What should you do with your grandmother’s old wooden mirror? It’s chipped, dull and dusty, but it’s sentimental and valuable.
The father and son team of William and Bill Nash at E. W. Nash & Sons, experts in the restoration of antique furniture, gave First Coast Magazine a lesson on restoring an antique Ogee mirror.
“The ‘ogee mirror’ takes its name from the form of the frame, which is comprised of S-shaped moldings. This form was very common throughout the 19th century,” says Nash.
American-made circa 1850, like many mirrors from this period, the Ogee mirror was carved from a secondary wood, heart of pine, which was inexpensive and abundant in the 19th century. The pine was then covered with thin strips of a more expensive wood, mahogany in this case. The mahogany veneer strips were glued down on top of the pine wood to create a decorative look.
As antique wooden pieces of this construction age, the glues can break down and the veneers may become brittle and chip. Additionally, Nash says, “The finish, which was most likely an old varnish, darkens and then becomes dirty. When this happens the beautiful grain patterns in the mahogany veneer are hardly visible.”
Nash explains how restoration of the mirror’s frame can be broken down into a three step process. The key to the process is the use of only products that would have been available and used in the 19th century.
Step 1: Repair. Identify loose, brittle or missing veneer. Using a very sharp blade, like an exact-o knife, cut away any jagged edges and create nice, square patches. Using a chisel scrape away any old glue. Cut a new piece of veneer and brush wood glue on the back of it with an artist brush. Place it over the substrate wood and clamp for at least an hour. After the patch is secure and the glue is dry, remove clamp and fine sand the surface and edges to make the patch flush.
Step 2: Clean. Using fine wet/dry sandpaper or very fine steel wool, rub with a 50/50 mix of linseed oil and turpentine. Wipe dry and let the surface sit overnight.
Step 3: Restore. Apply shellac over the existing finish. Multiple coats may be needed. After the shellac has cured overnight, polish with paste wax and steel wool.
E.W. Nash & Sons is celebrating their 30th year of business this year. Their workshop is located in Riverside, and their works can be seen in the Tudor Room at the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville and at the Ximenez-Fatio House Museum in St. Augustine. More information about their services can be found at ewnash.com.