Restoration

English 18th century giltwood furniture is our specialisation, both as dealers and restorers. Our workshop has always gone hand-in-glove with our gallery. Indeed, it is partly because we are restorers as well as dealers that we appreciate and understand these objects so well.

To make a missing flower for, say, a Chippendale period frame you have to think your way into the original artist's style, as well as having mastery of the techniques used at the time; this means that any repair will be completely harmonious with the original piece.

The techniques we use:

Dry-stripping

Dry-stripping is probably the one technique we use that wasn't employed in the 18th century. Basically, it is a process of scratching off later layers of gilding and/or paint to reveal the original decorative scheme. (If you watch our short film “Seven Mirrors” accessible from the Home Page you can see a brief scene of something being dry-stripped.) We employ this technique not only to reveal the maker's original decorative intention but to free up the sharpness of detail; over-gilding and painting tend to make sharp and distinct wood-carving look moulded and flattened out.

Wood carving

Any wood-carving we do is obviously only done by hand using chisels, as would have been done in the 18th century.

Gesso cutting

Gesso cutting is a stage in the gilding process. After an item has been carved, gesso (a white chalky compound, is painted (or occasionally sprayed) on in many layers and allowed to dry. The gesso gives a smooth and uniform surface to be gilded on, however some of the sharpness of the carved detail may have been lost and needs to be rediscovered by a carver using chisels. Doing gesso cutting used to be a stage in learning to be a wood-carver as you would be following the lines made by the carver. In addition, in some frames detail was always meant to be added just in the gesso, not the wood.

Water-gilding

There are basically two types of gilding: water-gilding and oil gilding. Oil is the more commonly seen, used on statues, ceilings, cornices, etc. It was also used extensively in the 19th century for furniture; it requires less skill to do than water-gilding and is quicker and therefore cheaper. Most of our gilded objects are water-gilt, and where we have to restore the gilding we only use the water-gilding process.

Glass cutting and fitting

Glass cutting we usually leave to other professionals but we are able to undertake it sometimes. Fitting up a frame with its glass is another specialised skill at which we are adept.

Mirror Hanging

A perhaps little appreciated skill is hanging an antique mirror securely; because of this, where possible, we come and hang the mirrors we sell ourselves.

Reproductions

The skills that we employ to, where necessary, restore our antique mirrors also enable us to make copies and reproductions. We do this by special commission only, and as we do everything by hand it is not always cheaper than buying an antique.