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Reusing wood from old antique furniture?

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Jimmy69

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Hi all,
My father passed away in 2019 and I now find myself in possession of lots of brown, victorian, large furniture. It's all well made and solid wood but I would not describe any of it as 'fine'.After having it valued and checking on various auction sites - I've come to the conclusion that it's pretty worthless at the moment, in fact similar items you can't seem to give away. So I was wondering if anyone has reharvested the wood from any old furniture and reused it to make something new. I know there's a popular interest in 'upcycling' but the issue with my dad's stuff is the sheer size of it - they're huge and clearly designed to go in grand victorian houses, so I don't thing upcycling is an option. Here is a typical example..
5910b65cdec9739656a530fc4a1edc26.jpg


I don't want to see it go into landfill so any ideas are welcome.

Thanks
 

Inspector

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If it is in poor condition then I would break it down to use the wood. If it is in good condition like the one in the picture looks to be then, nope. I would either keep it or sell it for what I could get for it so that someone could appreciate it.
Get a bigger house. 😉

Pete
 

JohnPW

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I'm definitely against chopping up furniture just because it's out of fashion at the moment!
 

Ozi

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I remember my Dad with a similar situation with furniture from Grans house cutting large items down to make smaller pieces, As Adam says the wood was excellent quality, the back of a wardrobe made a very nice mahogany drawing board for me which saw many years service and part of a sideboard was reduced to make a TV table , I used some of the scrap a few weeks ago to make plugs when refitting two window sills, that's stuff that has been hanging around because "it will come in useful" for about 40 years. I do agree with John PW it feels wrong but you can't keep everything. I had to sell my parents dinning table, solid oak with added leaves it sat 12, only got £400 for it but had nowhere to put it at the time. It's not just fashion but the size of modern housing and really a good thing, we have less huge Victorian houses but also the back to back terraces are gone from most of our cities.
 

Simon89

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I don’t think there is one answer to this and it’s really down to you.

would you rather some one else enjoy the furniture or would you rather keep the wood and turn it into something for yourself. To any one else it’s just furniture but perhaps to you there are memories that can be best kept by keeping the materials?
 

robgul

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Unless it's in very poor condtion I wouldn't break it down - it may seem to you to be of no value but someone may want it . . . there are lots of charities that take old furniture and either sell it (the main operator near here has a source for disposal . . . . I'm not sure it isn't sent to the US* in containers of "shipping furniture" to use the antique trade jargon) or give it to people.

* You'd be surprised at the antique-style furniture that people in the US have - European, especially Victorian, has a big market

The other thing to do is put it on ebay (with Buy it now, collection only) - I've surprised at how quickly some furniture was selling went . . . . and in a couple of cases it was picked up by someone on their "round" gathering furniture around the country to ship. If you don't sell it then you've not lost anything.

My wife would kill me, but if I was in/near London I'd be interested to look at the stuff!
 

Jimmy69

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Thanks for the replies. I don't really want to break it down as it's in pretty good nick and someone could really enjoy it and some one, a long time ago, made it. I also don't have any emotional attachment to it as my parents bought it latter on in life - so no memories from it. I had all their furniture from when they were young and hip ( Danish mid century stuff) so I'm ok for memories. The house it comes from is a very big 5000 square foot Fothergill designed mansion in Nottingham which has 12 foot ceilings and tbh, the furniture always looked heavy even in that house (I guess tastes change).
I think I shall at least try to sell everything and if it doesn't go - then think about breaking some of the lesser pieces down.
 

JoeS

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You will also be surprised with a complicated piece like that how little useful timber you get out of it.
 

Keith 66

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I often use recycled timber, nearly always free & makes me feel good! I cleared my late mums house 18 months ago & there was a mix of furniture. Some went to charity (St Johns Hospice Lancaster) & they came round with a large van, they would only take what would sell & large brown stuff was simply not saleable so was left. A cabinet maker friend cleared some, big dark oak sideboard he passed on to a dealer who was going to export it to America, A big oak table made by my Dad was broken up for the timber. He told me much big stuff gets disposed of by auction houses as there is simply too much of it & there is no market for it. It becomes worthless.
What i couldnt even give away i piled in a great heap & burnt. I did take some lovely big thick mahogany table tops home with me though!
 

jcassidy

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I am regularly offered what I call 'OBF' for pittance of nothing. Old brown furniture. Much of it is cheap and shabby from the 50's and 60's but sometimes really nice pieces like these. But no one wants them. No matter how nicely done up or restored, they don't fit modern homes or lifestyles.
As someone else said, get what you can.
 

