So, when is a decision made to restore vs repair a piece of furniture? Well, to determine that, we must understand what it means to restore a piece and what it means to simply repair it.
Restoring is to bring something to its original condition. Period. No improvements can be made to the design. Everything possible must be done to maintain the aesthetic and monetary value of the table, chair, chest or whatever is being considered. It could be considered blasphemous by many woodworkers and period furniture aficionados to replace a damaged board with a strip of plywood or to replace a worn iron strap hinge with a brass butt hinge.
The consideration that has to be made when deciding to restore a piece of furniture is to determine the value of restoring it. This is dependent upon the reason for restoring it. In many cases, it’s because it is an heirloom and preserving this part of a family’s history is important so that it can be enjoyed by future generations. Other reasons is that it is functional and restoring it is cheaper than buying a new one of like quality.
Restoration can be a lengthy and involved process requiring wood of the same type and age to be found. That is, if a chair needs a new foot or brace and is made from Mahogany that was harvested 200 years ago, then wood that was harvested 200 years ago should be used to make the repair. This is just one of the rules that a furniture restorer needs to try to heed.
Restoring and the impact to value
If there is any question as to its monetary value as an antique, it should be appraised by an independent appraiser and they should be questioned on what the impact of a restoration may be to its value. In some cases it may be better to leave it as is but if the piece is already missing a quarter of its parts, the true value is probably already degraded so far as to not matter.
In the next post, I’ll discuss some of the other rules of restoration and some of the key details behind identifying if a pre-industrial revolution piece has been restored improperly.
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