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Caring for antique wooden furniture

Antiques are valuable investments that should be treated with care. While amateur collectors spend a great deal of time researching particular names, pieces and designs, learning about preventative measures is equally important. There are so many types of antiques, a different method of care is best-suited to each, allowing owners to maintain as much value as possible.

Antique furniture looks beautiful and can sometimes be functional, but because the items are often quite large in size, protecting it from damage is tricky. Almost all antique furniture pieces are constructed of wood, which is highly susceptible to moisture. Wood pieces should never be stored in damp environments as it may warp the wood. Likewise, overly dry conditions may result in a tightening of the wood.

When moving antique furniture, always pad and cover the item. Ensure that all moving parts, such as drawers, are removed, and wear protective gloves when handling each piece. Inspect each item before moving to check for loose parts. Furniture should always be lifted during transport, since joint may weaken over time and become quite fragile. Tables should always be carried by the legs – never by the table top.

All types of wood pieces should be kept out of direct sunlight to prevent any changes in colour or finish. Surprisingly, artificial light can also have an adverse effect on wood surfaces, so proper placement of antique furniture is critical. Blinds can be used to minimise sunlight but this is not always the most practical solution. Common sense is key; storing a piece in the garage to prevent it from being subject to light will only work if the garage is kept at a proper temperature. It’s also important to keep potential water damage in mind, leaving basements, garages and sheds in question.

It is best to use a soft cloth for regular dusting, as even feather dusters can scratch delicate finishes. To clean intricate details, a small, very soft brush is ideal. To keep antique finishes in tip-top display condition, many experts encourage the use of furniture polish. Beeswax polishes are ideal and should be used once or twice per year, depending on usage requirements. Only a small amount of wax is required, applied with one soft cloth and then polished with another. Silicone-based products are not recommended because they often create a stubborn film that holds dust and dirt, producing a dull effect.

Amateur collectors often consider having antique furniture restored but many experts strongly disagree. Regardless of the scratches or nicks in the finish, it remains an important component of each piece and is better left intact. Antique furniture is almost always most valuable in its original state.

About the author

Victor Epand is an expert consultant for pottery, antiques, and figurines. When shopping for pottery, antiques and figurines, we recommend these online stores for pottery and wooden antiques.