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Antiques Considered - May 18, 2011

 

This English walnut chest belongs to the sister of a reader.  She acquired it in Massachusetts over 40 years ago.  The wood is walnut and the owner thinks that the finish and hardware are original.
The ends are solid, and not paneled.  The finish has alligatored and the wood has faded from being in the

sunlight.    It also has a few minor chips, and she asks whether they should be repaired.  The owner also has a matching smaller chest, not pictured.
The chest indeed is English, and dates from the mid-eighteenth century.  The hardware does appear to be original, and if not it has been on the piece for well over 100 years.  The bracket feet are in good proportion to the body of the chest, and the drawers are graduated, that is, they go from larger at the base to smaller at the top.
The fading cannot be reversed other than by striping the piece and staining it prior to re-finishing it.  I recommend against that course.  The alligatoring can be relieved by applying Kotton Klenser with a small cotton wad, letting it stand for 20 minutes, and then carefully wiping it off.  The process restored the original finish without hurting it.  Kotton Clenser is available at many hardware stores.            
As to the chips, as a rule I suggest fixing them, lest in dusting and other routine wear, they grow by being caught by the dust cloth and then pulled, thereby breaking off ever-larger segments.   The repair should NOT include refinishing, as many restorers will attempt to convince the owners of such pieces to allow them to do.
This is a fine chest, easily worth $3,000.  Assuming the smaller chest is truly identical in motif and construction, it is worth $2,500.  The two pieces together would be worth more than the aggregate of the separate values.  By lessening the alligatoring, the sun damage and fading will be less apparent, and from a sales point, the pieces would be worth more again. Happy Antiquing!

Lisa and Henry Hull operate Commonwealth Antiques and Appraisals, Inc. at 5150 Jessie DuPont Hwy., 22570 (P. O. Box 35). Wicomico Church, Va. 22570. Write to them or e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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