As I mentioned in a previous post, I had good woodworking skills 40 years ago when I started doing furniture restoration, including furniture repair. But repairing furniture is different than making it. So how did I learn good repair skills? I learned them from a number of excellent books, which showed me good practices for making broken down furniture strong again.
The books I found most helpful were from England, or at least, written by Englishmen. One thing they all had in common was that they used animal hide glue, especially when regluing anything that had been glued originally with hide glue (which I will describe in future postings).
I’ve become such a fan of using hide glue when working on very old furniture that I now judge a book or article on furniture restoration by whether or not the author uses hide glue. If he or she doesn’t, I don’t pay much attention to the author. I especially reject anyone who uses modern adhesives such as epoxy, gorilla glue, cyanoacrylate (super) glue, plastic-resin glue, and the like because they are irreversible.
I feel the same way about professional restoration shops.
So here are the books I’ve found most useful. Unfortunately, none are still in print, so you’ll have to find them on the used-book market.
The best book in my opinion is “Repairing and Restoring Antique Furniture” by John Rodd (shown above). The book was first published in 1954 and reissued in 1976, fortunate for me because that was the year I opened my shop. Rodd was an Englishman, trained in England, but working on Vancouver Island in Canada when he wrote the book.
Rodd’s book was then “revised” and “re-illustrated” in 1995 by V. J. Taylor. I can’t find any revisions (it’s the same as Rodd’s original text), but the illustrations are redrawn, though I like Rodd’s better. The reissue under Taylor’s name does give you a better chance of finding a used copy, however.
The next most helpful book, in my opinion, is “Antique Furniture Repairs” by Charles H. Hayward, published in 1976. Hayward is such a prolific writer, something like 25 books on all sorts of subjects dealing with antiques, woodworking and finishing, that I have to think he was primarily a writer. Nevertheless, all his books that I’m familiar with are excellent.
Addressing problems peculiar to French furniture with some wonderful sections on veneer repair is “The Restorer’s Handbook” of Furniture by Daniel Alcouffe, published in 1977.
Another book I found helpful was “Restoring and Renovating Antique” Furniture by Tom Rowland, also published in 1976. There must have been something in the air in 1976, either that or a number of publishers got word that I was in the market.
A book I enjoyed reading that was more philosophical than problem solving was “Restoring Antique Furniture” by Leslie Wenn. It was originally published in England in 1974, then in the U.S. in 1975 and 1976.
So, am I being fair citing only these old out-of-print books and no current books? Well, I have continued buying books and haven’t found any as good as, or better than, these. One I should mention is “Discovering and Restoring Antique Furniture” by Michael Bennett. It was first published in England in 1990 and does meet the test of using hide glue (which, by the way, is also called Scotch glue in England). Unfortunately, it is also out of print.
But if you’re interested in having good repair techniques combined with finding antique furniture (English, of course) and refinishing the furniture, this book does that.
— Bob Flexner