Antique Furniture

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Ok, this is my first post so bear with me. My mother gave me my step-fathers grandmothers antique Cedar Wardrobe and chest about 15 years ago. The wardrobe still has part of the label inside it and from what I can gather, it was made in the 1800's. The company is out of business, but after to some investigating I found the owners grandson. All I could find out from him was, yes his grandfather made it and that it was in the 1800's and it was made from Tennessee Cedar. He was supposed to get back to me with more information but never did. So, my problem is; while in storage the Texas heat got to the cedar wardrobe. On the front of the doors it looks like the varnish? Shellac? got hot and possibly bubbled ( makes me think of sap running down a tree ) and then dried. So now the doors look like this. My question is should I re-do just the doors or the whole wardrobe ? And how do I do it ? Do I use polyurethane or ? Oh, and is there really a difference between Tennessee Cedar and say Texas Cedar ?
q antique furniture, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling, My camera isn t very good but you can see it here the best
My camera isn't very good but you can see it here the best.
q antique furniture, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling
q antique furniture, painted furniture, repurposing upcycling
  17 answers
  • Sherrie Sherrie on Jan 08, 2014
    The finish could have been many different things. A lot of oils were used then. But this is a antique. And it's a real antique. I wouldn't touch it! I would take it to a professional and let them fix it or I would live with it. One doesn't touch something like this and I paint and redo everything! This is a prize!

  • Terra Gazelle Terra Gazelle on Jan 08, 2014
    The heat brought out the oils from the wood. With it in the heat they then dried....I would get my hair dryer out and with a scraper when the oils softened scrap it off carefully. Then use some good oil, I am a believer of lemon oil...But I have a cedar oil..I take the balls from cedar trees, crack them and put them in some light oil like almond oil and let it sit...Fill the jar up with the cracked cedar balls...lots of uses for this oil..like keeping fleas out of animal bedding or rubbing down cedar furniture. If too much of the finish was removed get some cedar stain and lightly apply it. But oil the whole piece to feed it...sun saps the wood and dries it out. A good oil needs to be used once a week.

    • See 2 previous
    • Terra Gazelle Terra Gazelle on May 27, 2016
      No, what I was saying is the natural oil is staining..in the 1800s they did have a shellac. I am doing a 1890s chifferobe and it was like alligator hide from the old shellac. But ceder has a oil in it that in heat might seep out. I was saying to warm it and gently scrap it off. No they did not have poly back then, but in the early 1800s shellac replaced oils and wax.

  • Rainy Odessy Rainy Odessy on Jan 08, 2014
    shellac does that it can be redisolved read this...REVIVE Since shellac dissolves in alcohol, most damage to shellac can be repaired by either reapplying a new layer of shellac, or by wiping, brushing or misting the surface with alcohol. This is a very simple concept, but the techniques are not as simple as they sound. For example, french polishing, which is a method used for applying a highly polished shellac finish primarily to small table tops, is a technique used successfully only by the most experienced workers. Repairs to french polished surfaces need be be done by people who can successfully apply a french polish finish. Also, the type of alcohol used to repair various types of damage can be crucial. An alcohol used to quickly repair a fine scratch will not repair crazing. Fine scratches can easily be repaired by wiping or brushing, whereas crazing is best repaired by misting or fogging. If more than fogging is required, lightly sand the surface with a very fine sand paper, such as 320 grit. Next apply a thin coat of shellac. Typically this simple approach will yield a beautiful restored shellac finish. Some experimenting on how to apply the shellac would be wise. Padding works bests on flat surfaces, brushing on others. The bottom line is, shellac finishes are repairable, but a trained and experienced worker will have greater success with the repair. There are a number of formulas circulating for one step "revivers" or "restorers" for shellac finishes. These will employ some combination of three or four of the following materials: boiled linseed (or other) oil, white vinegar, denatured alcohol (metho), turpentine (turps), and sometimes shellac. We have tested some of these formulas and found that they do improve the appearance of the shellac finish. However, the end result has not been as satisfactory as the approach we have been employing, which is outlined above.

    • Lisa McDaniel Lisa McDaniel on Jan 10, 2014
      @Rainy Odessy Wow, it all sounds very confusing, to me anyhow. I think I have decided to get a few opinions/recommendations from some professionals and then go from there. The process you are explaining scares me some. Thank you for your advice!

