When To Shellac

No move toward shellacking any piece which has been cleaned with varnish remover should be made under twenty-jour hours, as this period allows the last traces of the remover to evaporate. Shellac applied too soon over traces of remover may later become white and discolored.

Whatever solvent is used in cleaning furniture, great care should be taken to avoid spilling it about on the interiors of drawers or on any surface that was not originally finished.

All drawers should be removed, and a separate operation made of cleaning them.

The back of any cabinet piece should be slightly elevated with blocks, so that the front is not perpendicular, but tips forward. This tilt will prevent any of the remover or solvent from running, or oozing, into the vacant drawer openings. The interiors and backs of genuine cabinet pieces, all the surface of drawers, and the under side of table tops have a fine, distinctive old-brown color, which only age can produce. Any of the solvent mixed with finish and carelessly spilled over these beautiful surfaces seriously detracts from their appearance. The inside sections of a fine old cabinet piece are almost as interesting to an expert collector as are its outer surfaces.

Lye is a powerful, corrosive chemical, selling in most grocery stores at fifteen cents per can. Its action, when mixed with water, is very rapid, and it is the cheapest available solvent. 1 should hesitate to advise any general use of lye in cleaning furniture, as it has a way of entering deeply into soft, porous woods, sometimes discoloring and darkening them, and later working out through the final finish of shellac and wax, eventually turning them white.

Very strong lye will burn wood and cause the surfaces of turnings, when dry, to show hundreds of small longitudinal cracks. Its destructive power will be demonstrated if we immerse a small block of wood in a strong solution for a few days. By the end of that time the wood will be reduced to a slimy pulp. I have done considerable experimenting with the use of lye as a solvent, and have found it least harmful to maple, hickory, and pine. I have used it on very heavily painted Windsor chairs and tavern tables with not bad results. I have also used it, at times, for starting the outer coats of paint on heavily painted furniture.

It would probably be sound advice to say, never use lye on oak, walnut, chestnut, and butternut, or other more or less porous open-grained woods. It should never be used on cherry, which it turns to a sickly reddish drab, and certainly not on mahogany, which it quite ruins.

If we decide to try lye on a heavily painted piece of furniture, let the solution be not too strong, and the piece not too valuable. I have used lye on many different pieces, and expect to continue to do so; but I hesitate to recommend its general use for this reason: with varnish remover the amateur can do little damage to any piece; while with lye, improperly applied, he may accomplish a good deal of permanent harm.

Bearing these warnings in mind, the beginner will probably do well to avoid the use of lye. But if he wishes to experiment, here is the method:

Lye may be mixed with warm water in varying strengths; from one-eighth to one-half can of lye to one gallon of water. It cannot be applied with a brush, as it quickly destroys the bristles. The solution may best be put on with a wooden-handled cotton dishmop, such as may be purchased for ten cents. It may be dabbled about on the painted surfaces so as to keep them constantly moist. If this mop is occasionally rubbed in ordinary garden soil, the grit will help abrade the loosened paint.

The low price of lye allows its free use without much regard to economy, which must be considered when we are employing the much more expensive varnish removers.

Lye mixed with water enters deeply into wood, and leaves a wet shiny film, which should be removed with a scrubbing brush and clear water. Any piece cleaned with lye should be scrubbed, over and over again, to bring forth every particle of the chemical from the cracks, joints, seams, and pores of the wood. Any lack of thoroughness in washing with much clear water will later cause trouble under the final finish. I

have seen lye carelessly applied to old chests with a broom, and later washed with a hose, much to the detriment of the inner surfaces. Improbable as the statement may seem, a garden hose will not properly remove the film which comes with the use of lye.

As has been warned, lye raises the grain of wood and leaves a much rougher surface than does varnish remover; but it does pull refractory paints and stains out of the pores of the wood much more successfully than does the remover. After using varnish remover for hours on some particularly mean and tenacious coat of old red paint, I have, at times, lost patience and descended to the use of lye. It will certainly start old paint as will nothing else.


