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Preserving Patina

wood finishing

by Alan Noel
Professional Wood Finisher


First, patina is defined as the surface appearance of something grown beautiful, especially with age or use, which adds value to an antique or collectible and should not be cleaned.

When working with antique furniture, dealing with dents and dings on the surface may pose a problem during the finishing process. With antiques, I take the approach to try and determine which dents or dings are the result of "use" versus "abuse". This in turn leads me to a course of action to begin the finishing process and to save as much of the patina as possible.

Here are some tips to consider when repairing and/or refinishing an antique:

  1. When inspecting the surfaces, look for signs of natural wear and tear.

  2. Old dents and dings are usually smoothed over and have no obvious sharp edges.

  3. Fresh dents and scratches will usually allow the substrate color to appear.

  4. Using bright light, look for jagged edges in the finish top coat around dents. This indicates more recent damage.

  5. The edges of desks and tables usually show signs of wear from long term use and are usually very smooth.

  6. Abuse is usually in the form of Johnny using said piece as a saw horse or chopping block or a child's homework is etched into the surface. (Another example, I used to like playing ping pong on my Mom's dining table!)



Visiting Atlanta? Attend one of Alan's upcoming highly informative Highland Woodworking wood finishing seminars:


Mar 21, 2012  Finishing the Finish

Apr 14, 2012  Antiques Show and Tell

Apr 25, 2012  French Polish Workshop

Apr 28, 2012  Spray Finishing

May 5-6, 2012  Antique Restoration

Visit Highland Woodworking's Online
Wood Finishing Supplies Department




Alan can be reached directly via email c/o Alan Noel Furniture Refinishing at anoelfurniturere@bellsouth.net.


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