Finishes that

go the distance.

Kerrigan Restoration prefers to use finishes that are renewable and repairable. Our two favorites are shellac and oil varnish. The shellac (made in-house) can be applied via brush for a rustic look or applied as French polish: a more formal method for period furniture.

Our oil varnishes can give either a 'leaner' mid-century look or built up to a thicker film finish. These varnishes are very durable without having a 'plasticy' look and feel of modern finishes.

Regardless of which is more appropriate for your needs, all of our finishes are applied by hand with great care. You'll never see an 'orange peel' pattern associated with sprayed on finishes. Both finishes, when properly cared for, can protect your furniture for many, many decades.

close up of a hand holding a French polishing 'rubber' applying shellac to a mahogany board
two hands using a file on a piece of maple wood on an apron covered lap

High quality, not

high maintenance.

Every piece of furniture that leaves Kerrigan Restoration gets a carefully applied coat of wax before heading out the door. This waxing helps add a bit of luster and some protection against light scratches and moisture.

Wax, however, can only do so much. The good news is: maintaining your newly restored furniture is easier then you think. No need for any fancy spray polishes or creams that promise to 'feed the wood'. The best day to day maintenance you can do is this: nothing.

A simple light pass with a soft clean cloth or feather duster (moving in the same direction of the grain of the wood) does a fine job of getting rid of dust. More stubborn dirt can be removed with a soft cloth or paper towel lightly dampened with soapy water (again, going with the grain). Just be sure to thoroughly dry the surface immediately afterwards.

For pieces like dining tables, we recommend getting a good thick table pad. This will prevent moisture from reaching the finish as well as helping to dissipate heat from hot dishes. Things like trivets, placemats, and coasters are also a good idea. Remember, the finishes we use are very repairable but they are not 'bulletproof'. They are heat and moisture sensitive and our French polish is alcohol soluble.

To help out, we've compiled these tips onto a maintenance 'cheat sheet'. You can download a copy of it here.

Restoring vs Refinishing

Restoring involves different techniques, but the ultimate goal remains the same: carefully repairing damage to the finish without being invasive. A great first step is to repair and renew existing finishes whenever possible. This can include careful cleaning to remove accumulated dirt and oils, smoothing out any surface irregularities, balancing color due to damage from UV and visible light, as well as adding a compatible and renewable finish to increase the protection and beauty of the piece. These processes take a more delicate touch, a good eye, and time to successfully enhance an old finish. Much of your furniture's 'character' can be preserved while restoring.

Restoring may also involve what we call 'partial refinishing'. If the finish on top of your table has issues that the restoring process may not adequately address with a surface treatment we may be able to refinish just the top, matching the color and sheen to the base and legs. This may help correct the issue without the excess unnecessary work of fully refinishing. The refinished areas of these projects receive a period appropriate and renewable finish making any issues down the road easier to correct.

Refinishing is simply the process of removing an old finish (either chemically or mechanically) before applying a brand new finish. One might choose to have their furniture refinished to change the look of their piece (like going from a darker stain to a lighter one). This process may also be necessary if the current finish is too degraded to salvage. Refinishing may also be appropriate to get rid of a stain that has migrated down into the  wood where a surface treatment would have little effect.

Although sometimes unavoidable, refinishing should be considered a 'last resort' course of action in order to help maintain the character (and sometimes value) of your furniture.