“Preservation should be, if at all, reversible” – With just a little care you can safeguard antique furniture from environmental changes and careless handling. The finish on antique furniture pieces can be damaged over the years making restoration necessary so the antique can be enjoyed by future generations.
Below are listed some environmental factors affecting wood such as light, humidity and insects.
- Since wood is a bad conductor of heat, avoid placing furniture in direct sunlight or near heating vents and fireplaces. Heat and light cause fading, darkening, cracking and drying.
- Wood shrinks and swells with changes in humidity resulting in the loosening of glued joints, veneers, inlays and marquetry. Lack of humidity also causes gaps to appear where two pieces of wood come together such as table tops made from several boards. This is easily remedied by filling the gap with soft, warm beeswax which solidifies in the gap and contracts and expands with the boards. Furniture constructed with wooden pegs fares very well as the pegs expand and contract along with the rest of the table.
- Insect infestations are another problem for antique furniture . Wood worms burrow into the wood, slowly destroying it and causing worm holes. This problem is solved by injecting the holes with worm killer.
- Water spills, if not cleaned up immediately, cause cloudy white patches on wood finishes.
It is always better to maintain the original finish of a piece of antique furniture rather than refinishing it. However, if the surface is badly damaged, it might not be aesthetically pleasing to keep the original finish.
Some tips for moving antique furniture:
- When moving antique furniture, always check for damage or loose joints. Make sure the piece is empty and remove drawers and shelves. Secure doors and if the top is marble, remove it and transport it in a vertical position.
- Lift the furniture rather than dragging it as this could damage or break the legs.
- Pick up furniture at its strongest point at the legs rather than lifting it at the top.
- To transport antique furniture in a vehicle, cushion everything with blankets and secure it so it won’t move around in transit.
Below are some tips for taking care of antique furniture:
- Dust regularly with a dry, soft cloth.
- For weekly cleaning use an aerosol beeswax and spray the cloth rather than the wood directly.
- To cover up minor blemishes, use a solid beeswax applied very sparingly with the grain. Tinted waxes help to cover minor scratches.
- For more severe blemishes and wood that has become dry looking, rub with 0000 steel wool and apply beeswax.