Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Furniture finishing and antique restoration

If you like working with your hands to make things look good, you might like the topic.  If you like decorating interiors you might like the topic as fine furniture displayed in homes reflects taste, culture, wealth--- and is an essential to design.

I’m well acquainted with furniture re-finishing. More than that---a good finisher requires an intimate knowledge of the trade to do work exceptionally well. Now as an aside, most writing gurus advise bloggers to write about what they know. Tagged! I’m doing that now! For 15 years I re-finished, finished and did antique furniture restoration.


And I’m wondering.  How ought I to fashion the post into something useful and interesting to you readers?

I’ve always thought furniture finishing had lessons to teach not only about the workings of the trade but about life and how to live.

When spraying lacquer onto new kitchen cabinets, for instance, it’s important to maintain the gun at the same distance from the surface throughout the activity. This ensures even application.  What’s the life lesson? Be cool. Don’t make more work for yourself by creating drips you’ll need to sand off later. Be careful. Be a steady person.


When the job nears completion, human nature urges the re-finisher to speed up. It’s almost done. Hurry and finish.  Again, best to be cool.  Keep your head and do the work at a steady pace throughout.  Life lesson?  If you rush the chores you must do in your life, you’re more likely to make mistakes.

Now what we have here is a remarkably well constructed walnut table. As the finisher it’s your job to create a finish to enhance the table until its beauty shines.


You stain the wood. You shoot sanding sealer. You sand the sanding sealer. You apply applications of lacquer. One coat---two coats. Three coats if needed to fill the grain of the wood. Between each coat, it’s time to wet sand. You sand with your eyes constantly on the surface, evenly, often wiping off the wet with a rag so you can see, and being vigilant. You don’t want to sand through to the bottom layer of lacquer. Yet your goal means you sand the top layer until it’s completely erased. The bottom and top layers congeal into one surface of finish. Rub the table now with rag, oil and rotten-stone to produce the fine finish you want. Life lesson? To produce steadfast character, be patient and concentrate. The more you do, the better you do the job of self improvement.


You’ve never tried this before. But you have an instinct. If the white powder gets dashed over the pinewood of the hutch, it will color and leave traces of white over the piece in a pretty way. So you do it and the piece of furniture ends up on display in a gallery of fashionable design.

Life lesson? Trust instincts. They often reward. Follow them because they’re the most real parts about you.

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