The structural integrity of a piece of fine furniture is critical for a successful restoration project, but it must be done with careful attention to period methods and materials. Furniture restoration specialists are well-versed in the use of period specific tools and methods of repair.
Structural integrity refers to the ability of the piece of furniture to function as designed. A chair should be stable enough to be sat upon; a chest with drawers should have drawers that slide in and out. With the majority of damage to fine furniture being from water, smoke, light, humidity damage, and knocking around, the structural elements that usually need attention are joints, corners, veneers, and other design elements that were attached using glues.
Fine furniture craftsmen learn period construction and repair techniques using authentic tools and materials. There are a number of living history museums and farms, as well as fine furniture making schools, that teach authentic period restoration using tools and materials available during a particular historical period. The value of a piece of furniture can be decimated if structural repair is carried out with materials not appropriate to those available during the period of its making.
When a piece does not have significant monetary value, and it needs restoration for structural integrity and aesthetics, fine craftsmen will still repair and restore the furniture using materials that match as closely as possible the originals. There have been some improvements in glues and wood-polymer materials, but newer materials are used only when those close to the originals are not available or appropriate to the piece.
Any structural repair that is necessary suggests that a piece of fine furniture has damaged value, as well as structural damage. Appropriate repair is necessary to retain value, but the provenance must always describe the exact nature of the damage, and materials and processes of repair. If the value of the piece is in its functional use and beauty, rather than a specific historical value, then restoration that emphasises functional use can bring a piece of fine, handmade furniture back into use for further generations.
Find out more about our furniture restoration here.