Savogran is a fine, white powder, obtainable at most paint stores at about fifteen cents per pound. Its action, when mixed with water, is much slower than that of lye; it is not so corrosive, and is not so harmful to hands and clothing. It has an advantage over lye in that it does not enter so deeply into the wood, nor so thoroughly raise and roughen surfaces. It has the same power as lye to enter into the pores of wood and to loosen and bring forth old paints and stains. Savogran will leave surfaces in better condition than lye, but not in so good condition as varnish remover. Savogran, like lye, is slow in action, and any piece could probably be cleaned off more quickly with varnish remover than with savogran. Its cheapness is its chief recommendation.

The correct solution strength of savogran is from one quarter pound to one pound mixed with one gallon of hot water, as it dissolves more quickly in hot water. It should be applied only when cool. A weak solution of savogran may be used in place of alcohol, after a piece is cleaned with varnish remover, to wash off the last traces of the remover and paints.

W SC ORIN(i-M \RkS ON OLD CH MR-POSTS Note h<m these are almost oblneiaLeJ by the «ear o( should« s at the mximiJ >1

Savogran may safely be employed by the amateur or inexperienced finisher on any solid furniture of native woods except cherry—which it seems to discolor. He cannot seriously damage either his furniture or himself with this solvent. It should never be used on any veneered furniture, or on mahogany.

Savogran may be applied like lye, with a cotton dishmop, or with a bristle paint brush. Bristles are not injured by savogran. The directions for applying lye may be followed in the case of savogran. In the end, the piece of furniture should be very thoroughly washed and scrubbed with plenty of clean water before being put away to dry.

Savogran will leave any piece on which it is used very light in color, as it has strong bleaching powers.

leave some traces of paint Whatever solvents we use, let us not be over-particular in removing the last traces of old paint from certain parts of our furniture. In the deep turnings of Windsor chair legs and the legs of turned tables, a slight trace of red, green, or black paint is attractive and indicates authenticity. A bit of old paint left on the under side of table tops, outside the frame, does not show when the table has been refinished and is in use; yet, if the table is turned over for close examination, this old paint will give a comfortable assurance of age.

removing stains and filling cavities Often we shall find table tops or the interior parts of desks badly stained with black or red ink. Ink stains penetrate deeply into the wood, but these and other stains may be minimized by applications of pure ammonia, or a saturated solution of oxalic acid. The spots so treated should, after drying, be rubbed smooth with steel wool.

Sometimes solid wood furniture will have acquired deep dents. These may be treated by placing three or four thick nesses of damp cloth over the dent and applying a hot flat-iron. The steam and heat will soften, swell, and raise the crushed fibre, tending to correct the trouble.

After cleaning our furniture we may find bad nail or knot holes, cracks, or places which require filling. Tiny bits of veneer may be missing. Stick shellac or plastic wood may be used for this filling, as described in a previous chapter. When varnish remover is to be used as a solvent the filling of these cavities should previously be accomplished. If lye or savogran be used, the filling should be done after the finish is removed, as the water content of these solvents tends to wash out and displace the filling.


Our furniture, at this point, needs smoothing—a treatment which will bring all its surfaces to a fine, silky condition without obliterating the interesting evidences of age and use. So we arrive at the question of suitable abrasives. We should remember that the purpose of abrasives of any sort on antique furniture is for smoothing and not for scratching. We are not removing rust from old ironwork, or preparing to paint a house, operations where the use of coarse sandpaper is indicated and proper. We are working on fine old surfaces which we wish to smooth without leaving any after-traces or marks of abrasives.

Of these, the only two worth consideration are sandpaper and steel wool. Many finishers depend entirely on sandpaper, often of the coarser grades only. In ignoring the aid of steel wool, they lose a valuable ally.

Sandpaper comes in many degrees of coarseness, and may be purchased at any paint store. The better grades are made of a very tough paper, and are lasting and economical. These are my recommendations as to sandpaper surfaces:

Number 2 sandpaper is too coarse for favorable use on furniture. Number 1 sandpaper might, at times, be used, as on a very rough table top, but it is somewhat too coarse. Number 1/2 sandpaper is a better grade for any rough operation.

