Restoration of cane furniture
We recently sought some advice from Artlab about the conservation of cane furniture. The advice may be of interest to museums that have cane furniture on display. Sometimes this type of furniture has been painted or varnished in its more recent past in a way that is not appropriate to its era. If this is the case and the museum wants to restore the furniture, it is possible. However, Artlab advised us that the technique to use depends upon the significance of the item and what the museum intends to do with it. It is also worth bearing in mind whether returning the object to original is a good historical aim, or whether the layers of paint and varnish actually provide a more interesting or relevant historical content for the item.
If the furniture is not particularly significant and is being used mainly as a display prop, the paint and varnish can be removed with paint stripper (such as poly-strippa). This will remove all the layers of paint back to the wood or cane. Do a test first on a small inconspicuous spot before applying the stripper to the entire object. Apply the stripper liberally with a brush and leave it on for a few minutes. Remove it with a soft finger nail brush. Always wear gloves and eye protection when working with chemicals.
If the furniture is of significance, it should be brought into Artlab for a free consultation and advice. As with all conservation advice, it is quite difficult to give appropriate guidance without sighting the object.