The Hunt for Hidden Treasure

Refinishing wood furniture is both fun and rewarding. You can get a tremendous sense of satisfaction when you transform a tired, old table, chair or dresser into a beautiful treasure. Searching for just the right project can also be an exciting adventure. Following are some tips to help make your treasure hunt successful.

Before You Start:

Before you start your hunt....... Whether you're shopping at neighborhood garage sales or high-end antique stores, it's important to do your homework first. Negotiating price is acceptable and even expected in many places. The more you know about furniture, the more likely you are to get the most for your money. Many factors affect the value of furniture, especially antiques. Some people make careers of antique appraising and many, many books have been written on the topic. But even knowing a few details to look for can help you make better decisions:

  • Begin by looking at the general condition of the piece. Have any repairs been done? Are any needed? What is the patina like?
  • Original hardware adds to the value of a piece. Look at the drawer's pulls, screws, nails and hinges.
  • Dovetails are a type of joint that was commonly used to join together the sides and bottom of a drawer. Generally speaking, older furniture has fewer and larger dovetail joints than newer furniture. The advent of machines made it possible for craftsmen to more easily make dovetails.
  • Designs created from inlaid wood veneers are called marquetry. Sometimes marquetry includes other materials such as ivory, tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl, and brass. Look to see that the marquetry is original and in good condition.

For further information, it's a good idea to visit your local book store or library. A wealth of information can be found on furniture styles. Become familiar with the details of both style and craftsmanship. There are also price guides available that give an idea of the value of different antiques. Remember, they're only guides. Actual pricing will vary depending on many factors, including the condition of the piece, the region of the country and the seller's desire to negotiate.

A piece of furniture can be a welcome addition to your home whether or not it's an authentic antique. Perhaps you've found a painted end-table that will be perfect for your hallway. If the price is right, go ahead and buy it, but before you do check its condition. Many problems can be repaired, but if the damage is too great, skip this item and look for another. Be certain to check for cracks, loose joints, lifted veneer, warping, and uneven legs. Also, carefully examine any existing repairs. Make sure that they were properly done and not a sign of trouble to come.

Next Step: Where to Look

Hidden Treasure 
  Before You Start
  Where to Look
  Let's Make a Deal