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Chatelaine's Antiques & Appraisals Magazine > Furniture > Expert Tip: Restoring Antiques

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Restoring Antiques

REPLACING DRAWER KNOBS

 Sooner or later the knob of a drawer on a valued piece of furniture will come away in your hand; fixing it back, or replacing it, is a fairly straightforward operation.

 A missing knob on the drawer of a desk, a sideboard, a chest of drawers or any other piece of furniture is a very obvious and unsightly feature. It will catch everyone's eye because the natural symmetry of the piece has been destroyed. So the sooner it is fixed or replaced, the better.

 Indeed, opening and closing a twin knobbed drawer by just using one knob will soon damage the drawer itself or the runners or the framework. Before long, unless you replace the knob, you will have a drawer that fits badly and needs repairing.

 The knob may come off a drawer while you are using it, in which case you will have it to hand when you want to replace it. Problems begin when the knob is missing, as it may well be, fo instance, on a piece that you inherit or on one you buy in a house contents sale.

FINDING A REPLACEMENT

 You may be lucky enough to find a matching replacement in an antiques shop or an antiques market. Your best bet, however, will be a dealer who specializes in architectural salvage; he will almost certainly have a large selection of knobs and handles from a wide variety of furniture.

 If you draw a blank here, it is well worth the expense of buying a complete set of new handles - this can have a quite dramatic effect on the whole appearance of the piece of furniture. Both modern and period reproduction handles are available in various materials from DIY suppliers and specialist hardware shops.

 Whatever you do, don't use a replacement that doesn't match the other knobs - it will stand out like a sore thumb and is almost worse than no replacement at all.

 New or replacement wooden knobs can be stained or varnished to match the existing set. If an old knob you acquire has been heavily varnished or painted it will need to be stripped before you attempt to match the colour of the other handles.

 If the wood of your replacement knob is not the same colour as the furniture, then - before you fit it - try staining it with wood stain to match. On the right piece of furniture, a set of contrast-coloured wooden knobs can look very effective. Use dark-stained ones against light wood or paint them. White-painted knobs on a stripped pine chest are simple and eye catching. A quick lick of paint can do wonders for a set of knobs.

FITTING AN OLD KNOB

 Where possible, always refit the original knobs on drawers and doors to maintain the character of the piece. If you have to buy a replacement furniture knob, make sure the dowel is the right size to fit the screw hole in the drawer. Wooden knobs often have a screw-threaded dowel to ensure a tight connection. The thread is often worn, either on the dowel or on the screw hole itself. This need not matter, providing you ensure a tight fit, perhaps by simply packing the hole with matchsticks, and providing you glue the handle strongly in place.

 1. Assuming you are starting with an old knob, the first task is to clean up the hole and the dowel back to good clean wood before applying new adhesive and replacing the knob. A stiff bottle brush, preferably a wire one, can be used very effectively to clean old glue from the hole.

 2. Use an old chisel to remove any encrusted adhesive from around the knob's screw thread and base. These areas must be thoroughly clean, dry and grease-free to allow the new adhesive to bond correctly. Take the opportunity to clean out the grooves of the thread carefully.

 3. After cleaning the dowel and losing some of its overload of old glue, check that it fits the hole securely. If the knob has a screw thread see that it screws in firmly. Squeeze a little woodworking adhesive around the thread of the knob and into the hole itself.

 4. Screw a threaded knob firmly home. If the knob has a plain dowel, push it in and make sure it fits tightly. If it is loose, pack the hole with matchsticks until you have a good tight fit; this ensures a snug fit and works equally well with plain dowels and threaded ones.

Leave the knob to set solidly and then treat it to the same finish as the rest of the furniture, polishing or laquering it to match the other knobs.

 



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