The sizes of sandpaper on which we shall depend for most of our work are Number 1/0, Number 2/0, and Number 3/0.

In using, we should always (except, perhaps, with the finest grades) rub with the grain of the wood. Coarse sandpaper used across the grain badly scratches and mars the surface. Indeed a single energetic rub across the grain of a fine mahogany table top with Number 2 sandpaper will so mar it that a scraper will be required to remove the damage.

Coarse grades naturally do their work very quickly; hence their common use, and hence the frequent sight of old furniture full of unpleasant marks and scratches under the final finish. All such marks are accentuated, just as the grain of wood is emphasized, when the shellac is applied. A piece which appears to be nicely smoothed may, after shellacking, exhibit very apparent marks of sandpaper or a dull nicked scraper. We should always remember that there is absolutely no danger of making any piece too smooth.

In smoothing we may first use the relatively coarse grades of sandpaper and afterward the finer ones. If ever in doubt, we may safely incline toward the finer grades. Much rubbing with these latter will produce beautiful results; a little rubbing with only the coarse sizes will work quite otherwise.

Sandpaper, being brittle and tearable, does not work well on turnings, where a sheet will go to pieces quickly. Emery cloth, similar to sandpaper except that it has a backing of cloth instead of paper, is useful on deep turnings, and one sheet of it will outlast many of sandpaper. The finer grades, of course, should be used.

Steel wool is to be found at paint and hardware stores in one-quarter, one-half, and one pound packages, priced according to grades. Number 1 is the coarsest grade that we shall require for our furniture. Number o is a finer type, and the one we shall most commonly use. Number oo is extremely fine and soft, and may be employed for a final rubbing, if we want extreme smoothness.

Steel wool is used in small handfuls. An old leather glove should be worn during its application. If a glove is not worn, particles of steel wool will sometimes work into the hand, like splinters, making spots which become extremely sore. Steel wool in use disintegrates into millions of tiny particles, and, therefore, should not be used outdoors when the wind is blowing, on account of the danger of its getting into the eyes.

It works well on flat surfaces that are not too rough or splintery. A handful worked up and down and around a turning, gives a fine smooth finish. The leg of a Windsor chair can be properly smoothed with steel wool in half the time required with sandpaper. Fine steel wool does not, in any way, impair the marks of the turner's chisel on old turnings, nor the plane marks on flat surfaces. The finer grades may be worked in any direction, either with or across the grain; it leaves no scratches.

Steel wool works best on the harder woods, and not so well on soft woods, if they are at all rough. Such surfaces may best be smoothed with fine sandpaper. On maple, and on solid or veneered mahogany, a persistent rubbing with steel wool brings a surface that is the perfection of smoothness. It is an ideal abrasive for the use of the amateur finisher. He may rub to his heart's content, knowing that the more he rubs the finer will be the surface of his furniture.

the cabinet scraper

Occasionally, on flat surfaces which are badly stained, the help of a cabinet scraper will be needed. If this be used at all, it should be very sharp, and should be lightly handled, not with the intention of deeply removing the surface of

TOWER CORNER OF A TURNED BUTTERFLY TABLE Though refinished, this retains marks of rumer*!, chisel, old paint. \Neai and ev idtnce of a^e An unw ise use of scraper and sand paper would ha\e ohl 1 ret ire. 1 these murunrees oi authenticity


IF THE directions and suggestions of previous chapters have been carefully followed, our furniture, at this point, will be ready for its final finish.

Some woods, such as tulipwood, maple, oak and pine, are subject to borers and worms. Mahagony and walnut are fairly immune from such attacks. Even after the refinishing process, these pests will sometimes continue to work, and will daily thrust out fine wood dust from the entrances of their homes. They may be killed by a thorough soaking with gasoline, which evaporates quickly and in no way harms the wood.

If our furniture is of solid mahogany, rosewood, or Victorian walnut, or if it is veneered, it was not originally intended to be painted and so should show no traces of paint anywhere. But if it be of the type of early Windsor chairs, tavern tables, or softwood cupboards, which were nearly always painted, a few traces of the old paint may be allowed to remain about the pins, in cracks and joints, or in the deep parts of turnings.

