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There are several ways to restore furniture. Before beginning a project, it is important to evaluate the piece in question in terms of age, value, materials and how you wish to use it. The answers to these questions will point to the best techniques for your furniture and situation. In general, techniques to restore furniture range from less to more intensive in how they permanently alter the furniture.
The first step in restoring furniture is to determine the value and significance of a particular piece. The techniques used to restore a 25 year old mass-produced wooden bureau will be different from what you will do with a one-of-a-kind piece that is more than 200 years old. When working with antique wooden furniture, it is important to remember that less is often more. Interventions such as painting, sloppy glue jobs, alteration or refinishing can significantly devalue an antique.
The simplest treatments to restore structurally sound wooden antiques are to apply a good quality paste wax, and to clean, repair or replace hardware. A good quality paste wax, found at your local hardware store, can work wonders on a damaged wood finish. Over the years, the knobs and pulls may become corroded, damaged or mismatched. Removing them for cleaning or using period appropriate replacements will help.
When antique wooden furniture needs structural repair, evaluation by an expert may be necessary. Keep in mind, however, that the cost of expert restoration is expensive and in terms of sheer monetary value, only worthwhile for very old furniture. Although most people think of refinishing first, this is not always the best option for retaining the character and value of an antique.
If you choose to restore furniture yourself, perform a thorough check of all joints and supports. In order to preserve the value of antiques you should try to use materials similar to those used on the furniture originally. For example, if you need to re-glue something, do not use super-glue. Instead, seek out an adhesive specifically designed for antiques, or the glue that was commonly used on furniture when your piece was made.
To restore other furniture, more drastic techniques may be useful. If the primary goal is to render a piece usable, or to change its look, then structural repair plus painting is likely the way to go. Another technique to restore furniture is alteration. For example, you might want to lower a bed frame or table by cutting off the legs. Re-upholstering and replacing the foam padding can be an excellent way to restore an old chair or sofa and give it a completely new look.