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Preserving old wood

 
 
Noddy24
 
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 02:46 pm
A cousin had some antique chairs (approximately 170 years old) reupholstered and the craftsman warned her that the wood was growing brittle with age.

Is there any way to rejuvenate the wood a bit--aside from "handle with care"?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 2,894 • Replies: 19
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 02:53 pm
I can't think of any ways to do it that wouldn't ruin their value as an antique.
0 Replies
 
Letty
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 03:00 pm
Noddy, I think linseed oil feeds the wood. Have you any idea what type of wood it is?
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Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 03:29 pm
Letty--

I believe the wood is finished--which would make it difficult for the oil to penetrate.
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Joe Nation
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 03:44 pm
I hope your cousin talked with a restoration expert before having the chairs redone. Sad

This is the kind of thing you see on Antiques Roadshow where the appraiser says, "Well, in their original fabrics, even if they were badly worn, they's be worth $20,000 each, but with this synthetic fabric and foam they'd bring at auction about $1,000 for the pair."

See a restorationist about the wood.
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 04:03 pm
All that aside (if the wood were stripped bare, and had no antique value), I really like Watco Danish oil, hate tung oil, and can live with linseed.
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farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 04:18 pm
Joe, thats usually just meant for finishes and original 'graining" upholstery is one of those things allowed if its done correctly.

brittle wood sez a couple of things

the wood was wet or stored in great heat in some past life and is deteriorated . It also could be really unsuitable wood, like pine or poplar. These woods naturally get brittle but these were hardly ever used for antique American furniture. Pine or poplar was used a lot for cabinets or tables that were painted .

You are in NJ, there are times each year that Winterthur conservation labs give "real" appraisals . Usually they charge a flat fee for a piece and you need to make an appointment. This predated the "Road Show" and the people there are conservators , not auctioneers. They will knopw the best way to bring stuff back from the brink. MAybe theres a web site on conservation of wood antiques.

You said it waw 170 years old , so that would be High Empire period. They relied on gilt and veneering over
secondary woods for carcase stuff and solid mahogany and walnut etc for padded stuff. Is the framewok massive and scrolled? It could have been too close to a fireback and sufferes from "fireplace deterioration" sometimes this can be reversed by pressurized chemical (like glycol) penetration , but the bad news is the wood frames must be de- upholstered.
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Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 04:47 pm
Actually, I'm in the Poconos, my cousin is in Michigan and the chairs joined the family from an estate sale in Maine, "between the wars".

My cousin calls them "Queen Anne" chairs.
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Letty
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 04:54 pm
Noddy, That's what my dining room chairs are--Queen Anne. They are in perfect shape, and all that I do is put old english polish on them once in a while. The china closet is a little bubbled looking, but I still just try bee's wax or regular polish.
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farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 06:48 pm
queen Anne is a much older period than 1840. its the furniture with the trifid , and sometimes ball and claw feet. The furniture made was always maple, walnut, cherry and, toward the end of the period (1720s to pre-Revolution) they used mahogany , or 'mahoganized maple. If a qualified restorer looked at them and they are period, you have some very valuable pieces there. The other option is, if they are pine, then they could be repros, as QA furniture had numerous revivals.
The knopf antique furniture guide is still, in my estimation, the best source book on wood furniture
A key to doing the forensic exams of the furniture is to look at the wood underneath, is it dark brown from oxidation? If there are screws, they would be blunt end, signifying that they are hand made (screw machines werent around till the mid 1800s). The framing would be dovetailed on the seat frame, and the ball and claws or triffid feet would have tool marks.

These are the kinds of things that make the road Show "s last piece of the night.
A dealer near us in Downingtown Pa is Phil Bradley jr. He recently bought a Queen anne seat that was totally stripped of its cushions. It sold for close to 150000$. Id get your stuff evaluated quickly , before the cat uses the legs for a scratch post.
id venture that its repro because a decent reupholsterer could see early made furniture and would have called a halt to the project until you got it appraised.

Queen Anne style (original) is the 3rd oldest of the American homemade furniture styles after Pilgrim and william and Mary. It pre dates Chippendale, Sheraton, hepplewhite,(Federal eriod) and then Empire and on and on. Its very important and pieces of stuffed furniture (even though the cloth is shredded) is rare and therefore valuable .
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Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 06:59 pm
My cousin selected first one pattern and then another. Both were rejected by the upholsterer. He's certainly a bully and may well be an expert.
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farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 07:10 pm
well, if he hasnt started yet, now is a great time to have them appraised because when they appraise them they have to pull the fabric and stuffing back anyway.
How many chairs we talkin about/ because, if real, the value increases geometrically with each additional pair. eg
One chair worth 150K, two chairs are worth almost 600K
4 chairs could be worth 2 million
IF THEY ARE PERIOD FURNITURE!!!
id crap my pants if I even suspected I had such valuable furniture. if you say they are 170 years old, Im not sure whether any quenn Anne revival furniture is that old, so they could be real. How did she know they were at least 170 years old?

One way to determine quickly whether they are real is to look for a label. If there is a label, then they arent period. They are revival
0 Replies
 
Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 07:37 pm
Farmerman--

He's started, he's finished. The chairs have been delivered and my cousin was warned to be careful because the wood was old and brittle.

She asked me if the wood could be rendered less brittle....and I posted the question.


You are an extraordinarily helpful man and I wish you lived just down the road with your charm and your reference library.
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 07:41 pm
are the bears awake in the poconos yet? we have some friends with a house near lake Wallenpaupack and they had a she bear den under their porch.
0 Replies
 
gustavratzenhofer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 07:44 pm
It would be helpful it you would post a picture of these chairs, Noddy.
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Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 07:45 pm
I think I read about that in the paper--was she the one with two cubs preventing access to the water valve until she'd finishe her winter nap?

Yes, we have bears. I'm not sure whether it was Big Mama or Big Ears that did in the squirrel-proof bird feeder the first week in May.

I'm guessing Big Ears. Big Mama is a highly desirable babe and "highly desirable" means kids who wake her up every other spring.

Of course, birds offer more entertainment hour for hour than bears do, but one doesn't need a group of bear watchers to brag about bears.
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 08:03 pm
noddy, as far as I know our friends didnt have any news articles about the bear that denned at their house. it happened a few years ago.
They can be real pests as they get acclimated and get savvy about human ways.
Our friends had lost a couple of screen doors until they had a carpenter make some Aluminum" bear proof "covers that fit over the screen panels.

good luck with the chairs,
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gustavratzenhofer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 08:15 pm
farmerman, anyone ever tell you that you look a lot like Ulysses S. Grant?

I mean, the resemblance is remarkable and more than just a bit unsettling.

It's friggin' scary.
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 09:19 pm
I do a number of imitations . You oughta see my groucho. Im ready for a personality change soon anyway.
0 Replies
 
roger
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2004 11:51 pm
Can you do a Mark Twain for us? He looks almost as extingushed at Grant.
0 Replies
 
 

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