If restorations have been necessary it will be remembered that the restored parts will probably appear lighter in color than the original surfaces. Something must now be done to bring these restored parts to a color harmonizing with the old surfaces.

touching up the new with color For this work, nothing is more satisfactory than the decorators' oil colors, which come in tubes and may be purchased at most paint stores and from dealers in artists' supplies. If we have on hand a tube each of burnt umber, chrome green,



black, white, Indian red, chrome yellow, dark blue, and dark mahogany, we may, by using the pure colors, closely approximate the old surface tones of any piece, whether solid or veneered.

If, for instance, we are working on a Windsor chair whose feet have been restored, we first moisten the feet with a little linseed oil. Then, with the hand or a bit of rag we shall work in just enough of the burnt umber to match the color of the old maple legs. If the maple shows traces of red stains or paint, we may also apply to each foot a tiny fleck of Indian red, worked into the first coat of burnt umber.

The quantity of color required for such work is very small. By careful experiment and blending, we may hit very well the old shades. If our efforts are not at first successful, we may wipe off the application with linseed oil and try again. This work is interesting and gives us opportunity to test the accuracy of our color sense.

If we have been forced to restore any large surfaces with new wood of light color, such as pine or tulipwood table tops or drawer fronts, they are not easily brought to a plausible appearance of antiquity. They are, of course, to begin with, absolutely smooth and unmarred. We do not want artificially to mar, scratch, and dent these new surfaces, as is sometimes done, for such work borders too closely on the illegitimate. We may darken these new surfaces with walnut stain much diluted with turpentine and attain any desired shade of brown, but the effect will still be new. After all this has been done, we shall probably wish that we had taken the trouble to find old wood for the restorations, and vow to do so on the next piece to be treated.

After the restored sections have been brought to a suitably harmonious color, the piece should be put aside for twenty-four hours to dry.

This staining or coloring of restored parts is quite proper, and is not "faking." It is done so that, when the finished furniture is placed in our homes, there need be no shocking or violent variations in color. We need not fear that our effort to obtain harmonious color will in any way confuse the expert. If restorations have been made, a careful examination will quickly disclose them, no matter how successfully colored they may be.

The question whether it is desirable to stain maple, pine, or tulipwood to simulate mahogany sometimes arises. Such staining would seem to be poor practice. There is one place where it might be permissible. When we want a room entirely furnished in mahogany, it is very difficult to find a mahogany bed at any reasonable price; hence many collectors meet their requirements by staining mahogany one of the handsomely turned low-post maple beds of the 1840*5 and 50's.

If we wish to use a mahogany stain, let us be particular that it is the very dark brownish-red oil stain; not the gaudy bright red so prevalent at paint stores, or the alcohol stains, which are difficult to apply smoothly. Oil stain should be applied according to the directions on the can, after the old finish has been removed and the piece thoroughly smoothed. The surplus stain should be wiped off with a soft cloth before it has completely dried. If this is not done, the work is likely to be a patchy and uneven color.

Under no circumstances stain any fine maple bureaux, high-post beds, Windsor chairs, early gate-leg or tavern tables to imitate mahogany. Persons have been summarily executed for lesser crimes.

general-purpose finish

We are now ready to proceed and shall first apply what I shall call our general-purpose finish. If we are dealing with expansive surfaces of new woods,'we shall have to use some paste filler to close its pores. As most of our work will be on old woods, which have previously been painted and finished in various ways, the old surface pores are fairly well sealed, so no paste filler is required.


Here shellac enters into our calculations. If we want to keep our furniture very light in color, we may use white shellac. I prefer and generally use the so-called orange, or brown, shellac, concerning which there seems to be considerable confusion—labels appearing to mean little. We find under the label of orange shellac various colors, from a gaudy orange which we must avoid, to a brown shade which is just what we want.

Therefore, see to it that, disregarding labels, we purchase a brown or brownish shade of shellac of the best grade and not the brilliant orange tint.