  • Rainy Odessy Rainy Odessy on Jan 08, 2014
    occasionally shellac was mixed with laquer but given the time frame of the piece i would say strictly shellac! the practice od refinishing your piece should be done with a french wax technique "rubbing the alcohol in a figure 8 across the affected area should not be a need to refinish the entire piece since there will be nothing to color match you are using the existing finish

  • Lisa McDaniel Lisa McDaniel on Jan 09, 2014
    Thank you Sherrie! Yes, I feel very lucky to have it and it is beautiful! I had one person tell me to strip it then use Tongue oil/ on it. But that didn't sound right to me. And since it is BIG and HEAVY it isn't feasible for me to haul it around getting estimates from a professional. So, I think my next step will be call some pros. to see if they will come out to the house. Fun =/

  • Cynthia H Cynthia H on Jan 09, 2014
    It reminds me of the "alligator skin" that the columns in my living room had. I used a light hand with a citrus stripper, and the stuff practically dissolved. I then lightly sanded it smooth and stained and sealed it. It was much easier that I imagined it would be. However, it sounds like a real antique, so I would get professional advice before deciding what to do.

    • Lisa McDaniel Lisa McDaniel on Jan 10, 2014
      @Cynthia H Hi Cynthia, I had some furniture ( coffee table ) repaired by a pro. as it was under warranty, and the guy said almost the same thing, but he said to strip the whole thing. But it doesn't really appear to have a stain on it, just the shellac. So, if it just needs sanding then re-applying the shellac, that should be pretty simple.

  • Marlene Wilson Marlene Wilson on Jan 09, 2014
    If it is from the 1800's I would get it professionly redone,don't do it yourself and don't by all means PAINT it.

    • Lisa McDaniel Lisa McDaniel on Jan 10, 2014
      @Marlene Wilson Thank you for your reply. Don't worry, I wouldn't dream of painting it ! But if it is as simple as sanding it and reapplying shellac, I can do that. I think I am going to try and get a couple professionals out and see what they recommend and the cost of it. You wouldn't think two doors would be much. I hope (:

  • Wanda Ll Wanda Ll on Jan 10, 2014
    I would leave it alone. Antique Roadshow says if you mess with it the price goes down. Being that old no one expects perfect.

  • Rev. Brian Moffit Rev. Brian Moffit on Jan 10, 2014
    rainy is correct, denatured Alcohol is what I use when working with shellac. to get it to thin out. some 0000 steel wool of synthetic ( plastic scrubby ) will work fine. Even if it is an oil the process is the same except go with the grain, not across 400 or higher grit wet dry sand paper will also work. You won't need to re shelac unless you want the shiny surface. ( Denatured is just like moonshine just lots less expensive ) check out the woodwhisperer in one of his eary videos and he adresses this exact problem.

  • Jim L Jim L on Jan 10, 2014
    Do not do anything until you have had a professional appraiser look at it! If you refinish it, you may destroy its value. PLEASE, get advise first!

  • Lisa McDaniel Lisa McDaniel on Jan 10, 2014
    Hi Wanda- Thank you for your reply. I have always heard the same thing from them and American Restoration, but every time I see it I want to kick myself in the butt for it happening in the first place. It is an expensive lesson to learn. But on the other hand, it really wouldn't be altering the wardrobe, more like repairing it.

  • Matina V Matina V on Jan 10, 2014
    I agree with the people who say not to touch it until you've had it appraised. Let's say you "just refinish" it by sanding and replacign the shellac. All the aging that people who love antiques (read pay top money for) will not want it anymore as it will look "new". Take the time to have it evaluated by an appraiser and then decide. Maybe it's not valuable and you can then do whatever you like!

  • Melinda Lockwood Melinda Lockwood on Jan 10, 2014
    If the finish is shellac, shellac will soften it and repair itself. Don't sand it - that can just drive whatever finish is on it into the grain of the wood. Either remove the finish or try re-shellacing it first. Unless it is a rare piece made by a well-known furniture maker, refinishing it will probably not hurt the value. Have someone come look at it and remember that not every "professional" is as expert as we might like to think.

  • Sandra Hellewell Sandra Hellewell on Jan 13, 2014
    I would leave it as is! When you strip an antique, you strip the value out of it!! The imperfections tell a story of it's history! I would love & enjoy it as it!!

  • VL. Morris VL. Morris on Jan 13, 2014
    All of these replies on how to do it yourself are great but not one of these people are actually looking at your antique. You're smart to have more than one professional look at it. Do your research on choosing these people so you can be confident you're getting good information. Vickie

  • Rev. Brian Moffit Rev. Brian Moffit on Jan 14, 2014
    Then Again are you planning on selling whatis a family heirloom? If not then forget the appraisals unless they arefree, I have a Victrola with thisproblem but accept the fact that it is part of the history of the piece. I LIKEthe way it looks. My wife has a blanket chest from the same era and wanted itto look better. We went with the procedure I described and she is happy withhers.

  • Lisa McDaniel Lisa McDaniel on Jul 12, 2015
    Hi y'all... It's taken me awhile but I have finally stripped my wardrobe. My question now is.. should I rehydrate the wood? There are spots that were dried from it being in the storage and my dog laying against it when wet. So I was wondering if I should use lemon oil on it before applying the poly or not? Thanks for any help in advance !