I have many passions in this life: reading, writing, collecting various animals; and yet there are other things I do in my free time that distinguish me as a distinctly Victorian Soul, mainly, my collection of old objects. I like old things better than new things. It's difficult for me to buy something new (that I assume will break in a year) when something old will work just as well, and is crafted to last a lifetime.
Example: your modern day television stands. Most are made of either MDF (Mildly Disturbing Forestry-bits) or metal, both of which have a tendency to eventually give out (or make your old 1903 house look funky). My mother and I settled on a coffee table from a thrift store for our tv to sit on when we first moved to Idaho, but we've always kept an eye out for that perfect "period-acceptable" stand for our monster of a screen. Last week, we found something. Something that I was greatly concerned we'd have to end up painting over, even though it had wood inlay and not a bit of MDF in sight.
Unfortunately, I only took a picture after we started burnishing it and feeding it gallons of lemon oil, but look at the lower left hand corner and you'll see precisely how scary it looked. I originally assumed this was a piece of '70s homemade furniture, due to all the funky legs and brassy drawer pulls, but as it turns out, this approximately dates from the 1920s period, which was in the realm of what my mom and I wanted. I had originally assumed that the wood color would be medium brown, one shade darker than our pine flooring, but it actually borders on ebony- in person it looks about as dark as my dog Torrie, who is often mistaken for being black-furred until the sun shines on her mink-like coat.
Here's a helpful hint: If you have a monster tv, always put any top/skinny drawers in the tv stand/sideboard before putting that massive thing up there. It's just easier when you don't have to round up a third person to help you do so, because of fractional drawer-space collapse.
Once I had polished it enough, the drawer pulls were beginning to look very drab. With the hardware of most serious antiques, you aren't supposed to touch it- the patina is what collectors like. But with our antiques, which often come with what I would call 'character' (scratches, dents, partially peeled veneer, and the occasional later augmentation), that patina doesn't matter, as they aren't perfect specimens of their type anyway. And also, the handles were sticky, even though we hadn't touched them when oiling. My mom liked them as is, but I can't live with sticky furniture.
I was surprised to find a golden hue in this hardware- I had assumed it was brass, but instead it's a light gold, which, unfortunately, my camera doesn't do justice to. I gave the hardware a vinegar soak for roughly three hours, followed by scrubbing and toothpicking out all the little details. It's a good idea to make sure your hardware isn't metal-plated before you use this cleaning method, as sometimes it loosens some of the plating (I know from our That '80s Motorhome project).
Before replacing the hardware and drawer pulls, I cleaned and polished the wood area behind them, just because once I peeled them off, the wood beneath looked like an oil slick. After that, I replaced all the pulls and polished the rest of the sideboard, leading to the (almost) final product:
|Again, my camera adds in color- a lot of it.|
|Still needs more lemon oil- like three gallons of it.|
To Restore Antique, Real Wood, or Real Wood Veneer Furniture:
Dust it beforehand (if needed), use Murphy's oil soap to clean (if needed), and plain old lemon oil to polish. Don't get Pledge (or other furniture polish)- save that for your newer MDF furnishings, or if you don't have any of those, donate it to your unsuspecting neighbor.
Reapply the lemon oil in accordance with your furniture's needs- in drier climates, that may mean every month.
Lemon Oil Before and After:
To Clean Hardware:
Make sure you know your antique furniture isn't too valuable or you don't intend to sell it.
Make sure your hardware isn't plated, because it could be chipped.
Then put all the hardware in a bucket of vinegar, let sit for three hours or more. Use toothbrushes and toothpicks to clean- if that doesn't cut it, gently polish with steel wool.
One Final Tip:
If you find furniture tags, keep them on. Someone will likely use them to verify the furniture's age later down the line. My sideboard originated from the Tindall-Wagner Manufacturing Co. out of Shelbyville, Indiana, by way of (Standard ??? Co.) Salt Lake City, Utah. When I Googled it, a few similar pieces to this sideboard popped up, all with the funky legs (two chunky ovoid shapes on the column, one of them with dots scooped out) that my sideboard has.