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How can I revive this old french bed frame?

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el_Pedr0

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Hi all,

I'd like to revive an old french bed frame and would be grateful for advice on how to do so sympathetically. Having read other threads here I recognise that the best advice when it comes to conservation/restoration is to leave it to the professionals, but I do not have the budget for that :(.

Main wear is on the rails - the headboard and footboard are in decent shape. The main visual detratctions seem to have come from various knocks and spills. I don't mind the dents themselves, but I'd love it if I could somehow lessen their visual impact.

As yet I haven't tried anything. What would you recommend?

1) Distance view of the worst of the rails. I think most of this is due to knocks
20210323_175046.jpg

2) Close up of that same area.
20210323_175100.jpg

3) A bit more pronouced dents
20210323_175257.jpg

4) That same dent a bit closer
20210323_175252.jpg

5) something that looks more like a water mark
20210323_175216.jpg

6) The headboard also showing some blemishes. It would be nice to address the blemishes, but wouldn't want to lose the patina.
20210323_175408.jpg

7) The foot board
20210323_175434.jpg


8) Closer up on the footboard, showing the patina
20210323_175429.jpg
 

mrpercysnodgrass

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The first thing to do is to use a 'reviver' There are off the shelf ones available which I have never used and unless you have linseed oil ammonia and meths you might have to use the commercial ones like this one Lakeone Reviver
After using the reviver a few rubbers of button or garnet polish followed by a wax will bring it up nicely and should retain most of its patina.
 

topchippyles

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The first thing to do is to use a 'reviver' There are off the shelf ones available which I have never used and unless you have linseed oil ammonia and meths you might have to use the commercial ones like this one Lakeone Reviver
After using the reviver a few rubbers of button or garnet polish followed by a wax will bring it up nicely and should retain most of its patina.
Early start this morning paul
 

el_Pedr0

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linseed oil ammonia and meths
I do have meths but not linseed oil ammonia. Would be happy to make my own reviver though if linseed oil is readily available - feels more authentic! I'm confused about when linseed oil is appropriate though because this post cautions against the darkening effect of linseed oil in a reviver mix and the author questions it's purpose in that particular situation - perhaps something to do specifically with shellac?. I don't mean to stumble into a thorny issue or get my thread sidetracked by a heated debate. And I'm certainly not challenging your advice - just genuinely keen to learn.

Meanwhile, is the choice of button vs garnet just down colour? Button being lighter and garnet being darker?

Would I apply the button/garnet over the whole bed, or over the whole of each rail, or over just the localised areas that need attention?

Do you think a dilligent novice might be able to get an OK finish using a rubber? I'm particularly thinking about the top of the headboard and footboard - where presumably I won't just be able rub round and round in circles.

What type or make of wax would you recommend?
 

Stuart Moffat

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If wood was Shellac'd before (rather than modern varnish), and if you would like to shellac it once cleaned up but retaining the patina, then I would defer to 'The Fenman' who amongst other activities restores old sewing machines, with the goal of making them look like they have been really well looked after for the last 100 years, rather than made to look like new. I have used his techniques on many old shellac'd stuff to great affect . This is the link to his site... Here
 

el_Pedr0

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Is there a way that I can tell what the finish is? Or would you folk be able to tell if I took the photo in a particular way/light?
 

mrpercysnodgrass

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If you rub an inconspicuous area with meths using fine wire wool or a nylon pad and the finish dissolves then it is shellac. If not it can be almost anything!
What you have is a beech framed bed that was stained to look like walnut or possibly mahogany, the originals were mostly made from walnut, cherry and mahogany but stained beech has been used since at least the mid 19th century and is still used today which is why I said if the finish is not shellac it could be almost anything.
From the photos it looks like the finish is very thin so I would guess it is probably shellac but could be cellulose.
As you do not have linseed oil (I only use raw linseed and have never had issues with darkening!) or ammonia there are two ways I think to go about restoring the finish.
Use a commercial reviver like the lakeone or colron ring remover, then a couple of rubbers of shellac, my preference would be garnet but button will also be good. treat the whole bed.
The second way would be to use a light stain like colron 'Antique Pine'. Apply the stain all over with a rag or sponge. When dry a couple of rubbers of garnet or button. If by the way you already have shellac and it is a clearer one like SPB then that will be fine to use, there will be no need to spend money on more shellac that will then just sit on a shelf.
You also mentioned the dents. You can remove these fairly easily with a damp rag and an iron however this will destroy the finish around the dent and will then mean a bigger polishing job. I think with the finish revived you will hardly notice the dents!
 

el_Pedr0

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This is hugely helpful. Thank you.

For the ammonia, can I just use what is sold as 'household ammonia'?
 

Stuart Moffat

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Is there a way that I can tell what the finish is? Or would you folk be able to tell if I took the photo in a particular way/light?
Hi, The Fenman's "elixir" has 4 ingredients that includes meths which will soften/dissolve shellac, and is used when applying shellac. The other ingredients are really about cleaning, or reviving the appearance. If you use his method it is very quick to do, and doesn't remove all the old shellac. If you have an insconspicuous area to try you could just apply meths and see what happens. It won't do much to a modern varnish surface other than clean it, but it will really soften shellac. The major benefits and downsides of a shellac surface is that Shellac surface gets easily spoiled if you spill alcohol on it (including wine!), but is very easily fixed if you have the stuff in your shed. On the plus side, if you scratch or dent a shellac surface, it is very easy and quick to fix as applying the Fenman mix neatly blends in and reshines with its surroundings. If you scratch a modern varnish finish, its not easily fixed at all. What you have may well be Shellac, and personally I'd just try treating it with the 4 part mix and see what happens.
 

mrpercysnodgrass

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This is hugely helpful. Thank you.

