Specialty Finish Furniture Wood Restoration
Hand applied oriental lacquer is a specialty finish that requires an extremely laborious, lengthy and difficult technique. This finish is best left to conservators to restore. Gentle cleaning is all Plum Studio 2 will attempt on this specialty finish without written direction from a client to rebuild damaged surfaces.
Nitro cellulose lacquer, invented during WWI and rapidly adapted for auto finishing by spray
gun, quickly replaced hand finishing for furniture produced after 1920. Damage from sunlight, spills from drinks or water and routine scratches, gouges, ink spills, etc. can often be repaired and recoated without stripping the old finish.
By the 1960’s, chemists had modified lacquers to create tougher, thicker finishes; Catalized finishes and conversion varnish intended for kitchen and bath applications. By 1990, these solvent based lacquers were slowly being replaced by water borne lacquers that by now have acquired similar characteristics. For health and environmental concerns, I would only recommend water borne lacquers for new and restored 20c. furniture
Shellac, the residue from the lac insect is scraped off trees in India, pressed into small
cakes and packaged according to color and purity. Dissolved in alcohol, filtered and distributed with an egg shaped pad rubbed over and over on surfaces. This specialty finish technique became known as French polish.
Properly done, the thin coatings bond and dry so rapidly that a dining table top can be
worked continuously. The almost dry pad has a leveling and burnishing effect that can result
in a thin, glossy coating that works beautifully with period antique furniture. The gloss can
be softened with rubbing. The extreme thinness of the coating made possible by the pad, reflects light differently and makes possible a depth and transparency much finer than sprayed coatings.
The drawbacks to shellac finishes are it’s laborious cost, and poor protective qualities. It’s easily damaged by sunlight, spills and scratches, but it is easily reparable by skilled hands.
Leather Desk Liner Replacement
High quality hides with a wide choice of colors and embossed gilt borders are cut slightly
over size and shipped from sources in Toronto and Paris. This specialty finish is common to antique desks, partner’s desks, fall front secretaries and game tables. During the furniture and wood restoration, the old leather is removed and the recess or ‘grave’ is carefully
scraped flat, scratched for ‘tooth’ for better adhesion, and brushed with a thin layer of
wallpaper paste. The leather is trimmed to the grave, and unrolled into place and rubbed down. Paste wax is an acceptable top coating.
New leather tops can be a striking accessory to restored antique furniture or new and reproduction furniture.