Antiques (part 2)

Restoring Value Continued – (Part 2)

by Andrea Daly

Preservation (Conservation): If the objective is to keep the item as close to its current state, conservation methods need to be employed.  The original finish needs to be consolidated, aesthetics are not the objective; keeping it as close to its original state is the main concern.  Fillers are used to show form, not to cover or conceal damage; finishes are rejuvenated or consolidated, the last choice is to remove and to reapply a finish.  Replacement parts are made to stand out so it is obvious what is original and what is not.

Once we truly understand these differences, then choices of fillers, colors, and coatings are only subjective to the owner’s direction. If aesthetics are the objective and the end result is the “look” then what difference does it make what is the filler, the coating, the adhesive, as long as all are reversible.  It only becomes a problem when something is done that cannot be undone.  Also a problem exists when there is no treatment report to accompany an item of value. The next restorer or owner will not be aware of what repairs have been made.

Some restores who profess themselves, as “purist” will claim that only “original” materials should be used as fillers; anything else will devalue the item even though they have chosen the aesthetic path. I have to challenge their train of thought; “what difference does it make?” Again the original material is gone so there can never be a replacement of the original. Any added item is foreign to the object whether if is a spliced piece of veneer or a polyester fill material. The important thing is that the added material is reversible. This mostly comes to life when re-gluing an item. Antiques were adhered by hide glue or some type of animal glue. It is still the best choice to use; it can be reconstituted in most cases, or is easily removed so more can be added.  Cyanoacralate adhesives or epoxies are not reversible and will take off more of the surface when they fail.  Both have a much shorter life then hide glues.

First decide on what the objective is and then choose products that are reversible.  Search out education on methods to stabilize an existing finish rather than removing it; bring out the shine with compounds and waxes, chose methods that will not take away more parts or surface of the item.  If working on a damaged item that is missing a leg, then choose that same wood to replace this major missing part.  If working on furniture from the 20’s of which most are made of mahogany then learn how to grain-fill so a duplicate finish can be attained to look like the original.  With either choice it is important that a treatment report accompany the item that records the process and the products that were used. This way the next restore will have “heads-up” on where his or her starting point will be. Keep a trail of history following the item; it is called its provenance.