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Tips for Restoring Antique Furniture for Consignment


You've just found a beautiful antique cabinet at a neighborhood garage sale. You got it at a bargain and are considering selling it on consignment. There's only one problem: it's in need of some minor repairs. Don't be discouraged by this discovery. You only need to follow a few simple rules for deciding which pieces of furniture are worthy of repair and how to go about repairing them.

How to Evaluate a Piece of Furniture
Before you even purchase a piece of antique furniture, you need to consider if the furniture is worth repairing. Take a few moments and ask yourself the following questions:

Do you like the piece?

Do you think you can make a considerable profit on it through resale?

How much do you think the furniture will be worth after it is restored?

Do you have the time to make significant repairs, should any be required?

Will the piece be in resalable condition after the repairs are made?

Take the time to visit a few consignment shops that specialize in antique furniture. Ask the consignment shop owner about what pieces of antique furniture are currently in demand. Examine the prices of furniture that resembled the pieces you are considering restoring.

Common Repairs in Antique Furniture
Once you invest in a few pieces of antique furniture, it will be likely that you will have to make some repairs. For instance, antique mirrors will frequently need their glass replaced. But if the glass is old--which is indicated by the presence of bubbles or waviness--then replacing it might prove difficult. Also, look at the silvering on the backside of the mirror; if it has deteriorated, then consider replacing it. With a chest of drawers, check the see that the drawers are in working order. Examine drawer runners to make sure they are not split or excessively worn. Check for lose legs in chairs, and splits in tables and cabinet sides. And don't forget to check for warped wood: Sometimes minor warping in acceptable on very old pieces of antique furniture, but warping on newer pieces is something that should be repaired.

Bad Repairs, Missing Parts and Loose Veneer: More Minor Repairs in Antique Furniture
Repairs can sometimes cause more harm than good. Check your piece of antique furniture for inexpertly executed repairs. Bad repairs can result in a structurally unsound piece of furniture, causing tables and chairs to collapse without notice. Also, examine antique furniture for missing parts, especially in more ornate pieces. Look for missing stretchers or rungs on chairs, and check all carvings closely in case a piece has been broken off. Finally, loose veneer is a common flaw in antique furniture, and one that is hard to spot. Veneer can often appeared firmly affixed to furniture when, in reality, it is quite loose. Lightly tap the veneer on your antique furniture to see if it is sounds hollow. If it does, then the veneer is lose and needs to be repaired.

Tips for Cleaning Up Antique Furniture
If your piece of antique furniture is in need of only minor cleaning, try the following tips for cleaning your antique furniture:

  •  Check for mildew on wooden furniture. Clean any mildew off with one cup water mixed with one tablespoon bleach and one tablespoon dish washing detergent.
  •  Look for tarnished brass handles on trunks and dressers. Remove tarnish with a paste comprised on equal parts salt, flour and vinegar. Rub on brass with a soft cloth, and then rinse completely. Shine with a soft cloth.
  • Remove any unpleasant odors from chest of drawers or armoirs with cat litter or baking soda.
  •  Wash ceramics with soap and water only. But be careful: wipe gently with a soft cloth if the pieces are damaged.
  •  Remove adhesive or tape with lemon juice.
  •  Buff antique ivory with a woolen cloth.
  •  Lubricate and clean antique clocks every five years.
  •  Clean glass with an iridescent finish with cool water and a bit of mild soap.
  • Polish carved furniture with paste wax applied to a stenciling brush, and buff using a show brush. You will be able to reach nooks and crannies that way.


Once they've decided on the pieces they want for their inventory, the consignment shop will either give you the money for your furniture upfront, or offer to take it on consignment, giving you a percentage of the sale. Pricing will be determined by the style, condition, and original sale price. If your furniture does not sell within a set period of time, usually 90 days, the consignment shop will offer to donate your furniture to a local charity. You will be offered a receipt for tax purposes. You can also pick up your furniture from the consignment shop, bringing it home again for future resale.

Creating a Safe Work Space for Furniture Repair
In order to more effectively repair and restore your furniture, it is important that you have a safe work space. Follow these four suggestions for creating a safe work space for furniture repair:

  1. Be aware of fire hazards. Avoid smoking in your workspace, and check that all equipment capable of producing sparks are turned off before leaving the work space. Also, make sure you have a fire extinguisher in your work space.
  2. Throw away old rags, which may be contaminated with dangerous chemicals.
  3. Store chemicals away from heat and flame. Make sure all containers containing chemicals are properly labeled.
  4. Be environmentally responsible. Dispose of all chemicals properly by taking them to the appropriate hazardous waste disposal units.


Consigning Antique Furniture: A Rewarding Hobby
Taking the time to properly restore your antique furniture for consignment can result in significant rewards. You'll enjoy the process involved in antique furniture restoration and reap a tidy profit when you bring your restored piece to your local consignment shop.