Preserving Old Furniture

Besides family stories, photos and documents, my husband and I are fortunate to have several furniture pieces that have been passed down to us by ancestors. Unfortunately, a bedroom set that once belonged to my mother began to show its age – it looked dull and small scratches appeared on the top of the dresser. My kids insist the house ghost decided to leave us an undecipherable message, however, it looks to me like someone, once upon a time, wrote a note on top which left a minor imprint on the finish that became visible with age. We can’t read most of the letters but a H, A and L are visible.
I didn’t want the furniture refinished but I did want to prevent it from further fading and minimize the scratches. Last December, we visited a local antique store that carried a product that the owner swore would do the job for us. With less than a $10.00 investment we thought, why not?!
Hubby tried it on the dresser as soon as we returned home and we were disappointed that there was no visible change to the piece. The product, along with the steel wool that was needed to apply the liquid, was all but forgotten as we moved ahead with house renovations.
Saturday evening, with our hardwood floors installed (but not completely as the transitions still haven’t come in) we were moving furniture back into the living and dining room. I mentioned to my husband how much I missed the old Formby’s kits that he used to use to restore our older pieces. Hubby said we ought to try the product we had purchased at the antique store. I was thinking that would be a waste of time since the last time we used it the results were not what I was hoping it would be but I kept my mouth shut.
Hubby retrieved the can, shook it and applied a thin layer to one of my grandmother’s chests that I use to store linens. The result was breathtaking! As he went to get a rag to wipe off the excess, I grabbed the steel wool and went to work on an old secretary I used to house china. Pleased with the results, I went on to give a quick touch up to the dining room table and chairs.
We’re thinking the reason the product didn’t work the first time was because the stain didn’t match exactly. Although the bedroom set is cherry, it is a light stain compared to the dining room furniture. We plan on purchasing another can with a lighter stain this weekend and try again on the bedroom set.
After celebrating Easter with the family, I decided I really needed a larger china cabinet to safely display my husband’s maternal grandmother’s china so I surfed Craigslist and found a piece that would match what we had and best of all, it was in my price range and only a few miles from our home. The bowed front china cabinet, circa 1940, was inherited by the original owner’s grandson who had no room for it. Bought in Oklahoma, the piece was moved 4 times by the Army over the past few years.
On Tuesday, we finalized the purchase and its travels; thankfully, it fit in hubby’s vehicle. Our teenaged neighbors helped get it into the garage where I went at it with my new wonder product. You can see the results above.
Hubby told me he was reluctant to make the purchase as there were dog scratches on the right side, some spots on the bottom were completely missing veneer and there were watermark rings on shelves. He was also concerned about the wood swelling as it was housed in an unairconditioned high humidity drafty building that was about 100 years old, though we don’t know how long it had been stored in those conditions. In just two days of being in a climate controlled environment, the difficulty in opening the doors are no longer an issue.
I’m glad to give our china and the cabinet a new home and I’m absolutely in love with Howard’s Restor-A-Finish. The big box stores locally don’t carry it so check around if you’d like to give your furniture a facelift. I’m thrilled with the results.