Shellac dries very quickly, and clear, heavy shellac is rather difficult to apply smoothly, especially around chair rungs and turnings. Moreover, we do not want a thick or heavy coat of shellac, or of anything else, on our early American furniture. Nothing could be in worse taste on such pieces than several heavy coats of varnish rubbed to a "piano" finish, although such modern treatment of early furniture is common.

It is only reasonable to allow that the finer and later types of mahogany and veneered furniture will submit more gracefully to such treatment than do the earlier and cruder styles. However, no piece of old furniture of any type or style should have such a varnished and shining surface as to reflect like a mirror the pained and startled countenance of the antique-lover who is closely inspecting it.

All that we require is a coating that will thoroughly seal the pores of the wood and offer a smooth surface and founda tion for the application of our special brown wax, which is almost the last step in our finishing operations.

So we shall mix equal parts of wood- or denatured-alcohol with our white or orange shellac. White shellac should not be used on mahogany, walnut, or rosewood. This mixture will seem rather thin, but that is exactly what is needed. It should be applied very quickly with a fairly stiff brush; and, when applied about chair rungs or turnings, only in small brushfuls. By going over all surfaces two, three, or four times with this mixture, working very briskly and brushing until the brush is almost dry, we may produce a very fine, smooth surface, with no daubs, runs, or smears such as are likely to occur with the use of undiluted heavy shellac.

Soft, porous woods, such as pine, will absorb a much larger amount of shellac than will the harder woods like maple and cherry. Pine may need four coats of this thin mixture, while hard maple or mahogany may require but two. At any rate, we do not have to wait long for the coats to dry. This diluted shellac evaporates so quickly that by the time we have finished the last side of a chest of drawers the first side is dry enough to take on another coat. There is no waiting, as between successive coats of varnish. But we must remember that we want a sufficient shellac foundation so that our wax will have a surface on which to shine. For flat surfaces of mahogany, or any fine, hard wood on which a particularly smooth and even surface is desired, we may, when each successive coat of shellac is dry, give a light rubbing with very fine sandpaper or steel wool. But this procedure for any ordinary purpose is unnecessary.

After this shellac is smoothly and properly applied, the piece will show quite a sheen, even before the wax is used. Having thus thoroughly sealed the pores of the wood and prepared a smooth foundation, we shall find that our furniture is ready for its first coat of special brown wax.

wax and waxing

Were we to use on our furniture any of the light yellow waxes, such as floor wax, we should find that, after the wax had dried, it would show almost white in cracks and joints. There are on the market a variety of so-called black waxes, made by mixing yellow wax and lampblack, and these are sometimes used on furniture. On dark woods, like mahogany and walnut, they are fairly satisfactory, but brown wax is better. They are not suitable for maple, pine, and light woods, to which their use imparts an unpleasant gray cast. Most of our furniture, when finished, should appear in various shades of warm browns and yellows, or, if of mahogany, reddish browns, and we want no gray or blackish effects if they can be avoided.

What we desire is a brown wax, and, so far as I know, the only way to obtain it is to prepare it ourselves. The market offers a number of reliable brands of yellow floor wax. These are combinations of paraffin, coloring matter, and alcohol or ether. They contain no beeswax and are known as "paraffin-base waxes."

We may place the contents of a pound can of yellow floor wax on a wide, smooth board, or table top; and, with a spatula or putty knife, thoroughly work into the wax a small level teaspoonful of burnt umber decorator's color. The wax may now be returned to the can, and we shall have a fine, brown tone wax, which may be used on early American furniture of every sort and color. It does not dry white, which is very important.

This wax is very inflammable; therefore we should not attempt to melt it on a stove and then mix the color with it. One of my friends once tried this method. After the fire department had extinguished the resulting conflagration, the cost of refinishing his kitchen was about seventy-five dollars.

With a soft cloth we may apply a thorough coat of the brown wax, working it well into the wood and covering all the thinly shellacked surfaces. We should do this work so that all the surfaces are covered by a fairly heavy coat of the moist wax, and we must see that no lumps are left in deep turnings or around chair rungs and stretchers. The piece may now be put aside in a warm room for twenty-four hours, after which it should be polished with an old soft woolen or cotton cloth. This process of waxing and rubbing may be repeated until three or four coats of brown wax have been used. Between the successive coats of wax, the piece should be left in a warm room, as wax dries very slowly in a low temperature.

