Monday, May 16, 2011

Less is More

Every once in  a while I get a request to repair or restore a piece only part of the way. The owner only wants to "clean it up a bit". Quite often minor touch-up and paste wax can go a long way towards improving the appearance of any object.

With that in mind I went to look at this small scale partners desk. Unfortunately the finish was so degraded and alligatored, that paste wax alone would have only made it worse.

With this much distortion in the top layer of finish the beauty of the wood underneath is completely obscured. Light is scattered by the irregularities and bounces off the surface making it dark and matte. 

Since the object of this repair was to improve the appearance without completely re-doing the piece the first course of action was to let a little more light into the mix.

Sanding the surface with 200 paper and working up to 400. I managed to minimize the majority of the surface problems, without cutting into the ground layer of finish.

The area's on the carvings and close to the edges would have to remain.

Since the finish was reactive to alcohol I diluted a small amount of shellac and flooded the surface with a varnish brush.

Once applied the shellac bound together the more friable sections and the alcohol melted the remaining older finish just enough to further level the surface.

After applying a second coat I waited 24 hours for the new surface to re-harden.

A fine sanding followed by steel-wool and finally the paste-wax and the completed desk was ready to go home.

While I often hesitate to do "half-way" repairs, this piece reminded me that sometimes the old adage "less is more" is true.