THE preservation of furniture depends chiefly on regular dusting and polishing and a good furniture polish applied by vigorous rubbing with a clean, napless cloth: for a high gloss not only looks good but preserves the wood. Apply the polish sparingly and thoroughly rub the surfaces with the cloth.
A table or other piece of furniture which has become grimed cannot be expected to respond to any ordinary polishing. Grease and dirt must first be removed, by washing with warm water containing a very little vinegar, the correct proportion being one pint of warm water to a tablcspoonful of vinegar. Several washings may be needed, a chamois leather being used for the final removal of surplus water. When no trace of dampness remains, one of the advertised furniture creams should be applied and the surface polished, subsequent polishing being a weekly routine.
A point to remember is that the dusting of a room should be completed throughout before any polishing commences. Equal attention should be paid to the legs and lower parts of furniture as to the tops, fronts and sides.
The best piece of furniture cannot be expected to remain in perfect condition, no matter how much regular attention is given to it, if exposed to conditions which were never visualized by its makers. These include heat and damp. Too close proximity to a fire or radiator will induce warping or splitting of even the soundest wood. A consistently damp room can prove equally ruinous. The consequences of damp conditions are described under WOODWORM AND DRY ROT.
Removing Water Stains
It sometimes happens that a table-top, too close to an open window, becomes splashed by rain. In this case, moisture should first be mopped up with a clean cloth or chamois leather, and as soon as the surface is thoroughly dry the cream should be liberally applied and rubbed in, the surplus being finally rubbed off.
There is danger of water-stains from porous pottery vases or jugs or bowls used for flower display. Unless a vessel is of china, glass, or metal it should always be regarded with a doubtful eye as to its water-tightness. It is safer to put such vessels on a stand, such as a china saucer or a glass dish. If water-stains occur they can be erased when dry by extra vigorous rubbing with the polishing cloth. Stains of any kind which are not removed by treatment will generally respond to petrol, lighter fuel, or benzine, applied with a wad of clean cloth. When all signs of the marks have vanished, polishing in the ordinary way should leave the area spotless. If the stains (not ink-stains) are deep-seated the following alternative method, used with careful discretion, may be employed. Wrap a small wad of cotton-wool in a square of clean napless cloth, 2 in. square. Apply a little methylated spirits to the pad and lightly rub the pad over the stain, using a regular circular motion. Do not apply an excessive quantity of methylated spirits and if the pad shows any signs of sticking add one drop of linseed oil to the face of the pad. See also the article dealing with POLISHES AND POLISHING for details of polishing technique.
Table mats should always be used on polished dining tables to prevent heat from plates and dishes penetrating to the wood, and causing unsightly marks. Vigorous rubbing with a soft cloth, after the application of cream, is needed to remove them. Scratches cannot be removed, other than with a plane, but they can be made less obvious, in the case of dark wood, by rubbing into the affected surface a little dark brown boot polish and then briskly rubbing the spot with a soft cloth.
Dents in polished surfaces call for painstaking attention. They should be carefully filled with methylated spirit, and then a hot flat-iron should be held just above, as close as can be contrived without scorching the wood. The heat thus applied should ‘draw up’ the base of the dent. This treatment may need to be repeated once or twice before the blemish entirely disappears.
Dents and Scratches
The lower parts of furniture, such as table-legs, bookcases and sideboards, are often damaged from the careless use of the broom or carpet-sweeper. If the corners of these appliances are not padded, this omission should be rectified. A piece of thick but soft leather, or similar material, nailed or screwed to the corners and edges of the broom or carpet-sweeper will prevent many a knock and scratch. A piece of heavy furniture close enough to a door to stand in peril of impact damage when the door is flung open can be safeguarded from injury by a door-stop screwed to the floor a couple of inches from the possible point of contact. The stop can be contrived with the aid of a disused cotton-reel if the shop article is not obtainable, the protruding rims of the reel being neatly removed and the reel stained or painted.
The foregoing applies to a shiny surface, that is, one which has been french-polished by the makers. An unpolished deal-topped kitchen table deserves equal care and attention, though polishing cloth and cream will here give way to the scrubbing-brush, soap, and hot water. Stains which prove obstinate on a plain deal top can be shifted by dry-scrubbing, using a dry scrubbing-brush and very fine sand.
Chairs with cane seats need to have their pleasing appearance maintained by keeping the cane free from dust. An occasional scrubbing of the cane may be necessary, with hot water in which has been dissolved a little salt, a tablcspoonful of the latter to each quart of water used. The scrubbed cane should then be dried oft’ with a clean cloth and the chair placed out in the open (weather permitting, of course) for the drying to be completed naturally.
This furniture soon becomes dusty in corners, and the tucked-in areas. The dust should be got at with a stiff brush, and the leather occasionally washed with a mixture consisting of a tablcspoonful of vinegar to a pint of hot water. The leather must not be made too wet, and it needs to be dried off promptly with a clean cloth. All-over washing may not be necessary, and attention may be restricted to the soiled areas. When the leather has dried, the job is completed by polishing with a little furniture cream.
These need to be looked for during the weekly attention. Chair legs and rails cannot be expected to remain firm for ever, and if any suspicion of looseness in the joints is neglected, strain is likely to be thrown on the piece as a whole, and what was a simple repair becomes a major operation. A great deal can be done with a little glue, and with angle-pieces, or flat metal plates, in effecting repairs.
A chair rail that has cracked or snapped can be secured by means of a flat metal plate (most ironmongers have a selection of both these and angle-pieces) screwed to grip securely along both sides or surfaces of the breakage. It may not be possible to sink the flat plate in the wood, but if the thickness of the latter docs allow of it this should be done
If the broken rail or spindle is too thin, or its shape unsuited, for this flat plate attachment, the broken surfaces should be glued, brought together as closely as possible and there secured with a thin screw, or with two screws if there is space for these. Where only gluing is practicable, pressure should be brought to bear by means of a piece of thick cord carried around the extremities and the ends secured tightly.
Where this clamping-cord passes round chair legs these should be saved from bruising or denting by padding the angles with thick cardboard or pieces of rag. When the encircling cord has been stretched tightly and knotted, the pressure is increased by twisting with a piece of wood inserted between the doubled cord, as shown.
A spindle that has broken off may be refixed by means of simple dowels and glue. Or it may be possible to dispense with dowels and use instead a long screw, the screw head being countersunk in the seat or other part through which it passes. Where surfaces are flat, secure joins can be effected with angle pieces or brackets . If possible, these metal brackets should be placed where they are not visible; and neatness of repair is enhanced if the brackets are as thin as is consistent with strength, and if they are sunk flush with the wood, ajob for a sharp chisel. Screw holes should be bored, to reduce strain while the screws are being worked home, and to lessen the possibility ‘ of splitting wood at the joints. A long break in a spindle or leg can be joined with glue, the parts then being bound round tightly with string until the glue has set, as previously described. The string is then removed, and fine screws inserted as reinforcement, the heads being well sunk and then con- cealed with a wood stopping or filling. The latter is sold plain, or ready stained, in tubes at the ironmonger’s. This stopping is suitable also for filling in cracks generally, and for taking the place of chipped-out pieces which have become lost and so cannot be glued back into place.