Re-creating a Shaker Finish
To match a 200-year-old finish, an expert uses common tools and techniques
Synopsis: Linda Coit specializes in antique restoration and repair, but she rarely gets the chance to duplicate an entire piece. So when Chris Becksvoort enlisted her shop’s aid in reproducing five exact copies of original Shaker furniture pieces, she was eager to take the job. Follow along as she combines various finishes, stains, and dyes to re-create an old finish with all its subtleties. The techniques and materials illustrated here will coming in handy when creating custom colors for your own furniture.
From Fine Woodworking #203
When Chris Becksvoort enlisted our shop to do complete reproduction finishes on his five exact copies of original Shaker pieces (commissioned by a collector), we jumped at the opportunity. Most of the work we do at East Point Conservation Studio is matching small repairs to the rest of an antique. This time, we were to match an old finish with all its subtleties—nicks, dents, crackling—on a separate, newly built piece of furniture. It’s important to note that my task was not fakery, so I made no attempt to re-create oxidation on inside surfaces.
Finishing can be daunting. Whether trying to re-create a specific antique finish, achieve a certain color, or apply a protective coating, having a broad array of techniques and materials at your fingertips will make the process more successful.
“Water dyes, gel stains, wood stains, tinted shellac …” as finisher extraordinaire George Frank wrote, “the melodies one can play on these four strings are really endless, but the beauty of the melody depends on the person holding the bow.”
Remember that nothing is unfixable. So don’t be afraid to try different approaches or strip off an unsatisfactory result and try again. This article will illustrate a few ways I combined various finishes, stains, and dyes to match an antique finish.…