Using Lacquer on Antique Furniture

Even antique furniture looks great with lacquer. Many individuals have taken to ‘antiquing’, that is, browsing garage sales, thrift stores, and local antique malls for beautiful pieces of furniture to add to their homes.

One of the many considerations with antique furniture is whether or not to refinish the piece. Refinishing is the process by which you strip off the old paint or stain and sand the wood down bare, and then apply fresh lacquer to the piece, giving it a new, glossy look. Using lacquer to refinish antique furniture can add life and luxury to “throwaway” pieces.

Known Facts About Lacquer

Prior to using or removing the lacquer on a piece of antique furniture, it is crucial to research facts about lacquer…what it can and can’t do. Lacquer, while glossy and beautiful, is also hard and brittle and can dent or be chipped easily. You want to avoid hitting your lacquered furniture for this reason. Water is not recommended on lacquered pieces, unless the label specifically states it can be used. Lacquers of the yesteryears are not as durable and reliable as the newer synthetic lacquers, so it is wise to test any product you want to use on your lacquered antique furniture on an inconspicuous area first.

Cleaning the Lacquer

Dusting regularly is a good practice, and is best executed with a clean, dry cloth. Do not use a cloth with oil or other treatments on it. Some furniture cleaners can be used, but make sure to read the label and test a small inconspicuous area first, before cleaning the rest of the piece. A liquid wax is okay to use on occasion, to maintain the glossy look to your furniture.

Heavy Duty Jobs

A solvent based cleaner is appropriate for the more heavily soiled furniture. Use a clean, dry cloth to apply the solvent, then a separate dry cloth to rub it in, only cleaning a small area at a time. Oil soap can be used as well, instead of a solvent based cleaner. Proceed with the liquid wax or a polish to keep the piece glossy.

A Scary Proposition

Choosing to refinish your own antique furniture is a tough decision. Some people love a challenge and are happy to learn the facts about stains and lacquers. It might be best to enlist the help of a professional with choosing the right materials and showing you how to follow through with the task properly. Associates at your local hardware store are always more than happy to direct you to ‘how-to” books or provide you with direction on choosing supplies. Although the task can be intimidating, once you understand a few simple facts about lacquer, you can remain confident in your decision to refinish your antique furniture.

One thing is for sure, the blood, sweat, and tears you shed while putting the love into refinishing a piece will allow you entertain a sense of pride every time you look at that piece.