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LATEST ARTICLE_________________________________

Keeping Your Antique Furniture Ship Shape
by Bob Brooke


If youíre a collector of antique furniture, you no doubt have invested considerable time and money into your collection. Once many people acquire pieces of antique furniture, they tend to forget about them. Unlike todayís furniture, which in most cases is protected by several coats of polyurethane varnish, antique pieces have only a coat or two of traditional varnish to protect them, so damage and deterioration is inevitable.

Once a piece gets too bad over time, it needs to be restored, which can be costly. To prevent that added expense and to make sure your pieces hold their value, you should practice routine maintenance.

Begin by dusting your furniture with a clean, dry, soft cloth once a week. This prevents dust and dirt buildup. If you need to use any sort of cleaner, spray some Windex or other glass cleaner on your cloth first to just dampen it. DO NOT use lemon oil or any of the spray furniture polishes.

Besides cleaning your furniture regularly, you should also wax it with Minwax Paste Wax once a year. If the furniture gets heavy use, give it two coats. First dust the piece, then coat it with wax. Let it dry as per instructions on the can, then buff it with old face towel. Before giving it a second coat, rub the piece all over with #0000 steel wool, then dust off the piece once again before applying the second coating of wax. Finally, buff to a soft shine.

Youíve probably noticed that historic houses keep their rooms somewhat dim, protected from too much sunlight by draperies or shades. This is because strong sunlight will fade the pigment in the wood and damage the finish. Strong light will also fade upholstery and cause the fabric to deteriorate faster. When possible, close blinds and curtains during the day and remember to rotate your furniture once a year.

Also, don't use a table runner or centerpiece on your dining table for long periods of time if it sits in strong light. When you remove the centerpiece, youíll notice a difference in color where the centerpiece sat and it generally isnít repairable.

Never place plastic covers directly on your wooden furniture. The plastic, if left for any length of time, will adhere to your furniture and might pull the finish off when you try to remove the cover because the solvents in the plastic are the same as the solvents in the finish.

Also, never set colored candles directly on your antique furniture especially if itís light colored. The color may bleed through the finish and into the wood. Always use a candleholder or place a dish under them.

Occasionally, white rings or other marks may appear on your furniture. Donít panic. A white mark usually means that moisture has been trapped in the finish and if left alone with disappear on its own. Whatever you do, don't try using mayonnaise or cigarette ashes or oil to remove the mark. If a white ring or mark doesn't go away by itself within two days, contact a professional furniture refinisher.

You can easily tighten and re-glue the loose rungs on wooden chairs, but you must have the right tools. To do this properly, youíll have to pull the rung out of its hole and sand the old glue off. You may have to wad up a piece of sandpaper and do the same inside the hole. After youíve cleaned the end of the rung and the hole, apply some wood glue inside the hole and replace the rung. Tap the opposite end of the rung with a rubber mallet to make sure the rung is all the way in. Gluing without clamping is the same as not gluing. To clamp the chair correctly, youíll need a fabric clampóthis looks like a red fabric belt with a buckle on one end. Wrap the clamp completely around all four legs of the chair and insert the empty end into the buckle. Then clamp it shut. Let the glue set for at least 24 hours, then remove the clamp.

Finally, donít use soap on the bottoms of drawers to get them to open and close smoothly. First, pull out the problem drawer, empty it and check the sides, the bottom and the back. If there are no loose parts, then sight down the bottom on the drawer sides to see if the wooden runners are worn out. If worn out, hire a furniture professional to rebuild them. If everything looks okay, spray some silicone on the runners, being careful not to get any on the front of the drawer, and put it back in. The drawer should work smoothly again.

A little routine maintenance can go a long way with your antique furniture. Keeping it in ship shape will ensure that it lasts a long time and will hold its value.

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