Caring for Antique Furniture - Need Advice

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Forum topic by Tricorn posted 07-28-2016 09:01 PM 702 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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17 posts in 989 days

07-28-2016 09:01 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question walnut victorian

I received this antique piece of furniture as a gift. I am unsure of the age, but it is handmade. The only fasteners are the brass screws used to attach the brass ornaments. I believe the carcass is pine, and the exterior is walnut burl veneer.

Can anyone identify the finish from the pictures, e.g., shellac? What is the best way to care for it? The top is very smooth, likely because it has a piece of glass that covers it, whereas I can feel the wood grain on the rest of it. Any steps you recommend I take?

I appreciate any input.

6 replies so far

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5067 posts in 4102 days

#1 posted 07-28-2016 09:17 PM

Use a good replenishing oil and leave it alone.
I often use Liquid Gold to clean and refresh. Others may have different opinions (read that expensive).


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17 posts in 989 days

#2 posted 07-29-2016 01:36 AM

Thanks for the advice. I assume that the oil will not penetrate the shellac but that there is no need for it to. Correct?

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17 posts in 989 days

#3 posted 08-03-2016 11:51 PM

After doing some research online and talking to knowledgeable individuals, it seems that most antiques are cleaned with mineral spirits or naphtha and then waxed. I read that naphtha can cause veneer to come loose; so, I used mineral spirits.

On a test spot, I applied the spirits with a cotton pad. No issues. I did the sides, and there were a few areas that turned foggy. The pads came back “dirty;” while I am certain that there is dirty and grime on the piece, I can’t be certain that this isn’t finish. I was able to buff it out somewhat.

Any idea what might be causing this? As I understand, mineral spirits is rather weak and should not be doing this. I am reluctant to proceed.

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3184 days

#4 posted 08-05-2016 09:47 PM

I would not use Mineral Spirirs. Mineral spirits is a semi harsh solvent. Used for thinning/cleaning off oil based paints, stains, etc. it’s used just like Naptha or turpentine. I couldn’t tell you what is on your cabinet but if I were a betting man I would say some waxy build up, grease and grime, and some shellac/lacquer
Not being able to get my filthy hands on it I would do what Mr. White suggested.

View nightguy's profile


213 posts in 804 days

#5 posted 08-05-2016 11:44 PM

I would call/contact some high end antique dealers or/and, if you have an Arts Museum in your area. Get there advice b4 doing anything.

View BurlyBob's profile


5911 posts in 2407 days

#6 posted 08-06-2016 12:40 AM

That’s an amazing piece! Nightguy’s idea about contacting those folks sounds like pretty wise advice. That piece is far to special to make a mistake with the wrong process.

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