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Furniture Specific: More housekeeping
|Written by FRED TAYLOR|
|Monday, 07 January 2013 15:56|
CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. - I am back with more suggestions about how to prolong the life of some of your furniture. Some of the ideas are based on what should be done and others on what should not be done – no matter what your great aunt told you when you were a child. It’s OK, she lied to you about a lot of other things too.
To refresh your memory on my take about the topical application of almost anything to your furniture, see my treatise on oiling, waxing and otherwise abusing the finish on your fine old furniture. Just remember, you don’t need to feed that finish – you need to protect it. And you don’t need to “remoisturize” the wood – it’s supposed to be dry. Enough on that subject.
But speaking of topical applications and protecting a finish, some of the worst damage we inflict on good old furniture is caused by what we place, throw, dump or otherwise deposit on our horizontal surfaces. I’m not thinking of car keys, damp newspapers and unprotected drink glasses. I’m thinking of vases, lamps and computer games. The bottoms of many of the “dustables” that we so carefully place on end tables and lamp tables are far from being silky smooth and they eventually will leave a scratch or a haze as they are moved around for cleaning. While it’s true that some better lamps and other artifacts come with felt bases, not all of them do and you need to check them. Felt is available in convenient peel off shapes with one sticky side ready to apply to the bottom of almost any glass, ceramic or metal decorative object. The trick is that the felt doesn’t do any good stuck to the manufacturer's backing. It actually has to be installed once it is acquired. These same little felt appliques also work well protecting hardwood floors from the bottoms of wooden chair legs.
However, there are some precious objects that we choose to display that might not be well suited for the application of sticky felt. For the areas that support objects like that and for other areas such as your workaday nightstands, you might want to consider having glass cut for the tops. That solves the wet drink glass problem once and for all. Custom cut glass is actually an affordable solution considering the price of having furniture professionally restored. You can even save a little bit of the cost by making a pattern of the glass yourself and taking it a glass company. Of course if it doesn’t fit you get to eat that piece of glass. Or the glass company will send a technician to make the pattern. The cost will be added to the cost of the glass but if it doesn’t fit they're stuck with it, not you. In the long run the extra protection will add years to the life of your furniture. Just be sure to use the small round plastic discs under the glass. They lift the glass off the surface and allow air to circulate under the glass. This helps keep the glass from eventually “growing” to the finish because of residual moisture on the surface.
And speaking of things growing to the finish, our modern world is complicated by the use of certain substances that seem to be impervious and inert to most of what we do to or with them but actually react strongly with some of the other things we use. Specifically certain types of vinyl or plastic, not all but some, tend to emit solvents over their useful life. Nothing real bad about that unless you happen to place them on another substance that is susceptible to that solvent – like lacquer and some shellac finishes on older and antique furniture. The solvents from the vinyl migrate directly into the finish structure and the two surfaces, vinyl and lacquer, unite. You can see that effect occasionally in an office when an executive leaves a vinyl stock binder or corporate minute book on the edge of the antique walnut double pedestal desk. After a year or so the book become part of the finish and the desk has to be resurfaced and in some cases refinished because the book took the finish with it when it was moved.
Another culprit with similar but not quite so dramatic results is the material used for the “feet” on electronic instruments, including computer chess games, portable typewriters, answering machines and even stereo speakers. The vinyl feet don’t usually have the biting power seen in the cover of the executive stock book but they do have a nip. Rather than growing into the finish, the solvent in the feet merely conveys the color in the vinyl of the feet into the finish, and sometimes all the way into the wood, below. I have seen light colored tables and stands take on a mysterious dappling of red or black spots after the use of a computer game on the surface or after a small stereo speaker is relocated after a long period on that site. Given long enough to work, the color can become part of the wooden surface and cannot be removed, even by refinishing. Try using felt on these too.
If you are lucky enough to live out of a nice old chest of drawers, you know from daily experience that those drawers are not the same as the ones that come in new chests, with the fancy metal slides and lower guides that keep the drawer straight all the time. You know that the drawers in your nice old piece need two gently guided hands, operating in unison to correctly open and shut them. But sometimes old drawers, like old cars and old motorcycles, can be a little recalcitrant on a given day. Maybe it’s the humidity or something. Or maybe it’s something else and you need to find out what it is because those things don’t usually fix themselves – you just get used to them.
First take a good look at the contents of the drawer. Do you really need that much stuff in that drawer? People from the period in which that chest originated normally had a lot less “stuff” than we do and the furniture was designed for that period. Perhaps it’s time to lighten the load and give the drawer a break. But don’t stop there. Remove the entire contents and then remove the drawer from the case. Carefully examine the sides, bottom and top edges for signs of undue wear or stress. Pay special attention to the bottom of the sides of the drawer that carry the weight. They do eventually wear out after more than 100 years. Sight down the side and see if the bottom edge has a noticeable arc to it. If it does you need some professional help to rebuild that drawer. Then take a careful tour inside the cabinet, assisted by a flashlight. Look for worn interior case runners, signs of wear on the interior of the cabinet and signs of sawdust in the cabinet. All are silent calls for help.
But suppose after all of that you don’t find any signs that you take as serious structural problems. Maybe it is the humidity or lack of it and the drawer just needs a good lube job. With what? The pragmatist will tell you to just use the edge of a wax candle to apply a good coat of lube. The purist will tell you to go to the trouble of acquiring, storing and using beeswax. Both methods will do OK for your purposes but they can be a little difficult to use uniformly on a cabinet. The furniture restoration artist will tell you to go buy a can of silicone spray. But not just any silicone spray. The ones you find in the hardware store and automotive store normally have a harsh solvent in the propellant, usually alcohol of some sort, and that can do harm to the finish on your nice old furniture. You need a type of “food grade” silicone commonly used by savvy upholsterers to get tight fitting covers on plump sofa cushions. Most nice upholstery folks will order you a can next time they order for themselves. This stuff won’t harm your old finish. And once you have used it on the sticky drawer you will find a couple of thousand other places to use it, like on slow table slides, squeaky hinges, awkward tambours, sticking cabinet doors and unruly locks. And it’s a lot easier to use than a chunk of wax.
Visit Fred's website at www.furnituredetective.com. His book How To Be a Furniture Detective is available for $18.95 plus $3 shipping. Send check or money order for $21.95 to Fred Taylor, P.O. Box 215, Crystal Fiver, FL, 34423.
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|Last Updated on Monday, 08 April 2013 14:12|