Tricks of the Trade

The Appleyard musings on The Trade and Antiques in general.

Please send me any responses or thoughts of your own.

Restoration of Marie Antoinette's Chair

posted 8 Jan 2017, 08:09 by Patrick Robinson

Here is a link to an excellent blog on the restoration of the French Queen's chair by conservators working for the V and A, London. A hands-on, technical romp through the process.

Signs of a Recovery?

posted 25 Mar 2015, 13:39 by Patrick Robinson   [ updated 23 Apr 2015, 15:14 ]

Mossgreen Auctions recently sold the Gonsalves collection of 19th Century Australian furniture and oddments in Melbourne- 22nd Feb 1915. 
There were some very good prices realised for the better pieces. 

My favourites were:

Carved whalebone boat $5,368 incl premium

Whalebone chair $34,160 incl premium.
Six legged Australian cedar sideboard Hobart Circa1815 $122,000 incl premium.
This sideboard is in Australian Furniture- Pictorial History and Dictionary by Fahy and Simpson plate 343.
Australian Huon pine console table Hobart C1830, $29,280 incl premium.
This table is in Australian Furniture- Pictorial History and Dictionary by Fahy and Simpson plate 453.

Conservation: Unusual Cedar Extension Table

posted 5 Mar 2013, 13:35 by Patrick Robinson

This is the only Australian cedar table I have seen in this form. Probably made by a European (my guess is French) the top and ends have a mitred frame and extends on tapered arms. The original finish is very mellow and I have revived it only.I have also tuned the sliding arms and replaced the underside felt which protects the ends from scratches when the table is extended.

The table is related in my mind to this French made Australian cedar chest from the same era- mid to late 19th century: Rare 'Fraustralien' Chest of Drawers

Reviving a Cedar Chest

posted 6 Oct 2011, 13:20 by Patrick Robinson   [ updated 6 Oct 2011, 13:23 ]

An example of surface revival to a cedar chest of drawers. The later, darker stained varnish was carefully removed with very fine steel wool and a homemade reviver to reveal the original shellac finish beneath. Care must be taken not to remove this original layer, or a sudden darkening (the bare cedar) will result.
The lighter colour of the original finish is a result of many years of oxidisation and is "trapped" in the thin shellac.

Repolishing... to do or not to do?

posted 7 Dec 2010, 00:21 by Patrick Robinson   [ updated 19 Jul 2011, 01:03 ]

I try to keep the age of a peice, aka patination, self evident. Sometimes the existing finish on a peice, like this early 19th Century side table, is too far gone to revive. It was soft and flaky, and just going over with new polish would not work over time.
Restoration invoved carefully removing the soft, flaky finish, then using oxalic acid to remove darker water stains, and repolishing with a hardened french polish using a fad. No sandpaper was required, so some old timber bruising, scratches and nicks, etc are retained.

New Workshop

posted 27 Sept 2010, 13:12 by Patrick Robinson   [ updated 26 Apr 2012, 03:01 ]

I have just moved workshop to Balmain, entrance in the lane behind my Window at 394 Darling Street.
The address is: 394 Little Arthur Street, Balmain.

Please call in.

Patrick m: 0403 000799

High prices for Australian cedar collection.

posted 24 May 2010, 05:07 by Patrick Robinson   [ updated 24 May 2010, 05:32 ]

The contents of Denham Court, home of collector Dr Keith Okey, were auctioned recently by Sotheby's. In  the auction were many peices of early Australian cedar, including sofas, tables, sideboards,presses and bookcases. The  auction achieved a total of over $AUS 2.2 million, with the highest price just over $200,000 (incl buyers premium) for an early 1800's cedar and casuarina 6 legged sideboard (picture right).

Australian Rose Mahogany Chest

posted 23 Mar 2010, 18:11 by Patrick Robinson

This large Australian chest of drawers fetched nearly $10,000 at auction in Sydney this week (including buyer's premium and gst).
Made around the middle of the 19th century, in a fairly straightforward manner (eg rail tenons showing), its distinguishing feature is the lovely interlocking grain of the rose mahogany timber that has lightened and burnished with age. Recessed brass handles complete the utilitarian look.
Rose mahogany, along with Australian red cedar and Central American mahogany, belongs to the meliaceae family and was rarely used after the middle of the 1800s for furniture. It grows in the coastal forests of the NSW north coast and SE Qld.
The winning bid was by telephone.


posted 15 Feb 2010, 22:08 by Patrick Robinson

Beeswax as a timber polish has probably been in use for thousands of years.
Gathered from beehives and mixed with a little turps or oil it has made a simple furniture protector and beautifier over the centuries.
Before the widespread use of shellac in the early 1800's, it was de rigeur. The special lustre of a wax polished piece is difficult to better. See, for instance, this late 1700's gateleg table.
Trouble is, it takes a long time to build up a decent shine. Many applications are necessary to build up a protective layer and even when there is a good coating, moisture from drinks and vases permeate the timber below and leave ring marks.
Modern waxes are more versatile than the traditional beeswax and turps combo. They have additives which make them harder, more colourful, and thiner. They  can be applied over the top of the shellac to impart a softer lustre without losing the more resilient beetlejuice finish.
Waxing alone is a beautiful option, but only if you are prepared to do plenty of revival work.

Shocking Metaphors

posted 3 Nov 2009, 13:29 by Patrick Robinson   [ updated 3 Nov 2009, 13:43 ]

The Melbourne Cup's winning trainer Mark Kavanagh lands the trifecta at Flemington on Tuesday:
"You've got to roll with the punches, and if you let those things take you off track you just lose sight of the ball."
(Sydney Morning Herald, page 1, 4.11.09)

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