Furniture restoration is not for the faint of heart. This is not refinishing, where you slap on a coat of paint and call it a day. Take our quiz and find out if you have what it takes to restore grandma's dresser to its former glory.
One way to get a general idea of the dresser's age is to check under it -- if the edges are sharp, it's probably not an antique.
It has to be 100 years old. So if you find that your dresser was made in 1935, you have a few more years to wait before you have a bona fide antique on your hands.
If you discover that the piece is valuable, insure it as soon as you can. Then you might want to find a professional restorer.
The first thing you need to do is thoroughly clean it. A soft toothbrush and a sharpened wooden dowel are handy tools for this step.
There are obviously many, many things you shouldn't do to a valuable antique (like restore it yourself), but painting is one you might not think about. Painting instead of staining will take away most of an antique's value.
You should start off with heavy-grit sandpaper, then move to finer grit.
Organic sandpaper -- like flint paper and garnet paper -- tends to wear down faster than synthetic versions.
A tack cloth is a small piece of material soaked in just enough turpentine and varnish to make it tacky to the touch. They're essential for cleaning surfaces before you apply finish.
Water putty is sold as a powder. After being mixed with water, it becomes rock-hard when it's dry.
You can use mineral spirits to clean your piece, and it can also thin some finishes.