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Old 08-21-2003, 08:35 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Location: KC MO (Northland yeh!)
Posts: 674
Antique Cedar Chest - Clean/Restore/Refinish?

I recently got an antique (I think) cedar chest from my mom that was once my great-auntís hope chest. Iím not sure how old it is, but my great aunt would be in her late 90s if she were alive, and she may not have even gotten it new.

It was made by the Standard company (which one, Iím not sure). I know because thereís a card tacked inside the lid that tells how to store furs and woolens, bearing the ďStandardĒ name. The chest is stained brown and has a handle on either end as well as a keyhole in the normal place (no key, of course). Itís very sturdy and still has that wonderful cedar smell inside. But the coolest thing is the two-inch copper trim with what looks like copper upholstery tacks, one strip on either end of the lid that continues down the front.

The chest is in fairly good condition (especially considering that my mom the mess had it for at least 25 years); there is some marring on the top that may or may not come off with cleaning. Also, one corner of the top has some bubbling in the finish. Thereís a small chip (about 1/2" x 1/4Ē at most) out of the middle of the top as well. The sides look very nice, and as I said above, the whole thing is quite sturdy.

So Ö what should I do? I donít want to devalue it by refinishing (if itís worth anything, that is). On the other hand, Iíll never sell it; itís a family heirloom.

If anyone wants pics, just email me.
"Skepticism is the beginning of faith." --Oscar Wilde
Old 08-21-2003, 10:19 PM
Join Date: Mar 1999
Posts: 10,581
Please post some pics online so I can see the chest in more detail.

I work in a museum, so naturally my advice is to be as conservative as possible with anything done to the chest.

The best thing, honestly, is just to try to preserve it in its current condition. Keep the humidity and temperature as steady as possible. (50% humidity is perfect for furniture.) Use Swiffer to dust, because dusting spray can leave damaging residues on furniture.

If you do decide, however, to get the piece restored, go the distance and get it done by a true professional. Contact our local museum or historical society, and they should be able to refer you. It'll cost you, but the results will be worth it.
Old 08-22-2003, 08:51 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Location: KC MO (Northland yeh!)
Posts: 674
I will try to post pics this evening, Lissa. BTW, I was mistaken about the copper trim. It's around the perimeter of the lid, sides and front, and the front and lid have an additional strip of trim down the center.
Old 08-22-2003, 10:58 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Front and Center
Posts: 5,928
I'm not an expert, but I watch Antiques Roadshow. Almost every episode somebody brings in some antique furniture that is worth "$5000, but if you hadn't cleaned it, it would be worth $40,000" or something similar. Just heartbreaking...

So my advice is leave it alone no matter how grungy it looks or get the professional restorer to work on it..I guess they know how to work on stuff and leave it original looking.

Even if it is an heirloom, the same thing happens.."looks like this 17th century chest was renovated back in the 1920's. Unfortunately, now it is worth $3000 instead of the $75,000 it would have been worth in original condition".

The people who did the "renovation" 80 years ago probably thought it just looked like a grungy old thing and wanted to spruce it up a bit instead of buying something new. They unknowingly ruined it's heirloom value.

I inherited quite a bit of furniture from my grandparents. You guessed grandmother was a DIY furniture restorer.
Old 08-31-2015, 10:12 AM
Join Date: Aug 2015
Posts: 1
All that being said, would it ruin the value of the piece if only the inside of the chest was sanded and a bit of cedar oil was used to restore the scent and revive the purpose of the chest? I, too, received a cedar chest of my grandmother's, of which there is no smell left, but a rather musty stink. Online I found that if you sand the interior with fine grade sandpaper or steel wool, wipe it down again, air it out, and use several drops of cedar oil you can rejuvenate the smell. I'd like to use the trunk for winter sweaters, etc. but don't want to ruin the antique value.
Old 08-31-2015, 10:31 AM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: rhode island
Posts: 38,810
If you really aren't going to ever sell it than you may want to refinish it. But it doesn't sound like it needs much. You can clean the copper or let it age. You may want to clean it. You could fill scratches and chips or just stain the exposed wood to preserve it. You could strip off the finish, and then give it an entirely new look. But since it is an older style you could keep it in it's aged state and just touch up the nicks. As mentioned above you might want to refinish the interior more than the exterior simply for utility. If there's bare wood inside you don't want it to over dry and begin to crumble.

If it has serious value as an antique I'd leave it alone. Even if it's an heirloom if it's worth $40,000 untouched you or your family might need that money someday more than they'd need an old trunk.
Old 08-31-2015, 10:37 AM
born to be shunned
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Southwestern PA
Posts: 12,946
PAKS -- It wouldn't hurt the value any really and the emotional attachment and use-factor are probably greater than the market value anyway unless it is some really exceptional hand-carved craftsman made antique. When my MIL was in assisted living we had to deal with 5 or 6 of the darn things and only one (hand made circa 1860 and more a blanket chest) had any real value. Even the early Lane was pretty much $50 and I had to drop it off.

And since this is your first post, be warned that you may get some snarky comments for bringing up an old tread - what we call a zombie - especially given the subject of the OP. Our usual form is to start a new thread rather than resurrect an old one. A lot of the usual suspects here just find it more interesting that way and many times the people who commented in an old thread like this are long gone. You asked a good enough question to reference the old thread with a link and get advice on your question as well. Plus that way people are more likely to catch your question rather than responding to the Original Post.

Last edited by kopek; 08-31-2015 at 10:40 AM.
Old 08-31-2015, 10:53 AM
Join Date: Dec 2014
Posts: 3,092
I ferreted out my Paternal Grandmother's cedar chest from her garage when we cleared out her house after she passed. I refinished it and it turned out beautifully and I use it to this day to keep two wool blankets and some linen and handmade lace tablecloths I inherited. Whether it's valuable, I have no idea. My grandparents were not at all wealthy, though, so I'd suspect not.
Old 08-31-2015, 10:55 AM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: rhode island
Posts: 38,810
Aw jeez, it's a zombie. I was answering the OP. 12 years later that chest may be sold or completely refinished by now.
Old 08-31-2015, 11:04 AM
Join Date: Feb 2015
Posts: 1,837
I had a friend that had an antique dresser and she brought it some place to be cleaned and it was not professional at all. When my friend went to pick her dresser up all the hardware been removed and the guy in the shop said "He had no idea what she was talking about . " She took no photos of it so it was her words against the guy. So it might be good idea to take some photos before being it anywhere . If my friend had told she was going this I would had told her to take photos first b/c the hardware was really nice looking.
Old 08-31-2015, 07:03 PM
born to be shunned
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Southwestern PA
Posts: 12,946
Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
Aw jeez, it's a zombie. I was answering the OP. 12 years later that chest may be sold or completely refinished by now.
Noticed that -- which is why I edited my reply to cover the situation. We must have been typing at about the same time; I'm just a lot slower than you are.

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