For the ammonia, can I just use what is sold as 'household ammonia'?
I did not know you could buy ammonia in shops, I have just had a quick look, it seems what you can buy is just under 10% mine is industrial 33%. So the answer is yes you can use it. So if you are going down the road of making your own reviver here is my recipe. All measurements are approximate.

83% raw linseed oil
10% white spirit
5% meths
2% ammonia

This is a basic mix and can have a grit like rotten stone or pumice added for extra bite on some finishes or the meths and ammonia content increased.
 

el_Pedr0

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Right - I've bought all ingredients for the revivers and elixir's mentioned above.

In the meantime, I tried some meths on an inconspicuous part. It certainly turned the kitchen paper brown, but I wasn't sure if that was grime/stain/finish. I wasn't sure what I should be expecting, but it didn't turn into a sticky mess or anthing. Afterwards the finish was dulled. Generally, the finish does appear to be very very thin (almost non existant in parts).

I also tried white spirit, and that had a very similar effect. If anything the white spirit seemed to get down to the wood more than the meths did. But it was not a controled test because I applied the white spirit by scrubbing with very fine wire wool, whereas I was much more cautious with the meths and used used only kitchen paper.

In anycase, once all the ingredients arive for the concoctions, I will get stuck in to rubbing it all down and (probably) getting involved with some garnet. From my white spirit test, I suspect the revivers might show up the beech a lot more. I'd rather try and make it look like the fake walnut that it was trying to be originally, so hoping that the darkness of the garnet will help in that regard.

Really looking forward to this now.

don't shine a UV light on those marks
:eek:
 

Jacob

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I'd wash it carefully with soapy water a soft cloth and a tooth brush into crevices, but not to let it get wet except very briefly and not to scrub too hard.
Then wax polish or raw linseed - brushed on thin and rubbed off after an hour or so when it's had time to soak in.
Keep it simple. One thing is certain - there is nothing you can do to make it look as it was when new.
 
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pe2dave

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Is there a way that I can tell what the finish is? Or would you folk be able to tell if I took the photo in a particular way/light?
Do you care? I'm guessing you want to strip it back to clean wood?
I'd suggest the dents and scratches, unless major, be left alone. Just remove the finish as best you can
(wire wool, small wire brushes on drill / multi-tool etc), sand paper to the finish you want, then decide on
a finish.
 

mrpercysnodgrass

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Do you care? I'm guessing you want to strip it back to clean wood?
I'd suggest the dents and scratches, unless major, be left alone. Just remove the finish as best you can
(wire wool, small wire brushes on drill / multi-tool etc), sand paper to the finish you want, then decide on
a finish.
You have completely misunderstood the op’s intentions. He said he wanted to revive the finish sympathetically retaining the patina!!!! If he did as you suggested and took a wire brush on a drill to it he would be left with driftwood!!!!
 

pe2dave

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You have completely misunderstood the op’s intentions. He said he wanted to revive the finish sympathetically retaining the patina!!!! If he did as you suggested and took a wire brush on a drill to it he would be left with driftwood!!!!
No, I assumed (I'm sure you know personally) that the scratched surface finish was unwanted.
fyi, it is possible to use a wire brush gently.
 

el_Pedr0

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Yes, I do want to be careful. My guess is that it's not an item of particular value. But nonetheless, it is an older piece of furniture and so I would like to make it look nice (not new) but to do it in a consciencious way. From my elementary understanding, the general approach to restoration seems to be to aim for the minimum amount of intervention possible and be sympathetic to what was done before.

I don't mind the actual dents, because I don't think it's the dents themselves that hit the eye - I think it's something to do with the state of the finish where the item has been knocked that detracts from the beauty.

So my focus is on the finish. The only reasons I care about what the current finish is, are so that I use the appropriate reviver, and so that I apply the appropriate finish in order to do things simpathetically and avoid inadvertantly putting on a finish that's incompatible with the rememnants of any previous finish.

My plan at the moment:
1) Use a reviver/elixir. If I can stop there, great.

...I suspect though from my initial test, that that the reviver might make it look way too much like beech. If so, I'll move onto...
2) Garnet polish.

And then...
3) Renaissance wax (read somewhere on this forum that it's the bees knees)
 

el_Pedr0

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Oh dear - a few months on and I'm only just getting round to buying the french polish. ⌛⌛⌛

I was about to go for garnet (mainly because @mrpercysnodgrass prefers it, and as I have no experience, it's a wise choice to borrow someone else's). But the description of Liberon Garnet on the rest express website says that it "completely hides the grain". Will this make it look like a solid block of colour - a bit like the outside of the piano below?

20210624_140948.jpg

The effect I'm aiming for is a bit more like my other french bed. It doesn't have to be as light as this, but I'd like to be able to see variation in the finish. That kind of patina gives it a sense of character and age.
20210624_140758.jpg
20210624_140834.jpg

How would you describe the difference in finish between button and garnet, and which sounds more suitable for my aims? (I'm only doing a couple of rubbers after using a reviver,
Not stripping back to bare wood and building up a whole new, multiple-layer finish)
 
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