A piece coated with brown wax and exposed to direct sunlight in warm weather dries within a few hours and is sooner ready for its rubbing, polish, and subsequent coat of wax.

The number of coats to be used may be determined, in any instance, by the hardness of the piece and by the degree of polish we wish to obtain. Each successive coat of well-rubbed wax will bring a richer lustre.

this finish answers all general purposes

This general-purpose finish is the process I have used on virtually all the refinished furniture in my own collection, and I have found it most satisfactoryC It gives a thin, smooth, and refined finish, showing pleasing high lights on turnings, t It has no appearance of thickness or daubiness. It is not brittle, and it does not mar, chip, or bruise.

The whole process of applying this finish is simple, and I think the amateur finisher will do well to use it on all his furniture.

It has been employed on oak, walnut, cherry, pine, tulip-wood, ash, butternut, sycamore, beech, maple, birch, and other native woods. It seems to work well on either soft or hard woods, and on woods of open or close grains. It is very satisfaaory on mahogany and rosewood furniture, either solid or veneered. It apparently stands well the daily use and wear in our homes; and if, at any time, a piece becomes a trifle dull, a coat of brown wax or furniture polish quickly restores its sheen.

Table tops finished in this way are said not to withstand well the effect of damp glasses which have been used for serving the beverages prohibited by our zealous government at Washington. However, I have had no real experience with this reported objection, and, assuming that my readers are strict observers of the law, I might well have omitted reference to it.

oil finish

In passing, I shall mention two other simple finishes which are satisfactory only on furniture made of hard, close-grained woods, such as maple, beech, birch, cherry, and mahogany. They should not be attempted on soft woods, such as pine and tulipwood.

Let us say, for example, that we have a maple lowboy which has been cleaned and carefully smoothed with fine sandpaper and steel wool. We may, if so inclined, try an oil finish, which consists simply of applying thin coats of boiled linseed oil, and thoroughly rubbing in each coat with a soft woolen cloth. No surplus oil should be left on the piece at any time, and, after the application of each coat of oil and the subsequent rubbing, the piece should be left in a warm room for twenty-four hours. The success of this oil finish depends on much friction, little oil, and certainly that no surplus oil is left on the piece to become gummy and sticky.

This oil finish is fairly satisfactory on hard, well-filled woods and very satisfactory on the tops of dining tables, but is a rather slow process, and I prefer the generalpurpose finish, since it is in every way more satisfaaory.

butcher's wax finish

We might try on a similar maple lowboy the butcher's wax finish.

There are innumerable formulas for butcher's wax. Beeswax in combination with various oils has been used for wood finishing since very ancient times. A satisfactory wax is made by melting one-half pound of yellow beeswax, and, while it is warm, adding one-half pint of turpentine, one-half pint of boiled linseed oil, and a small quantity of burnt umber to give the mixture a brown tone. This melting and mixing should be done in a double boiler, as the ingredients, when hot, are inflammable. With the butcher's wax finish, as with the oil finish, it is a matter of little wax and muclrfriction.

First apply a thin coat of wax, followed by hard rubbing with a woolen cloth. An interval to dry in a warm room, then more wax, and more rubbing. No surplus wax should be left when the piece is put away to dry, as this surplus will become sticky. Three or four well-rubbed coats of butcher's wax will give a soft, dull finish much admired by many collectors. But, again, I prefer the general-purpose finish.

a voice from the past

The Universal Receipt Book published in Philadelphia in 1829, after describing the preparation of a furniture wax by melting together two ounces of yellow beeswax with four ounces of turpentine, goes on to say:

Many cabinetmakers are contented with waxing common furniture such as tables, chests of drawers, etc. This covering by means of repeated friction soon acquires a polish and transparency which resemble those of vamish.

Waxing stands shocks but does not possess in the same degree as varnish the property of giving lustre to the bodies on which it is applied. The lustre it communicates is dull, but this is compensated by the facility with which any accident to the polish may be repaired.

