I once had a decorator bring a client to my shop to look at a dining table. It was a table that I was selling for a friend. The surface was filled with scratches and dents from fairly rough use, but it was a perfectly good two pedestal table with a reasonable patina. The friend needed the money from the sale and I priced it very inexpensively. The decorator knew the table was inexpensive and thought her client was more averse to spending money than worrying about scratches an dents. That was not the case, however.

Having talked about stains, I omitted talking about polishing because antique restorers seldom build a finish from scratch. Occasionally, you have to match a leaf to a dining table, but that is likely to be the largest surface you will work on. Good restorers always try to find already finished old wood for repairs and then resort to “new” pieces of wood, usually old timber but freshly cut, to fill in missing pieces of veneer. Good staining technique is paramount in such circumstances. What restorers never do is sand off an old finish, even if it is marked excessively as this table was. You lose the patina and I knew that sooner or later, someone would come along who liked the patina and could live with the dents and scratches.

I try not to buy surfaces that are too scarred because my customer base has a limit to how much history they want to see on a top. I never buy something where I think I will have to sand a surface down, re-stain and re-polish. It goes against everything that I think an antique dealer should stand for, i.e. the retention of all that has happened to a surface. There is always a customer for every piece who is looking for something that they would call the perfect antique, regardless of condition. Don’t tell anybody, but it is just a case of the right person finding the right object. It is also called falling in love.

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