As restorers, we are used to seeing fine antiques looking a little worse for wear. Most of the items that come through our doors need a wide range of repairs to bring them back to their former glory. Common problems include loose joints, broken veneer sections, missing veneer inlay and so on. Of course, such wear and tear is to be expected on items that have been around for several hundred years. But occasionally we are asked to work on a piece that is truly in a sorry state.
One recent example was a grandfather clock case that had been accidentally knocked over, as you can see from the pictures below, it was quite literally smashed to pieces!
The first step when working on a piece as seriously damaged as this, is to make sure any loose pieces are carefully set aside and stored. Retaining any tiny broken pieces is very important, as something as simple as a tiny corner of mounding, can take a great deal of time and effort to replace. So it’s always best to keep as much of the original pieces as possible for restoration.
Once all of the loose pieces (including broken fragments, any veneer as well as metal fittings) have been set aside, and labeled, the repairs can begin.
Initial repairs tend to focus on the structural integrity of the piece, so all the main pieces and joints that provide strength to the carcass will be checked, re-glued and even replaced if necessary.
Now we have a rigid and totally intact carcass to work with, we can begin to reattach any broken pieces of timber.
After reattaching all of the fragments, we can then assess the damage that will require new pieces of timber. We thoroughly check for any missing veneer, mouldings or metal fittings that need replacing. We then use timber appropriate to the period of the piece to make the required repairs.
We take pride in ensuring the repairs are as indistinguishable as possible, partly for aesthetic reasons, but also in order to retain the integrity and monetary value of the item.
When the repairs are complete, we can focus on cosmetic process of polishing and finishing of the piece. The first step is to ensure the base color is uniform in texture and shade. This is to prepare the surface of the piece to receive the polish in the final stages of restoration. Sanding, staining and the application of pigments are all part of this process.
Following the preparation of the surface, we can then start the delicate process of French Polishing. We proudly work in precisely the same manner as experts have been doing for centuries. We feel that antique items deserve to be restored using the same methods in which they were produced.
After many layers of polish, we allow the case to dry before being delivered to the client.
All in all, a job like this one can take months! But it’s worth it to know that we have helped conserve a fine antique, and hopefully provided the client with something that they can pass on for generations to come.