Ollie78

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I think sometimes there is more value re using the wood than selling it for pence or letting someone "upcycle" it with a can of farrow and ball thus ruining it forever.
I have used quite a lot of wood from old often damaged furniture. Proper mahogany, Teak Walnut etc. Can be found.
It is tricky reusing veneered panels but it can be done with care and sharp tools.

I do think that the one in the picture is a bit nice to cut up really, but if it's worth no money and you can't store it then what else can be done.
As mentioned above these pieces were made for larger homes. I wish I could fit some furniture of my grandfather's in my house but it's just the wrong scale and shape, I literally don't have a flat wall long enough.

Ollie
 
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Gavlar

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I'm with the 'breakers'. I've been in so many auctions where huge mahogany wardrobes won't even sell for a fiver. Nobody wants this stuff, and how long are you prepared to keep it in storage until they do? Even giving it away can be a problem because people simply don't have the space these days.

I've cut table tops and door panels into discs, laminated together and turned them into bowls. Or made coffee tables from them, if large and flat enough. Fluted chair legs can be re-turned into smooth ones for said tables, stools etc., or into smaller decorative items.

The wood can be beautiful, and to buy it these days would be either expensive or impossible.
 

Cooper

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Not quite, in the spirit of what to do with inherited furniture but still reused wood.
Any one who has worked in a school workshop will have had colleagues bring broken pieces, expecting they will be repaired for nothing. A friend started in a new school and one morning came in to find a pile of furniture stacked on a bench. He promptly put it through the saw and thicknesser and stacked it back on the bench. At the end of the week he had a visit from the head teacher, who asked if his furniture was ready. Ray said yes Sir, thank you, I've already used some with a class and the rest is on the bench waiting to be used. He said, he was never troubled with colleagues wanting freebees again.
 

Cabinetman

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Most of the old banks that were closed have gone now but back in the late 90s an old Victorian Barclays closed down near my workshop and I called in to see the guy stripping it all out, he was delighted that I was interested and would take the stuff away as it was breaking his heart to burn it all, A different branch every week!
The countertops were almost 4 feet deep and made up in 8 feet lengths of a fairly reasonable 1” mahogany but the very best mahogany was in the mouldings and panels from the bank counter front, back in 1860 I suppose this was plentiful but it’s like no Mahogany that I’ve ever seen, it’s really deep in colour and so fine a grain that it’s wonderful to work with, I’m still using it now for deserving pieces. Ian
 

TheTiddles

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Furniture like that isn’t recently out of fashion, it’s been unliked for decades, I don’t see that changing.
Make good use of it, whatever that use is. Sometimes you can lift fabulous thick veneers off old pieces etc
 

recipio

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You will also be surprised with a complicated piece like that how little useful timber you get out of it.
Totally agree. I recently demolished an old black piano as I could see rosewood in the interior. It turned out that the thing was made of poplar and they had veneered rosewood over the visible bits. All I recovered was some dusty yellow poplar which was pretty useless for anything. Your local charity shops might be a better outlet. ?
 

Rorschach

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If the furniture is usable I would try and sell/give it away, it is a shame to break down a functional piece of furniture even if it only goes for free for someone to use in their shed. As others have said there is usually very little useful wood in things like chests of drawers and side boards, especially when carved/curved. It's usually only tables that have useful stuff.
 

mr rusty

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I broke up an awful old dresser and used the carved and shaped parts to make a fireplace surround.

It's nothing new to break up old stuff. My grandfather was a piano dealer through the 60-70's. The cheap english straight strung pianos had little value second hand, so when he traded one it was broken up and the wood passed on to furniture makers. We still have a small table with the top made from an old piano.
 
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