Note: Some of the changes in color are due to
using two cameras and different lighting!
I bought a lovely Del Rey set owned by one family, and am getting it ready to sell it.
(I forgot to photograph the dang set before I started!)
Unlike most Monterey styles, this Del Rey set would fit even in an apartment, a kitchen,
or guest house, it is so compact. It is adorable — and I rarely use that word!
It needed little structural work — tightening screws in the back,
and the knobs are all loose from stripped screws.
I imagine the owners did a bit of work on it (yes sadly.)
The paint finish is in good-to damaged original condition, with areas
where scratches are leaving white paint showing through.
The white paint is highly toxic lead white, an undercoat.
I will touch-up and seal the lead paint to protect users from the lead
(most antique painted finished have unfortunate chemicals),
which will also protect the finish from further degradation.
ALL our work aligns with conservation principles, and to that end, like techniques
and products — to match the historic — and/or reversible products are used.
That said, this is a restoration project using conservation principles.
BUT FIRST, I am going to gross you out.
Be prepared. This is one of those posts that describes what you’ve brought home,
and what you don’t see. Grease. Dirt. Sugars.
I call this mixture grime for short;
this is not a museum project so need for a chemical analysis!
I need to clean it in order to do the restoration work to it.
So besides being grossed out by this dirt (and I imagine some of you are sitting on
a chair like this right now) there is another problem. Grime deteriorates the original
paint. Notice the different color after the removal of the grime in the image above?
Yes, paint came off as well, but not due
to us rubbing or using a caustic cleanser.
The grease was already chemically joining
or re-polymerizing with the oil paint and undermining the adhesion to the wood, above. In a stunning example of this, right, you can see the migration of paint caused by grease left in place on the top of the chairs.
The lacy effect is paint moved by grease!
This is why it is important to clean your chairs gently (and appropriately)
when you see grime building. It is not just a matter of being tidy;
the grime will undermine and deteriorate your finishes!
Our knowledge of this style of furniture helps me see what I see,
helps me determine what might be going on without elaborate testing.
Del Rey pieces often have an air-brushed “antiqued” topcoat over
the painted finish; but what I am seeing here is not that, but grime.
One way you can tell is the color of the grime.
Slick shiny grey is grime; a satin finished toasty brown is paint.
I need to get rid of as much of the greasy grime as possible without using a
caustic cleanser which will strip the original paint. Original paint = value and history.
I need to get rid of the bulk of it though, so that my seal coat
and wax will adhere, and preserve the finish.
I used a 10% solution of unscented organic dishwashing liquid and soft sponge for one pass to loosen and cut through the grease, then distilled water and a clean rag for gentle scrubbing to remove grime in the crevices of the distressed-by-design finish.
Cotton swabs catch the grime in the crevices and large scratches.
I wear gloves because I am putting my hands in water with lead paint;
especially as I work with this for a living I need to be careful of lead buildup.
I can feel a slick sliding of greasy grime as I clean with cotton swaps and soft rag.
I pay extra attention to the areas where liquid may have spilled, or dirty hands touch — the paint along the top of the chairs, the knobs — people don’t think to clean these parts!
The top of the table and work surface of the hutch are damaged by cleaning,
so I need to be careful so the the paint does not further disintegrate.
Horizontal surfaces more than vertical surfaces.
BTW, I can only clean 2-3 chairs a day, by far the filthiest pieces of furniture!
People often don’t notice their furniture is filthy when they have an “antiqued” topcoat!
Lovely cleaned set ready for the infill, top coat, and wax.
Stay Tuned. Infill paint happening next!
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