A set of Smashed Chipandale Chairs ...

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Project by Eric M. Saperstein posted 10-04-2009 05:52 AM 2425 views 2 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Typical of what comes into our shop are antiques and collectables that have had better times in the days past. Our function in restoration is to restore, conserve, repair, refinish, restructure, replace, etc. as required to regain the estetic and functional value of a given piece of furniture or artifact.

In this case a set of original circa 1790 Chippendale chairs arrived in less than perfect condition after a shipment from Denver to NJ went array. Not to mention the chairs were already full of beetle damage, joints were loose, and the finish of course was pretty well shot on the completely dried out wood.

The chairs were two that matched our clients existing set of four – and those of you familiar with values of chairs know that the value of 1 chair quadruples by having 2 chairs … a set of four at least doubles that, and again a set of six at least doubles that. Antique chairs in matched sets of 6 or more are extremely valuable as they are rare to find.

This restoration regained the estetic value and “a percentage” of the functional value. Given the extent of the beetle damage in the existing material and the client deciding not to inject with epoxy fillers the chairs are only so strong. We don’t recommend they be used but they can be on display as corner chairs in a room and complete a set of six rare Chippendale chairs.

Anyone who says not to restore something that arrives in this condition is nuts – restoration and proper care of furniture is essential to maintain its function and aesthetic value. We’re not saying take away all the dings and dents, that is impossible anyway. We are saying nobody runs around in a Ford Model T bragging about original oil! If you let furniture go without care – it turns to dust and that has no value.

Moral is – care for and if necessary restore your furniture! Stop letting it rot away where it stands because someone on TV or some antique dealer that doesn’t want to invest in a restoration told you not to touch it!

-- Eric M. Saperstein, Master Craftsman

9 comments so far

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Dan'um Style

14173 posts in 4008 days

#1 posted 10-04-2009 06:11 AM

nice photos …I like that style of chair

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

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#2 posted 10-04-2009 01:53 PM

Why did the client turn down the epoxy injection? What is the downside?

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

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#3 posted 10-04-2009 05:53 PM

Eric, Great job and saving a beautiful set of chairs. The second picture really tells it all. I hope your customer how lucky they were to have someone like you take the time to bring them back to life.

-- John @

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1015 posts in 3932 days

#4 posted 10-04-2009 10:09 PM

That is an exceptional challenge…amazing.

-- /\/\/\ BarryW /\/\/\ Stay so busy you don't have time to die.

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1357 posts in 3440 days

#5 posted 10-05-2009 03:48 AM

Thanks for this post, it echos what Bob Flexner among other people have been saying about restoration. It’s hard to get people to believe the Keno brothers are not always correct in there philosophy about restoration of antiques “if its been cleaned or restored it’s worth a lot less”. I watched the Antique Road Show were an 18th century highboy was appraised for 1/4 of its value because it had been cleaned! You mean to tell me there not cleaning and restoring all those antiques including master paintings at the Smithsonian. Great work, it must be a privilege working on something that old you really have done them justice.

-- Paul--- Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. — Scott Adams

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Eric M. Saperstein

766 posts in 3273 days

#6 posted 10-05-2009 05:58 AM

Epoxy destroys the “original” materials integrity from an antique value perspective. It makes the whole leg effectively into epoxy if you can manage to get enough of it into the holes to fill the honeycomb structure the beetles leave then in theory you make the part a lot stronger. The net result though is not a conservation or restoration in the conventional sense, so clients looking for the most value from the piece will opt for the least invasive process. They were aware that these should be put in corners with a ribbon on them and a teddy bear so nobody really uses them much.

I haven’t spoken w/ Bob Flexner in quite a while but he and I had some chats a while back about this very scenario. I haven’t had a chance I should get back in touch with him, I think his current position is with Woodshop News?

Peter Cook retracted the original premise of no restoration from the Antiques Roadshow perspective. Peter Cook is (was?) the executive director of “The Antiques Road Show”. He released a statement a while back announcing his true opinion that refinishing is a good thing. His statement reads:

“Let the record show Antiques Roadshow generally agrees with this notion: Well-conceived and well-executed refinishing and restoration usually enhances the value of just about any piece of old furniture. Exceptions are rare (usually museum quality pieces) that have somehow survived in great ‘original condition’. If we say or imply the contrary we should be called on it.”.

He goes on to say, ”...most furniture has been well used (even abused), scratched, broken, and often repaired many times. How could such furniture not be improved by a good job of refinishing or restoring?” – Our philosophy is published here – which needs and update that I haven’t had a chance to execute.

Thanks for the feedback!

-- Eric M. Saperstein, Master Craftsman

View dustyal's profile


1295 posts in 3501 days

#7 posted 10-05-2009 06:50 AM

I enjoyed reading this… nice work on the restoration.

To restore or refinish is always a question. I just look at it as to who owns it and what do they want to do with it—what is its intended purpose.

We had antique furniture that we refinished if that is what it took to make it more usable. I didn’t care if I helped or hurt the value.

When I refinished an antique six-board pine blanket chest I discovered the original pencil lines of the hand cut dovetails. I’d rather see those lines than worry about maintaining the original finish that hid them. I applied a modern clear poly finish… no attempt to keep to the original. Water beads off when the plants get over watered and scratches are easy to repair. It is a well used piece of functional furniture that looks 100 times better than it did.

On the other hand we have a piece that is useless for anything other than as a decoration. It is very original… and we wouldn’t touch it other than occasional protective treatment.

Not investments nor museum pieces. Just old furniture we could afford when we first got married 38 years ago. Antique and classic automobiles are no different… Restore to original or make them fun to drive. The Mrs says it is kind of like me… just grows old but still valuable for something if properly maintained.

-- Al H. - small shop, small projects...

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Ronnie Jackson

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#8 posted 10-05-2009 08:21 PM

nicely done


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#9 posted 10-05-2009 09:21 PM

Very interesting and informative…thank you for the great post!

I too have seen alot of these items….and have heard alot of folks facing the same dilemma as you quote…..Most of us are of the thinking that to be an antique…an item must contain all of its original parts…...that is mostly impossible…and very improbable if the items were ever used….I think value shows that the less repairs done (not refinishing) makes the pieces more valuable (certainly not more durable)....but they must be taken care of….and if they are to be used while displayed…then they need to be made sturdy.

Not to cast aspersions on anyone…but people these days are a whole lot heavier then they were in the past when most of these items were made….they were not built to withstand a 250+lb person…which is not too uncommon these days…

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

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