The conservation of furniture is an old craft, which requires a lot of experience and a solid professional training.
The restorer endeavors to preserve the object entrusted to him in its original form as close as possible. He wants to preserve or restore the substance of the respective piece of furniture. This requires extensive knowledge of the art and culture of all epochs as well as great personal skill. An amateur furniture conserver can unconsciously cause great, lasting damage to objects which have great cultural heritages. The expert restorer, on the other hand, develops a concept for his work process, uses the right materials, applies suitable techniques and makes responsible decisions about veneering and surface treatment.
Familiar with every type of wood from all epochs
He is also familiar with the proven methods of dismantling furnishings. He also has extensive knowledge of furniture care. A good restorer is also perfectly familiar with all types of material, whether they occur in simple softwood or precious baroque furniture with Intarsia. He also knows a lot about traditional furniture construction and their very different joining techniques. Special knowledge of the preparation and processing of hot glue is required. It is also a masterstroke in itself to loosen a glued joint without damaging the wood.
Get as close to the original state as possible
A professional restorer can accurately identify the origin and manufacture of each piece of furniture. In which style period does it belong, what was its character at the time of its creation? All of these factors are parts of the expert restorer’s judgement. Therefore, it is always worth consulting such an expert for stylish pieces of furniture. Based on his knowledge of art history, he will be able to come as close as possible to the original condition of the object. This lucrative and modern job description of a furniture restorer makes it particularly interesting and exciting for young people seeking training!
State-certified, very versatile profession
Furniture conserver is a state-certified, very versatile occupation with a high creative potential. Such an expert is familiar with the basics of chemistry, physics and microbiology. In addition, during his training he learns several craft skills, some of which have been cultivated for centuries. In his daily work he also works regularly with natural scientists, art historians, interior designers and monument conservators. The restorer can classify the pieces of furniture handed over to him profoundly in the respective stylistic epochs. These often differ from the architectural and art styles of the respective period. For a style analysis, for example, the materials used and their workmanship, forms of the furniture body and legs, ornamentation, carvings, veneers, inlays, marqueteries, upholstery fabrics, covers and fittings are being used. Constructive elements made of wood and metal, for example, often subordinate themselves to the architecture of the building, while decorative objects can combine different styles and change quickly.
Typical damage and its causes
- Wood damage and veneer damage, such as scratches and kinks, cracks, holes and imperfections
- Mold infestation e.g. due to humidity or water damage
- Contamination and dust e.g. due to lack of care
- Water damage e.g. from extinguishing water accidents and catastrophes such as fire
- Fire damage caused by direct contact with fire
- Mechanical damages e.g. due to wear, improper handling or vandalism
- Feeding damage caused by animals such as termites, woodworms or insect attack
- Transport damage due to lack of protection during transport
- Endogenous causes, such as chemical-physical processes
Typical furniture restoration materials
- Wood, precious woods and veneers for reconstructions
- Metals for e.g. the replacement of fittings and hinges
- Leather and upholstery fabrics
- Straw, willow and rattan for supplements
- Paper, paperboard and paper mâché for special shapes
- Stuck for finishing
- Glues and adhesives for bonding
- Shellac and waxes for polishes and finishes
- Stains for accentuations and reinforcements of colours
- Stripper for removing paint layers
- Lat gold leaf for gilding
- Pigments and binders for coatings
- Gemstones for ornaments
- Torte shell and animal horn for refinement
- Mother of pearl for ornaments
- Miscellaneous plastics and colors
Typical tools and techniques
- Climate chamber for the removal of pest infestation
- Measuring instruments for measuring wood moisture
- Turning iron for re-turning missing furniture parts
- Wood plane for processing wood materials
- Hot air units for removing paint layers
- Saws for processing wood materials
- Drilling machines for the removal and resetting of screws
- Sanding devices for the removal of paint layers
- Photo cameras for documentation of the restoration process
Working with the glue requires great skill
One of the most important tools for restorers is the gluten glue. This is a water-soluble adhesive obtained from bones or skin of animals. It is also known as hare glue, fish glue, house bladder glue or bone glue. The glue is produced by extensive cooking of its defatted raw materials. The collagens then form gluten together with the water. This mass is first dried and later swells when water is added. The swollen glue is heated to a maximum of 60 °C in a water bath and thus achieves its optimum adhesiveness. The processing must be carried out quickly, as the glue gels and no longer sticks when it cools down. Therefore, the parts to be glued are heated slightly beforehand if necessary. Conversely, the glued furniture parts can easily be separated from each other again by means of moisture and heat.
Shellac hand polish: Highest care required
Another important material for the restorer is Shellac. It is obtained by processing vegetable rubber lacquer and is mostly used as a polish. Shellac hand polishes can, for example, be carried out in the colors ruby, lemon, orange or crystal. Spiritus and pumice powder are also used to fill the pores. Wax surfaces also require special care. They are treated with special Beeswax pastes.
The furniture restorer can also prove his craftsmanship when turning missing furniture parts such as feet. His skill is also required for gilding, repairing jammed drawers, table pull-outs and doors as well as repairing fire damage to furniture.
You have an old piece of furniture and want a restoration?
In the section Furniture and interior decoration made of wood on our website, you as a client can see a selection of references of the restorers registered with us. You can also find a suitable expert in your area via our Restorers Directory and our search by area.
If you are interested in furniture restoration and are looking for an internship, training or further education, we offer a lot of detailed information in our job exchange as well as in the subject area education and studies. Furthermore, we also provide basic information on the job description and the training to become a restorer.
Wooden furniture and interior fittings