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Antiques Considered - February 15, 2012

A Northern Neck family recently brought this school desk down from a barn loft, where it had lain for more years than any of the family can remember.  The wood is walnut, and the finish is original, although the felt on the top appears to be an old replacement.  The interior is open, with a few cubbyholes.  The owners would like to clean the piece and to replace the felt.  They are questioning whether or not to leave the felt or not.

The desk dates form the 1870s, and reflects the earlier nineteenth-century Sheraton style in the turned legs.  It is a schoolmaster’s desk, designed to give the teacher some privacy from the

students seeing what work is on the surface, but allowing for good visibility for the teacher to see what they are doing.  Desks such as this one are not rare, but ones in this good condition are less common.

 I suggest cleaning the wood surface with Kotton Klenser, a product that can be ordered on-line or purchased at many antique shops or hardware stores.  It will clean the old finish, removing the accumulated dirt without harming the finish.  As to the felt, replacing it will not affect the value of the desk adversely.

 Given the simplicity of the piece, I do not think the original writing surface was tooled leather, and the present felt is unattractive with moth holes and tears.  It adds nothing to the piece.  The original fabric probably was either leatherette or a fabric surface with a dark blackened finish.  An upholstery shop should be able to help in finding the correct cloth.  A piece of this simplicity would not have had tooled leather.

 As furniture of this period continues to grow in popularity, the value of the desk will increase, thus meriting the expense of restoring the writing surface with a good fabric.  As is the pieces is worth $300.


Happy Antiquing!


Lisa and Henry Hull operate CommonwealthAntiques and Appraisals, Inc. at 3150 Jessie DuPont Hwy., Wicomico Church, VA. 22570. Write to them or mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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