Antique Chair?

this is a bit off topic. We bought an "antique" rocking chair. Wife has a bad back. It is probably from 20s or 30s. Sculpted bottom, turned rails etc. It is tight. I suspect the seller used some of the stuff squirted in joinery to tighten it us but maybe not. It is tight now. The problem is the finish. I thin the chair is Maple. It has some kind of flat fine crackle almost black finish on most of it. Some of it has rubbed off on chair arms, supposedly from being used. Curiously the seat bottom finish isn't worn off. The finish is especially textured on most of the rocker. The rocker has a handsome form and is quite comfortable. Is it possible the finish is a product of natural aging? How would be a good way to do something with this finish? I really wouldn't want to dismantle it and refinish especially if it as old as it's form suggest possibly mid to late 1800s.
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says...

If the texture is a pattern of little tiny cracks that's natural aging, probably of shellac. Try some denatured alcohol in an inconspicuous place and see if the finish melts together and consolidates--if so you've got shellac and you can give it a wipe down with alcohol to melt the cracks together if you want to, possibly followed up with some more shellac. Where the finish has come off, if the existing finish is shellac then more shellac will do the trick.
It may be lacquer, in which case you can try the same but with lacquer thinner, or it may be some kind of varnish in which case you'll probably need to strip it.
Warning--both denatured alcohol and lacquer thinner are highly flammable and in a confined space the fumes can knock you flat.
You can also try some stuff called "Howard's Restor-A-Finish" which is a mixture of solvents that will slightly soften most finishes and includes a stain to touch up any scratches and the like--it comes in a variety of colors. If you decide to go that route, read the instructions and follow them.
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wrote:

Be aware that refinishing is the quickest way to destroy value of antique furniture.
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Without a picture, it's not possible to conclude the value of the price but from experience, rocking chairs from the 1920s and more recent are very common. The style dates back to the late 1800s. Turned rails, sculpted bottoms, etc. are very common. They are not valuable antiques but may have significant emotional value to you.
I would completely strip it and refinish it. Based on your description, the finish has deteriorated to the point where it is missing on the arms, and crackled on the rest. Thus, the finish is no longer protecting the piece. I would not dismantle the chair in anyway since you state that it is "tight". It is possible that the original glue-up has held quite nicely or that it has been reglued in the past. Missing finish on the arms is quite common since that is where skin oils and abrasion are most common.
Please be aware that many rocking chairs of that period were intended to be painted. You did not state if you could see through the remaining finish to the wood grain but do not be surprised if the lumber you uncover after stripping reveals a less that aesthetically pleasing selection. Fresh paint, especially milk paint, is usually a good choice for such a chair. My Customers tend to like a satin to flat opaque finish. It is also possible that the chair has several layers of finish put on it over the years. There may even be a coat of pigmented lacquer.
Good Luck.
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On 12/30/2010 2:47 PM, Baron wrote:

Didn't figure it would be worth a whole lot. My wife was comfortable in it was the how we ended up with it. It apparently is flat wrinkle or whatever paint. The wood is nothing great, from what I can see. I hate the paint, if that is what it is. Feels like sandpaper, on some parts. It has a nice shape and is tight though. I don't know how or I would post a photo link. I've looked at over a hundred sites for a similar chair to see what its pedigree is. Cant find the first one. Found one chair dated 1830s, Mass but it was small without arms designed apparently for use in nursing a child. I'll have to refinish it at some point.
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If this thing is as old as you think it is, get it appraised before you mess with it. Screwing with the finish may reduce it's value as an antique. On the other hand if the chair is more about comfort and look, then by all means try the alcohol, laquer thinner, preformulated solvents to tidy it up.
You need to pay attention to the "Antique Road Show".
P
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