Thursday, April 30, 2015

Furniture Restoration Workshop at Lie-Nielsen

Nobody wants to mess up their cherished antique while trying to fix it. I understand that concern because I routinely see well-meant but inappropriate repairs on nice furniture. But what’s a guy to do when a stretcher is loose on his dining chair? Is it absolutely necessary to take it to a professional for every little issue? If they were to fix it, how would they know the “right” way to go about it, anyway? Assuming the object in question is not extraordinarily important historically or monetarily, I see no reason a woodworker/handyman properly informed can’t fix his own furniture.

To help you out here, I’ll be teaching a class at Lie-Nielsen this fall. This will be an introduction to furniture restoration tackling things like restoration/conservation theory, typical structural repairs, surface cleaning, and inpainting with shellac, pigments, and dyes. To do this each student will be restoring a chair as a case study to learn broader restoration principals. For kicks, I’ll show you how to mix your own liquid hide glue and shellac too. If you’ve never done it before because you’ve felt intimidated, fear no longer. Join us this September and I guarantee you will have no more hesitations about converting to hide glue and shellac.

I’ve been daydreaming/designing this class the past few years and I feel like I’ve been able to boil it down into something manageable in a weekend. It’ll definitely be a crash course but I know every student will walk away feeling more empowered to address their antique furniture troubles.

Sign up here at the Lie-Nielsen site:

I look forward to seeing you guys there!


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  2. A shortish question, if you would. I am fixing up a late 19th century oak armoire. The mitered through tenon joints in the corners of the doors had failed, moisture and hide glue over the years. I teased them apart using ethanol poured into the joints, and then used a scraper and a little sandpaper to clean out the old crusty glue and dirt. But there is still glue in tool marks and some othere areas, though flat and clean. If I take those down to bare wood, I would have to shim some of the joints. So the question is I have read many places that you can just put new hide glue over old hide glue, but if you have basically soaked the old glue in alcohol, would that degrade/weaken the glue and cause problems in the remade joints?

    1. Brian, I would advise scraping the chunks of old glue off anyway. Don't remove any wood, just glue. If the fit is loose, you will need shims for wood to wood contact anyhow. I wouldn't worry about your situation. Glue it up.