Bruce Johnson has been restoring and refinishing furniture for more than 40 years. A frequent TV guest as well as author, Johnson is a noted expert on the Arts and Crafts movement.
He has this advice for would-be refinishers as well as how to care for furniture of any age.
"If it's a true antique (more than 100 years old), then don't refinish," he said, noting that an original finish can multiply a piece's value. "Have it appraised by a professional and then go from there."
For polishing antiques, Johnson recommends paste wax.
"It's the safest thing you can use and it won't harm the value," he said.
Most old furniture isn't really antique it's just old, he added. Most pieces benefit from TLC.
Here are Johnson's tips:
Clean off dust and grime, but avoid homespun remedies.
"Homemade concoctions with vinegar, soap, detergent or ammonia are just too harsh," he said. "It's almost like stripper."
Instead, Johnson recommends using gentle wood cleaner formulated for furniture. Use an old T-shirt or other soft cloth for application.
Then, tackle nicks and scratches. One of Johnson's favorite quick fixes: wood stain markers.
"They work just like felt-tip pens, and come in eight colors of wood," he said. "You literally draw in where there's a scratch. They work great for cat or dog scratches. You can use stain markers for touch-ups."
To restore shine, Johnson wipes on a coat of polyurethane with a clean cloth.
"It works like tung oil, but it's more durable. You literally rub it into the wood, as much as it will absorb, then wipe off the excess. It replenishes the oils and it's easy to do. The wood's oil has evaporated; that's why it looks dull."
For more of Johnson's tips, visit his website, www.askbrucejohnson.com.