Clearing up the Confusion of Antique Refurbishing


As we may have mentioned in earlier post, my husband refurbishes antiques. We have found that the word refurbish often confuses people. Some assume it as a complete rebuild or refinishing of a precious antique destroying the original patina, while others assume refurbish means a light cleaning or doing nothing at all. In truth, it depends on the careful inspection of the antique. The following might help to explain the designations you will find on our price tags.

The first is a complete refurbish with some new materials which ends with a rebuilt antique, but can seriously diminish the value. You will rarely find us doing a complete refurbish. The exception was the desk at the left. It had fallen off the back of a truck doing 45 MPH. My husband took up the challenge and had to completely rebuild it, adding a new back and rebuilding the interior cubicles using new wood. He found replacement hinges, antiqued them and then refinished the new wood to match the old finish. By the way, you can see these examples in space B26

Second is a ‘soft’ restoration, where no new hardware is used, and only what is from the original construction goes back into its rebuild. We do this level of refurbishing on many of our steamer trunks, such as the example shown to the left, especially when we have a piece that has all of its hardware.  If we have to replace hardware, we search our resources for original hardware. If we can’t find original, we either repair the old piece or replace the piece with a duplicate new part. This kind of project is best used on pieces of value, where authenticity is important.

 

The third is a moderate restoration, where as much of the original hardware is re-used. Whenever possible, parts from the same period (or if we can, the original manufacturer) are installed. Failing that, he will replace with new hardware. He will spend hours on the internet researching to make sure he keeps the original look. This is often the hardest but most rewarding restoration and our preference when restoring cabinets, tables, desks and or other valued antiques. The 7 foot tall Pine Chimney Cabinet shown here is an example of this level of restoration.

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1927 Singer


DSCF3038(1)This post is directed to the person or persons who painted the 1927 Singer sewing machine case baby blue – thank you.  You have given my husband many hours of pleasure and kept him out of my hair.  He has toiled away in his workshop, lovingly removing the hideous color from what he tells me, is beautiful oak.  Thank goodness, they didn’t paint the machine itself.

By the way, for all you shabby chic aficionados who are reading this, this was not shabby chic.  I’ll be kind and simply say this was at best – a very poor, sloppy paint job.  (I said I would be kind)  While we love good shabby chic, this was not it.  As the appraiser said, because the machine works are in excellent condition and the cabinet was the more expensive seven drawer model at a time when most of the ones sold were the less expensive five drawer cabinetry, the only solution for preserving it, was to restore it to its natural oak finish.  Once my husband carefully removed the paint, he refinished the beautiful wood with three coats of hand rubbed Tung oil.  That gave it life again and because everything was by hand, he even managed to save some of the old patina that had been painted over.

Once again, I can see where the hand of a young mother rubbed the finish as she guided the fabric through the foot.  One of Singers earliest conversions to power, it still has its treadle, but I can see where her foot rested on the power switch and where the soles of her shoes wore the black paint off the side.  I can see the dents and scratched made from buttons, dropped scissors and probably a child’s tin toy.  If I close my eyes just right, I can even see the gleam in the little girls smile as mother holds up the new Sunday dress she just finished.

The next time you are in Mom & Me’s Vintage Linens & Lace in the American Classics Antique Mall, stop in space B30 and marvel at the simple ingenuity of DSCF3037(1)these beautiful sewing systems.  Look at the quality of the cabinetry work.  The careful attention to the joinery and style of the design.  You know that old world post-war craftsmen created them.  Rest your hands on this beautiful machine, close your eyes and see if you can relive its history.  Yes, it’s for sale at below appraised value because my husband hopes that its next owner will be able to repurpose the machine, but not want to paint it ever again.