You’ve done the tricky part already; you’ve found an authentic, quality antique that speaks to you and looks great in your home. Now, move one step further and learn about the upkeep on your prized piece. When you buy from Fireside Antiques, your antique is already waxed and in stellar shape, however, there’s some maintenance involved and we aim to offer you guidance here. Persisting with your waxing will keep your piece looking as perfect as the day you made the purchase and keeping your antiques ‘showroom ready’ will lend instant gravitas to any interior. Further inducement to wax is that it will maintain your antique’s value. Antiques are an investment; the only time you see them not appreciate, is when they aren’t preserved satisfactorily. An authentic patina can be sniffed out by dealers; they know what is a result of years of care and waxing and what isn’t. Antique dealers and designers search high and low (Fireside included) for a great patina. So, should you decide to part with your antique, you’ll have the peace of mind to know that it will retain its worth.
When premier New Orleans designer, Melissa Rufty was asked what she considered an indispensable design element- she replied; “a good French polish”!
We could not agree with you more, Melissa!
At Fireside, we like to use Pate Dugay French paste wax. It’s our uncontested opinion here, that this is the finest wax available but if in a pinch, you can use other beeswax based, paste waxes. Restorers and antique dealers alike use Pate Dugay, as it is the original French paste wax; in this way, we aren’t disrupting the course of the antique’s trajectory but merely carrying on its traditional maintenance routine. Pate Dugay paste wax also dries harder than other waxes, so, you aren’t working with a goopy mess. We recommend clear wax for lighter woods like pine and maple. Richer hued woods like walnut or even mahogany will take a wax with a bit of pigment and it won’t stain the wood but rather magnify the grain’s complexity. The only time you may want to use a colored wax on a light wood, (like pine or maple) is if the piece is faded or sun bleached. In this case, the colored wax can really bring the wood back to life, with minimal effort. At Fireside, we typically use the shade Brune Rustic. It’s made for richer shades like Walnut and Mahogany but we find it works beautifully on even lesser pigmented woods.
The car buffers are optional (of course) but can they make quick work of larger flat surfaces, like the tops of enfilades and the surface of dining tables. You can find the best value for them on Amazon.
The first thing you will select from your supplies is your 4-ought (#0000) steel wool. It needs to be 4-ought as that is the finest steel wool available. The only time you’d use something rougher would be if the piece had a lot of grit on it, which is probably not a problem you’re facing and even if it is, never use higher than 3-ought (#000) steel wool. Apply a dollop of wax to your wool and then gently start brushing it onto the wood; keeping the layers as thin as you can. Start with a small section first and complete that first before moving on. Stay with the grain as you brush on the paste wax. The general thought is usually, if a little is good, then a lot is better but please know that’s not the case here and less is definitely more. You will want to use very little wax on your antique. After the wax is applied with your steel wool, you will need to get your lint-free rag and start buffing. We use the short haired and burnishing brushes for the detailed or carved pieces. Again, work with the grain and just in that section. The key is to not let the wax dry before it’s been properly buffed into the grain. For enormous surface areas, you can choose to use the car buffer in place of the lint-free rag and you will follow the same instructions with this tool as well. Once you’ve buffed your wax into the section your working on, it should gleam and be soft to the touch.
Typically, you should wax once a year, but this will depend on whether your antique sits in the sun. Sunlight can dry out the wood and waxing should protect it to an extent but you may need to do a couple of extra touch-ups here and there. The other potential source for parched wood is your room temperature. If you’ve got a cold-natured person in your house that likes to keep the heat on, be prepared for additional waxing. Artificial heat will dry out your wood. When you notice that your antique is starting to lose its color, then you know it’s time to wax again.
Pre-wax and post-wax
A warning: most commercial spray products often have alcohol as an ingredient and this will dry out the wood, which is precisely what we trying to safeguard against. We would, however, recommend Orange Oil, which we use but only very sparingly to dust and to clean the insides of drawers.
Lastly, you will want to remember to dust. Letting dust collect on your wood furniture can dry it out as well. You may want to dust with a product-free, dry, cotton cloth or spray a minuscule amount of Orange Oil into your rag and dust over the waxed surface with that. Again, less is more! Most people recommend dusting every 1-2 weeks.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions regarding the care of your antiques. We aim to be your local antique resource and welcome all of your questions.