Fixing a water-damaged piece of antique furniture?
October 3, 2012 6:45 AM   Subscribe

Strategies for fixing a water-damaged piece of antique furniture?

We set a hot water bottle on an old veneered cedar chest last night, and it leaked -- the top of the chest is now stained, and the veneer on the front is slightly bubbled/warped. The chest has a great deal of sentimental value and we'd like to get it repaired, but I don't really know what to look for.

We have a fan pointed at it to dry it out for now. I'd like to take it to a professional... but I don't have any idea how to even search for one. Searching for things like antique restoration in my area doesn't return any useful results. Should I ask local antique dealers? How can I verify that I'm getting a reasonable quote (I don't even know what a ballpark number would be for this type of work)?
posted by j.edwards to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
Instead of searching for "antique restoration", try looking for "furniture repair", and evaluating the hits you get for how they talk about working with older furniture. (an example near the top of my ignorant googling)
posted by aimedwander at 7:13 AM on October 3, 2012

Yes, furniture repair. Call and ask if they do repair of antiques; most do. Ask for examples of their work, and gor references. Expect prices to be based on the size of the item and the extent of the damage. As a comparison, I recently had an antique mahogany buffet repaired (minor repair -- sagging drawer) and refinished (old finish stripped and redone, dealing with scratches and dings), and received quotes ranging from $1800 at a big shop to $900 at a shop that's basically one guy, both with impressive portfolios.
posted by devinemissk at 10:10 AM on October 3, 2012

I do this for a living. I'd google furniture repair as well, or refinishing. I'd also turn the fan off now. If your chest is truly old 2 things happened, the water expanded the wood while at the same time softening the hide glue used to glue it down in the first place. Hide glue is water soluble.

A couple of questions; is the "stain" darker or lighter ( like a cloudy look). If it's light and cloudy a skilled repairman should be able to restore the finish relatively easy, if it's dark the wood may have oxidized and chances are you will never really lose the stain.

If you dry the bubble out too much it will be harder for the repairman to lock it back down and will very well involve slitting the veneer to squeeze glue in. If you're brave try an iron with a damp cloth to protect the finish, as hide glue reconstitutes under heating.
posted by Max Power at 12:03 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Building on on Max Power's excellent comment, whatever repair man you get, make sure they know how to use hide glue (as opposed to titebond and other types of stuff that one can find in - and needs to painstakingly scrape out of - many inexpertly repaired old bits of joinery) and to apply/restore traditional kinds of finish.
posted by Namlit at 1:27 PM on October 3, 2012

The stain is light and cloudy. Based on everyone's advice, I found a local furniture repairman and antique restorer who's assured me that the problem sounds quite fixable, and he even specified hide glue. Thanks, all!
posted by j.edwards at 5:48 PM on October 5, 2012

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