Earth-friendly fixes for your everyday wood antique furniture
The nooses and arrows of daily and even occasional use or abuse can shape your antique and even younger wooden furniture. Here are a few hacks and simple skills to get them back into slightly desperate beauty.
Small, pellet-sized holes from old (inactive) woodworms and tiny cracks can either be left alone or filled. If you just leave these small dents and divots, they will blend in with your wax polish and soften, making them less noticeable. Some people prefer this honest story. However, it’s relatively easy to repair yourself – useful when a hard finish like paint is broken. The most important thing is color matching, as “brown” has so many variations and we want to get as close as possible to that surface color.
Wax pencils for antique furniture are available in different colors from € 12 for a set of 3. Pale shades go with pine, kingwood, beech, and more shades of gold, while a dark collection of sticks is ideal for the redder, darker undertones of mahogany, rosewood, and walnut.
By warming the wax stick in your hand like you would with the tip of a crayon, we can even combine two colors, scrape off a little, and work them together or on top of each other.
Make sure the hole is clean and dry from rough edges or dust. Use a blunt edge to very gently remove stray paint flakes. If you have to choose between two sticks, go light first or layer two colors and mix with a little rubbing. When you’re satisfied, use a blunt plastic tool or old credit card (some kits include these) or the wooden end of a match to gently manipulate the warm wax into the mistake.
Bring it over the surface of the dent and cut the proud parts with a soft edge. Rub with the warmth of your finger. Once set, you can apply your regular wax finish to the entire area to remove any tell-tale textures. One wax works lightly into the other and mixes the finish. This technique works with new furniture, wooden cabinet doors, and much more. Since it is completely reversible, it is relatively safe even with valuable antiques.
Painting on sealed wood is a little more of a problem as it is possible to elevate the wax or hard finish environment once you start looking for the pearl of the paint and spoil that too. Leave good antique furniture to an experienced restorer.
Water-based paint should give up on a microfiber cloth with a little moisture – do not soak the area; damp not wet. Always get fresh splashes of paint right away.
One approach to an oil-based paint is to soften just the drop of paint with mentholated liquor for a few minutes and as specific as possible (cotton swabs are great – don’t lather the tip, just lift it off the cap for a minute from the bottle and onto handkerchief dab). Touch the stains of color with the spirit and let them work for about 15-20 minutes.
Now take an old credit card or a soft edge made of plastic or a card (not a paint scraper) and gently wipe the paint stain with a very light pressure by working the edges inwards. Don’t dig into the wood with one corner. If you are heavily using white or mentholated liquor on wood to remove paint stains, quickly work on heating and redistributing the wax, and buffing it to cover your work.
Again, don’t experiment with good furniture. Accept imperfections until you can speak to a professional. Avoid products labeled as “strippers”.
Watermarks are common problems with new furniture and antique wood surfaces. You pop or shake the teacup or forget to place a coaster under this flower vase on a veneered dining table. We all did it and the results can be devastating. Wax and water make a misty mess when the moisture gets in and under the protective finish and it crystallizes into a greasy, hard mess. New soiling should be removed immediately with a dry cotton cloth.
Sprinkle some baking soda on top to save anything that is in the open grain and, once dry, buff the table to redistribute any waxes and oils. No wooden surface should be left wet or cleaned with a damp cloth – I must say disaster.
There are several ways to turn back the time with new or antique wooden rings. We want to stay in these top layers and not work anything into the surface. Avoid wet “wet” water mixtures and dark dark spots. Completely removing the surface may be the only option if you can only accept diamond perfection. Homemade mayonnaise, olive oil or petroleum jelly can work on a fresh stain – work in circular movements and polish off. If you choose steel wool (not sandpaper) use the best grade you can buy and don’t spread the stain or use too much pressure – buff the area to finish.
There are good, gentle over-the-counter products that can be used to remove heat and watermarks from modern, fine and antique furniture that is protected with Varnishes, lacquers and French Polish. They are generally not intended for waxed or oiled surfaces. Hence, some surfaces need to be removed before you begin. Use these products on the letter.
Colron Ring Remover comes in an easy-to-apply mousse for € 10.50. Woodies DIY is one of the suppliers. For bold new furniture, try a mix of no gel / no whitening toothpaste and a pinch of baking soda in one mix. Work into the stain (with the grain) and rub off. Wax or polish for cleaning, finishing and shining. Once you go to an abrasive – just go. Once destroyed, centuries of patina cannot be replaced.