Books on historically accurate refinishing tools and techniques?

Joseph Redgate

New member

This is my first post here in the forum.  I have started to refinish late nineteenth century furniture that is very common and is in great disrepair.  Since I am new to this, I wanted to begin with pieces that hold no great value.  Partly out of necessity and partly out of preference, I have made the decision to omit the use of any modern synthetic finishes, strippers or glues as well as omitting the use of any non-human powered tools.

My question is, can anyone recommend any good instructional literature that will help me refinish period pieces in such a way?  I am inquiring specifically about refinishing and repair.  I have a decent sized library on traditional hand tool woodworking ranging from the late seventeenth century to the early twenties century, so I am content with the amount of information that I possess on that aspect of things.

Any suggestions would be most welcome.


Well-known member
The best book I have found on traditional finishing is " Classic Finishing Techniques" by Sam Allen.

R Bohn

Well-known member
Hi Joseph
Here is a little reading for you, and a list of books compiled by Don Williams, a name you will here again if you are going to do specialized work

Peter Storey Pentz

Well-known member

Like many of us who have read your post, I welcome you and your enthusiasm for traditional craftsmanship.  I have a couple of thoughts that might be contrary to your some of your ideas, however.  It is true that some of the more modern "reproduction" furniture is easily available and cheap, but a lot of it is actually made using some of the technology that you are trying to avoid.  It has been my experience that it can be very frustrating, if not impossible, to duplicate machine work with hand work.  I am also not sure how you are going to get around removing a modern finish without using a modern stripper.  But, you are correct in believing that a hand applied traditional finish has a way of making practically anything look better.  While I deeply appreciate your desire to avoid screwing up a really fine antique, your willingness to do research and ask for help will probably keep you from making serious errors.  I do not know where you live, but I encourage you to be on the lookout for period "fixer-uppers".  I find working on them more gratifying and also more educational.  Please keep in mind the main rule of all furniture conservation, to do nothing you cannot reverse.  And, if you do stumble upon a treasure, proceed with the utmost caution and care.  PSP 


Well-known member
Popular woodworking just came out with a DVD by the " Don of Dons" Mr. Don Williams.  I highly recommend the DVD. There is few people that know more then him on Historically accurate finishes.


Joseph Redgate

New member
Thank you for your responses, gentlemen.  Forgive me for not replying sooner; I did not have this set to notify me of replies.  I will look into Mr. Williams presently.