Spectacular Empire Period Table

“I want to have an old table refinished.” Not just any “old table” but a fine example of American Empire furniture. Probably crafted in the 1840’s, the table is made of Cuban or Santo Domingo mahogany. The top is one solid wide board with wonderful figure and the base is elaborately hand carved. The finish on the top was scratched and water damaged and the rest of the table was in need of a good cleaning.

Back in the shop we solvent stripped the top and lightly sanded it and then applied multiple coats of shellac with a hand pad, a process called French Polishing. The French polishing made the figure in the mahogany “pop” and brought out the subtle oranges, yellows and plum colors found in early 19th century mahogany. We lightly cleaned the rest of the table and then French polished a thin coat of shellac on the table apron and base to give the table an antique glow. The result is a piece that is as much sculpture as table.


As a side note, one of the ways we identified the age of the table was to examine one of the screws. The screw has machine cut threads and a hand cut slot and it does not have a gimlet point. Those characteristics suggest that the screw was made in the early 1800’s.


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