Caring for your antiques, ensuring they are displayed, stored, handled and cleaned correctly is essential to preserving them for future generations.
Some of the most popular products on the market are actually the most harmful to your furniture. Products containing silicone, linseed oil and heavy waxes are harsh, create build up, and can result in color changes and deterioration. Look for products based on beeswax, as well as natural oils and cleaners to insure longevity and enhance beauty.
Repairing furniture is a difficult and highly specialized area. We recommend you contact a qualified furniture conservator before attempting and repairs on your own. There are a number of surface finishes including: wax, varnish, lacquer, shellac, paint and modern synthetic finishes. Even bare wood will develop a patina of its own over decades. These finishes are a sign of the age of a piece and should be preserved.
If you find a scratch, first examine how deep it is. If it's only a surface scratch and has not gone through to the actual wood, you can attempt to color-in the area. A scratch that has gone through to the wood can allow moisture in - this type of damage needs professional attention. Before attemping any repairs, make sure you know what the surface finish of your piece is. If it's varnish, shellac or wax you could try the following steps:
Make sure the surface is dust free.
Use a basic watercolour set and a sable brush. Do some test colours to find one that looks as if it will match. Try it on the underside of the piece (or some other area that can't be seen). The colour when wet will be the colour when waxed.
Avoid getting paint on the finish. Have a cloth ready to wipe off any stray spots of paints.
When fully dry, polish with beeswax polish and a lint-free cloth.Environmental factors also play a role in the preservation or aging of your antiques. If possible, avoid extreme conditions in temperature, light and humidity
Furniture gets banged, things fall on it and constant rubbing can loosen the trim. It is important to replace these when possible because exposed areas on either side of a damaged area can be more vulnerable. Even a gentle dusting can snag the edge of a broken area and pull it off.
If a piece has broken off your furniture, but in one section (rather than several pieces) you may be able to re-attach it. However, it's advisable to speak to a professional conservator before attempting such a repair. Paying for a quick visit for them to see your piece of furniture may save you a great deal of angst and money. If there are a number of pieces, wrap each one individually in acid-free tissue and store in a bag or box. Do not attempt a complex repair.
For a simple re-attachment, follow these tips: examine the area. Is there a residue of old glue? Old glue can be removed with a scalpel and a very steady hand. Don't dig at the glue but gently brush away any residue. It may be necessary to do this on both the area of the break and the broken piece. Use a tiny amount of cold scotch glue on the broken part. This is animal glue and does not need to be heated to be effective. Try to apply it in the middle of the piece to be joined, as this will help to prevent the glue from oozing out at the edges. Carefully place the piece back in its original location. If you see any glue seeping out, remove it with your finger. Leave it for 24 hours and then rub with a wood polish if necessary.
General Housekeeping Tips
The temperature in your home can greatly affect the condition of your furniture. Excessively dry conditions can cause furniture to dry out and shrink, while excessively damp conditions can cause mould growth. Try to keep your pieces in a stable environment where the temperature and relative humidity don't fluctuate dramatically. The following points are worth bearing in mind:
Don't place furniture near heat sources as heat causes shrinkage. This can loosen joints and veneers and change the shape of the piece over time.
Light can also damage furniture. Natural or artificial light of a high intensity can alter finishes and if severe can break down the wood. Use blinds or curtains to reduce light levels.
If moving furniture, remove drawers and lock doors so they don't open. Pieces should be padded and covered for transport. Use clean white cotton gloves when moving gilded furniture (available inexpensively at chemists).
Lifting furniture should be done carefully. Check for loose areas. Chairs should be lifted (not dragged) by the seat rather than the back or arms. Tables should be lifted by the legs rather than the top, which could come off.
Source: BBC Antiques by Sharon Manitta