Mahogany Server Restoration

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Project by Eric M. Saperstein posted 01-09-2012 01:26 AM 1246 views 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This restoration came out nice – back from our 2009 Photo archive. The client didn’t realize how nice the inlay was hidden under all that dead finish. This whole “don’t touch it” concept with furniture baffles me.

Do any of you see anyone driving around inf a Ford Model T bragging about having the original oil? I mean if the finish is perfect fine keep it as is, don’t remove shellac to put on polyurethane! But when you have something that is falling apart and just plain dead looking with veneer peeling all over and cracks forming from it being so dry FIX IT!

Fresh shellac (and as discussions have started this came from …) and a Waterlox tung oil finish we brought this piece back to life. New veneer on the edges, a few touch up repairs on other veneer, we fixed the cracks in the top surface, remounted the doors, reglued the drawers, etc.

Now it’s functional and good for another few generations!

-- Eric M. Saperstein, Master Craftsman

8 comments so far

View Bertha's profile


13550 posts in 2841 days

#1 posted 01-09-2012 01:32 AM

It’s breathtaking. A wonderful save. I take collectable planes and strip them to the bare metal. Never once apologized for it. I hear where you’re coming from.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View a1Jim's profile


117236 posts in 3725 days

#2 posted 01-09-2012 02:10 AM

I guess it’s all what your focus is ,pieces that are “in the black” have a higher value to collectors than a refinished piece in fact the value might be diminished by 80-90%for a refinished piece. As for appearance a refinished piece done right my look a 100% better. It’s always a question of how fare gone a piece is and if the repair or refinishing is considered conservation or a complete reconstruction.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Billp's profile


804 posts in 4347 days

#3 posted 01-09-2012 02:11 AM

Wow Eric you did a fantastic job on this piece.

-- Billp

View Eric M. Saperstein's profile

Eric M. Saperstein

766 posts in 3395 days

#4 posted 01-09-2012 03:00 AM

Diminished value only holds for antiques (1840 and back) – and ONLY if it’s an original finish to start. Very few pieces lasted this long without being refinished along the line, and often “improperly” ... meaning they took the shellac or tung oil off and put something else on.

Collectable class pieces generally increase in value with restoration. A lot of them were sprayed lacquer to start and the finishes only last 20-30 years after that they yellow, darken and just fall off the piece.

The diminished value given restoration is a myth created by antique dealers who don’t feel the desire to invest in a piece of furniture. The stuff is falling apart, veneer peeling, moldy, dead finishes, drawers don’t slide or pull out. If you don’t maintain things they just turn to dust! ... our Philosophy on the subject.

We paint our houses, seal our driveways, fix our appliances – everything can be maintained and repaired … but we can’t fix furniture? If it’s in perfect shape don’t break it … but if it needs attention GIVE IT ATTENTION!

When value isn’t a factor a full restoration applies – speak with the Smithsonian, they bring things back to 100% if possible. They consider the priceless valueless … it will never be sold once it is in their collection so it is restored and preserved for future generations. We do the same thing – most of our clients have no concern for the cash value of their heirlooms they want their kids and grandkids to be able to pass them on.

If we do this right – we’re only the temporary custodians of this stuff anyway, it’s selfish to let it rot under our care and leave a greater problem for the next caretaker. Of course generally speaking that’s what we are doing with the planet. Thus my thoughts not to breed, figure if I’m gonna be selfish I’m not gonna dump the issues I cause on my spawn.

Ok I’m babbling … Thanks for the feedback!

-- Eric M. Saperstein, Master Craftsman

View vipond33's profile


1405 posts in 2645 days

#5 posted 01-09-2012 06:12 AM

This is a well done re-work and you are to be commended, for items like this, left untreated, usually end up being painted shortly before making their way to the curb.
I have done quite a bit of this work and know how difficult it is. When the piece first comes into the shop your shoulders slump as you cast a dismayed look at how much must be done, the damage. But then you start into it and feel better and better. Excited even.
I hope you find real satisfaction in what you’re doing.

-- gene@toronto.ontario.canada : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3451 days

#6 posted 01-09-2012 06:55 PM

what a beautiful restoration, you are right, its ready for many more years of enjoyment

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Eric M. Saperstein's profile

Eric M. Saperstein

766 posts in 3395 days

#7 posted 01-10-2012 08:07 AM

Yeah we’ve seen many a painted antique / collectable – UGH not sure how anyone does that. Once under OD green horribly thick sludge of a paint job we found an Italian marquetry tabletop – no CLUE why anyone would have EVER painted that … but they did.

All sorts of interesting old growth lumber is under paint … such a waste but it’s a hidden treasure when you find it!

I like distressed and imperfect, but there’s a point where its too far. These pieces were not designed and worked with all the inlay to be hidden under black shellac or crazed yellowed lacquer. Finish has a life like anything else – even if it’s original shellac and it’s gone black if you conserve it will jump back to life.

It’s fun when things come back alive!

-- Eric M. Saperstein, Master Craftsman

View DocSavage45's profile


8700 posts in 2990 days

#8 posted 01-13-2012 07:23 PM

Like the thread! Finishing a piece is as important as building it? The New era of water bourne finishes makes it difficult when we go to the local Home Depot? Going through “antique” stores I cringe at the really bad…refinishing that has been done. From your projects, I believe you are doing your best to respect the original intent of a piece.

Restoration often takes more time than building a new piece?

There are finishing techniques to restore shellac and laquer based damaged finishes. Thanks for caring about the piece. :)

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

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