During my project of restoring the fire surround i have learnt a lot myself and although i had the confidence to complete a project like this i thought it might be a good idea to pass on to others what i have learnt and any pointers i could give to help them in their endeavour to get something restored
I feel that anything that i have learnt may be beneficial to pass onto others if it helps them – so here goes…
In my thoughts there are these elements to consider before commencing a restoration
Age and condition considerations
This is the age and condition of the piece you are intending to work on and the environment where it is to live and also the customers preferences and expectations which need to be talked through with them at the outset
What needs repairs?
This needs to be determined from the outset and you need to keep a mindful approach to what is actually needed to bring the piece back to its former glory
What materials are used?
This is a very necessary process as you have to bear in mind that materials were very different when the piece was made from the materials we use today – wood has so many variations in colour, texture, appearance, grain pattern etc
Colour matching and finish
Again this needs very careful consideration before anything is done to the actual piece
A minimal approach
I believe the first thing to consider in restoring anything is the age of the piece you are trying to restore, i feel it must be kept in mind that although it is necessary to do some repairs and obvious that they need to be done you always have to be mindful that a minimal approach is the best approach as i feel it is too easy to get carried away in trying to make something look better and it will always need to be done in a tasteful and sensitive way so as not to detract from its original look.
It is necessary to distress repairs to give them an older appearance so it may need careful consideration when doing anything like this as it is really easy to get carried away with this also and you could end up doing too much and ruining what you have accomplished so i would suggest that it is very necessary that you take stock very regularly and keep a hold on what you are actually doing and trying to achieve, thinking ahead at every moment
When to stop
During my fire surround restoration i did find that there were certain things that i had to do and certain things that i had a choice with as to wether i should or shouldn’t do and i must say that the repair to the mantle where i removed the damaged front strip of the moulding wasn’t really necessary but i being me couldn’t help myself to try and get the best for my customer however this wasn’t absolutely necessary and i could have left this as it was but i couldn’t help myself in this situation and thankfully this went really well and did make a big difference to the finished piece but on the same note i could have gone too far and got into trouble ! thankfully i do know my abilities and wasn’t afraid to tackle this element so i decided to do this repair however it still had to be done very carefully and in a very controlled way, if you don’t feel confident in doing anything i would advise you not to tackle it – confidence in your ability is everything and is very important to feel comfortable with what you are doing – you don’t want to find yourself in a situation that you have made a mistake as you only ever get one chance at it !
Review at every step!
When i machined the timber for the repairs of the foot assembly i chose some oak boards with suitable grain pattern and went ahead and cut out all the components for the missing foot, did a test assembly and thought i had it all correct so went ahead and glued everything together, pinning each component in place, i then went to the next stage of distressing each component to age them and then went to the colouring process where i saw a piece that stood out like a boil on your nose ! I had put the thin layer of the foot on and the grain pattern was so wrong and stood out so much it just looked like it certainly didn’t belong there – oh i have glued and pinned this component in place and no matter what i do now it will never be right and this would spoil everything – luckily for me i spotted it and was able to remove it before the glue had a real hold on it but it just goes to show how important it is to take stock at every level and to make sure you are happy before its too late – i machined another piece to replace this one and managed to get it in place however it surprised me how i missed it before it was almost too late !
Use hand tools where possible
The use of modern power tools can be a real bonus in achieving results with any project but they also have their restrictions and limitations and they can also be a danger when looking at a restoration as they can sometimes be too fast or uncontrolled if you aren’t careful and this in turn can spell disaster and with this in mind i would highly recommend the use of hand tools so you have full control – a thought here is that when pieces of the age you are working on were made, power tools were not available and everything was done then using only hand tools
How to colour match
With the colour matching process in any project again this is a very difficult area as there are so many colours available to choose from today and it is again very easy to over complicate things for yourself by trying to be too precise but another thing here you have to keep in mind is that during the age when these pieces were made they didn’t have such an array of choices available so here you have to go back to basics and think about the colour choices that were available at that time, its very important and i can’t say this enough that you should do so much testing on scraps of timber used in your project until you are incredibly happy with the result before you even think about applying it to your project as if for arguments sake you did a trial on your actual repairs and it went wrong and you were not satisfied with the colour this could snowball in trying to correct it and it will never be right and spoil everything so its very important to get this stage right on samples before you commit and i cannot stress this enough
Be brave and considerate!
To make any restoration to an old piece is a very brave thing to undertake and must be done in a very considerate way as it could go wrong very easily so if you don’t feel very confident in doing a project then it is better that you don’t do it
All this being said – if you do tackle a project of restoring something old and end up with a good result and a happy customer the pleasure is immense and incredibly satisfying