Broken furniture of all kinds find their way to my shop for repair on a regular basis. Some of the most common I find are tables and chairs. The more elegant they are, the more prone they seem to be to dramatic fracturing or breakage. This 70-year-old pedestal table arrived a while back with a busted leg.
The most obvious thing about it was that one of the legs had come off. No big deal, really — a bit of careful scraper work and tad of sanding to remove the old glue would see the socket ready to mate up to its leg again.
The well-meaning owner of this table asked me to refinish it and shine up the copper claw feet while it was in the shop. That seems like a simple request, but I make it a point never to do those two things to a piece of furniture (especially an old one) without making one thing plain: this would absolutely sink whatever value the piece may have. I thought this was pretty common knowledge, but I’m always surprised at how many times this needs explaining.
The patina on the copper takes years to get, and one fool with a can of Brasso can cut the value of almost any furniture piece in half in ten minutes flat. It’s one thing I simply won’t do to old copper.
Refinishing is a little different. Much can be done without significantly affecting the finish — a good polish or cleaning the dust/dirt off, for instance. In this case the table wasn’t bad, so I managed to convince the owner to go with a nice coat of dark wax that would easily come off with wax remover and won’t hurt the real finish.
In the end it turned out great, and we didn’t wind up doing anything that would hurt the table’s value down the road.