

Now it's ready to do service as a blanket box.
Don't forget to lay sachets of insect repelling herbs inside too.
You can find my recipe a little down the page in the post
and if you would really like to dip your toes into furniture restoration,
you could start by checking out
on YouTube. He has some great vids with great background music.

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