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A furniture restorer performs delicate repairs, touch-up refinishing work, and complete overhauls on antique or worn-out pieces of furniture. Depending on the item and the client's wishes, a restorer might spend anywhere from a few hours to several months working on a single piece. Most professionals are highly-skilled woodworkers and upholsters who are capable of refinishing a wide variety of items. Others specialize in their trade, working primarily with metal pieces or antiques from a specific period. A furniture restorer may run his or her own business or be employed by a specialty store, retailer, or museum.
When a client brings in a piece of furniture, the restorer typically gives it a quick inspection, asks about what type of work he or she wants done, and provides a price quote. Some people simply want their old couches or tables to look new again, while others are hoping to recapture the elegance of fine antiques with precision refinishing. The furniture restorer can explain what he or she will need to do and make sure the client is content before taking on a job.
Beginning a restoration project on a worn-out wooden item, such as a living room chair, typically involves stripping off paint or varnish and sanding away impurities. Broken legs may need to be glued or replaced, and large cracks can be repaired with wood filler. A restorer might use a variety of tools, from mechanical wood lathes and sanders to hand-held saws and screwdrivers. Once reshaping is finished, the restorer can repaint or varnish the item and replace upholstery if necessary.
Antique restoration usually requires a different approach to make sure the piece retains as many of its original qualities as possible. The job may involve polishing scratched metal pieces or carving away wood impurities by hand. A skilled restorer might need to re-etch original designs and patterns back into wood or touch up painted images. Professionals with several years of experience in the field may get the chance to become antique dealers or conservators at history museums.
In general, there are no strict education requirements to become a furniture restorer. Many professionals hold high school diplomas and develop their skills through on-the-job training. In order to improve their credentials and knowledge, some workers attend woodworking programs at technical schools or community colleges. The opportunities for starting a business from scratch can be hard to come by, so most furniture restorers begin their careers as woodworking apprentices or employees of a specialty store. With time, experience, and a proven reputation, a skilled furniture restorer can consider self-employment.