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Barton Sharpe Each piece of furniture offered by Barton-Sharpe, Ltd. is crafted to provide you lasting enjoyment. To that end, many of our pieces are finished using time proven materials, such as shellac and lacquer. These finishes require a minimum of maintenance and maintain their appearance for many years.

The practical purpose of finishing valuable wood, encasing it with a finish, is to control the moisture content of the wood, to stabilize the exchange of moisture with the air, and to retard insect damage and wood rot.

It is important to realize that wood is a dynamic medium. It will expand and contract with changes in humidity and temperature. This movement is related to wood's porous structure which allows it to absorb or release moisture depending on the relative humidity. Different woods exhibit different amounts of expansion and contraction. However, in all cases, the amount of movement can be significant. As a rule of thumb, the wider the board, the more the movement.

First Steps
Treat your furniture like a treasure. To minimize some of the effects of constant seasonal movement, such as cracks, warpage, separating of veneers, or sticking of drawers, avoid placing furniture in direct sunlight or next to heating coils and radiators; this will reduce the chance of localized drying. If possible, try to maintain a fairly constant humidity throughout the year.

Barton Sharpe The tops of many of our pieces are protected with a final sealer which is both water and alcohol resistant. If cared for properly, this finish could last a lifetime. It can be damaged if abused, and, therefore, we suggest you protect the finish by using coasters or pads. Remove any spills as soon as possible. Use felt under objects that could scratch the surface. Avoid using plastic or rubber on natural wood finishes since their ingredients react with those of the finish and can damage it.

Finishes need regular dusting with a soft cloth, such as cheesecloth, a soft towel, t-shirt fabric with any seams removed, and current retail "high performance cleaning cloths" made of polyester and nylon.

Barton Sharpe We also suggest that you occasionally apply a protective coating of wax to the finish, including the interior of drawers. This will help to seal the wood, but make sure to remove all dust before applying wax. Paste wax makes an excellent treatment. The purpose of waxing is to protect the finish and unless the furniture surface is subjected to heavy use, waxing more than once a year is excessive. We would advise against applying a wax to any surface with a catalyzed lacquer finish, as it is extremely difficult to avoid a "streaky" appearance.

Frequent waxing is not recommended as a it can lead to unattractive buildup that can easily be marked by impressions from very heavy objects and can develop white blemishes and rings in response to trapped moisture. When you do wax, make sure to read and follow the instructions enclosed with the package. Use wax sparingly. Harder wax, such as paste wax, is better than soft wax because it will dry harder. On finishes other than oil and wax, wiping the furniture surface with a soft cloth dampened with a solution of water and mild soap will remove oil and dirt that often dull a perfectly sound finish. You must immediately dry the surface with a soft, clean cloth.

Use of Commercial Wood Care Products
Before using any product that purports to remove "wax buildups," we advise that you are aware of the type of finish with which you are working and that the product is suitable. Note, finishes are referred to in terms that can mean very different things. For example, a varnish finish can be tung oil, oil base, urethane, water base, or spar varnish. Before you begin, always test the product on an inconspicuous area of the furniture piece.

Some wood care products may contain abrasives. We do not recommend using products with abrasives continually since they might wear away the protective finish.

Special Attention
If problems occur that need special attention, such as a scratch, there are several recommended steps and procedures which can be taken. One thing to remember, a scratch will show up less if it is darker than the surrounding area. It will blend in as a natural distress mark, which it is. On a natural finish you can use soft lead pencils, magic markers, umber oil paint or glaze to help camouflage cracks, shrinkage or scratches.

When to Restore
The wide boards and period construction methods make furniture susceptible to change. While proper maintenance is recommended, we feel the changes that occur over the course of time add to the quality and finish of your piece.

Any work to permanently remove scratches, restore finishes, or refinish surfaces should not be undertaken by anyone other than a reputable and experienced furniture restorer.

If you are considering working on the finish of an antique, remember that removing an original finish typically reduces the value of the piece. An important and valuable feature of an antique is the original finish. Think carefully before replacing an original shellac or paint finish with a lacquer or varnish. If you think a piece could be valuable, consult an antique expert before doing any work on it.

Some excellent reference books to learn about finishing techniques are: The Complete Guide to Wood Finishes by Derrick Crump (A Fireside Book published by Simon and Schuster) and Understanding Wood Finishing by Bob Flexner (Rodale Press). A good explanation of finishes, their properties and different applications can be found in The Wood Finisher by Bruce Johnson (Ballantine Books).