Rare Victorian Forum: Restoration Tips for Cleaning Compo

by Cynthiab on July 1, 2009

smdoor 238x300 Rare Victorian Forum: Restoration Tips for Cleaning CompoTcandkk may be a newbie poster on the Rare Victorian board, but it’s already obvious that she’s not a newbie when it comes to buying Victorian furniture.  She loves a deal and is prepared to put the work in to bring a less than perfect piece back to its original glory.

One of her new (old) pieces is a sideboard with a raised carving on the front panel of each door. They’re in desperate need of a good cleaning so she came to the boards looking for advice on how to get it done. Woodwright thought they might be made of composition, which would make them very susceptible to damage from strong strippers and water-based products.

Tcandkk isn’t taking any chances, she’ll be using Plastilina to make an imprint of the carvings so she can cast new ones if these become damaged.

chair arm 199x300 Rare Victorian Forum: Restoration Tips for Cleaning CompoJaxdrifter came by looking for some advice on cleaning and restoring a couch and chair set. You can see by the close-up photo that the carved arm has quite a few scratches and worn areas. Woodwright suggests the use of gel stains. Thicker than normal stains, they don’t soak into the wood, which means the final color will be more even and uniform.

If you like to curl up with a good book after a hard day of restoration, ThePeacockRoom suggests Culture & Comfort: People, Parlors and Upholstery 1850-1930 by Katherine Grier. The suggestions stems from a thread about the use of horsehair stuffing, a material that goes all the way back to the late 1600′s. You can read all about it in HERE in the Rare Victorian Forum.

Do you have a question about cleaning, restoration or Victorian materials? Post it to the forum, our members love a challenge.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

English Classics July 3, 2009 at 9:51 am

I’ve never thought of that. Usually a good waxing/polishing cleans a piece right up (assuming, of course, that it has a wax finish).

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zeke July 3, 2009 at 9:36 pm

I’d like to say that this blog has so many members that have given me and many other people good advice on the care of our antiques as well as attribution and good advice in general regarding 19th century American furniture. If I think I can help someone with a question I always chime in and offer what i hope is solid information that will be helpful. This is a very unselfish community consisting of some really great individuals, I think we will grow to be the definitive site for American “Victorian” furniture.

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beerwineandcheese July 3, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Is she trying to revive the finish, remove dirt, or put a new finish on top of the wood without affecting the patina?

The techniques vary tremendously. We should begin by understanding what kind of finish is on the wood in the first place. Most times, you need to carefully inspect the entire piece to discover clues about what was used.

Without going too much further, I’d say a good cleaning (techniques vary tremendously) is in order, then inspect the surface to determine if a new topcoat finish would be appropriate (i.e. lacquer, tung oil, linseed oil, etc) or just a polishing wax (possibly color treated).

We need more information before we can begin diagnosing and prescribing an appropriate solution over the net.

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Brad Charles July 6, 2009 at 9:44 am

Hi Everybody,
After 30 plus years in the antique refinishing/restoration I find the
best advise to do as little as possible at home. ie. a nice lite cream polish such as OZ.
The best advise is to take your peace to a qualified professional if you want to do what is best for that particular piece. I have seen so many pieces really messed up from good intentions. Anyway
people are always welcome to contact me for any info.
Brad Charles
Bradford’s Antiques

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