This admirable publication, which described everything that anybody could possibly want to know in the year 1829, also goes into the details of the approved method of refinishing furniture in that same year. We quote again:

durable polish for furniture Take your table to the cabinetmaker and make him plane off the wax or varnish. Then take some very fine sifted brick dust, mix a little sweet oil with it, just enough to make it stick together like flour. Rub this mixture on the wood with a fine pumice stone until it is perfectly smooth: then add some spirit of wine or strong old whiskey and continue rubbing until you have the required polish, which will be more beautiful and far more durable than varnish. Water may be thrown upon it without injury and when by age the polish becomes dull, you can in five minutes restore its beauty by rubbing it with a cloth dipped in boiled oil or by using the brick dust, as at first.

I have for some time intended to try out this method but at the present writing the process remains untested. I fear that it would be difficult to really approve of that section wherein we are told "make him plane off the wax or varnish," nor of the use of rare old spirituous liquors in the compounding of a furniture polish—no matter how excellent.

the right color of woods All maple furniture may be given a beautiful golden tone by the application of one well-rubbed coat of boiled linseed oil before receiving the thin shellac coat which is the first step in our general-purpose finish. Every trace of surplus oil should be wiped off, and the piece should be put aside for twenty-four hours before shellacking. Linseed oil should not be used on fine oak or porous woods, as such woods absorb so much oil that their color becomes too dark. Many persons object seriously to the darkening effect of linseed oil on cherry and pine. The general tone of old maple which has been properly cleaned, smoothed, and finished, is a brownish yellow. It seems to be usual, at the present time, to want maple furniture to appear almost white. If the old surface of maple with its patina is thoroughly scraped and planed off, and the piece is finished with white shellac, it may be made so to appear.

New maple is almost white; but old maple is yellow, or brownish yellow, and good taste would indicate that we do nothing to make it look white and new. These same remarks apply equally to pine and tulipwood, which are very light colored when new, and yellow or brownish yellow when old.

The proper color on old mahogany is a varying shade of warm reddish brown. We have often seen fine pieces of mahogany which, after cleaning, had been stained a ghastly pinkish red, which is very far from the color of old mahogany. Some of the Empire and Early Victorian mahogany was stained very dark and now appears almost black. Bright red or pink mahogany furniture is an abomination.

wrong ways and the right one

Let us draw a comparison between the wrong and right methods of restoring a piece of early American furniture. We shall assume that the piece in question is a fine, heavy, maple tavern table with good turnings and with the drawer, top, and cleats original. The top is slightly stained and marred. The stretchers are badly worn, but in place. The feet are missing, and must be restored. The table is a bit shaky and needs gluing. It carries several coats of old paint. Let us see what might happen to this table in inexpert and unsympathetic hands; also, what should result from proper and careful treatment.

a frightful example under the worst treatment we can imagine

All the old pins are carelessly removed, and, since they are bent or broken, are thrown away. The table is taken entirely apart, and all the flat surfaces, including the top, drawer front, and stretchers, are deeply planed and scraped. The table is now glued and assembled, and new and badly fitting pins are driven into the old pin holes. The feet are restored with clumsy knobs of pine, not at all in accord with the old turnings, and these knobs are nailed on with long brads driven slantwise into the bottom of the posts.

The joint in the two-board top is filled with putty. The new pins, wherever exposed, show like white dots.

The turned legs are now deeply scraped, and the turnings left rough and jagged. The whole table is given a complete rubbing with coarse sandpaper, used both with and across the grain, thus leaving marks and scratches. The new feet are daubed with thin walnut stain, and a heavy coat of gaudy orange shellac is applied to the entire piece. The shellac accentuates every error; the marks of sandpaper all show; the new pins are white; and the restored feet are walnut color.

The table may now be said to be finished; and it is, indeed, finished, in so far as arousing interest or enthusiasm from a discriminating lover of old furniture is concerned.

The above description may seem exaggerated. It is not. Such methods are in common use. Every step in the work is wrong, and, as might be expected, the piece is a complete botch—skinned, scraped, daubed, and ruined.

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