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Antique Furniture/Antique Victorian Style Headboard


Antique Headboard
Antique Headboard  
QUESTION: Good morning,

I stumbled upon your email on some online posts as I was searching for more information on a headboard we just purchased.  It is an antique headboard from a historical house in Dana Point, CA.  We'd like to get an idea of the age/style of this piece, and if there is any value to it. I'm wondering if this looks like a walnut piece with burl panels?  Is it called Victorian High Back, Lincoln, or something similar?  I stumbled upon one almost identical to this one at a local historic Rancho in Southern California, and that home and it's furniture was circa 1850-1931.  

We purchased this one with the intent to update it's look with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and use in our spare bedroom, however the more I look at this piece, the more I'm wondering about its history and perhaps leaving it original condition (or selling it if it's worthwhile).  

Any information you might be able to share would be gratefully appreciated!

Thank you kindly!

ANSWER: Biggest question is this: Do you have the footboard and side rails??

what i see is walnut and burl walnut, it is Victorian, it would be called a Lincoln style bed or a high back walnut Victorian bed, either, there are no hard rules.  Lincoln beds are not quite so linear, more curve, more rococo but who is playing with words, it is late 1860-1870s from the photo.  might i ask what you paid and if it is a complete bed.

you really are asking the wrong guy about painting it.  NO. NEVER. PLEASE.

looking forward to learning if you have the foot and rails....

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Wow, sounds as if this is a bit older than we thought!  We paid $500 for the headboard,
is that too high, or low for this piece?  There were no rails or not a complete foot. The family we bought it
from had found the furniture in a storage garage in the old house.  They found a piece they believe
might be one leg of the foot, and recommend I try to have a carpenter make another one to match, as well
as rails to complete the bed.  Would that be a worthwhile effort on out part?  Would this type of bed be made
here in the US or overseas?  The bed is solid, and the finish is in really good shape considering it's age.  How do
you recommend I clean and condition/maintain it?  (Something deep inside me had been telling me not to paint this piece, thanks for reassuring me!).  If we were to sell this piece, what would you guess it might be worth (as is, not with recreated foot/rails)?  Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.

ANSWER: I was at the auction in Danville VA two years ago when a similar bed, complete, sold at 2400.  this is not a fancy sale, i quit at 2000 figuring i would price it at 3500 after some repairs and serious cleaning and waxing (10-12 hours).  It was a higher grade bed but still in the same class and to the normal buyer would have been and looked the same.
There are two I think on my ruby lane shop pages if you want to compare or/and
google <high back walnut victorian bed> then click <images> at the top of the page.

you paid right, it could have gone higher, for the headboard.  one thing with the headboard is that you can use it this way:
attach a piece of wood (would be about 1 inch or more thick by 3-4 inches wide and about 60 inches long)to the headboard about where the rails would fit in horizontally spanning the 'legs' actually the 'stiles' and have them extend about 3-4 inches past the stiles.  to that you attach a metal modern mattress frame. and have the headboard in use without a footboard, actually makes for a nice presentation of a fantastic headboard.
where the original rails would have fit in there should be two pieces of cast iron imbedded into the stiles with 2-3 screws holding them in.  

If all the wood pieces are tight then all you have to do is wax.  I like toluene free Briwax and for this you would buy the walnut color.  If you have any artists oil colors around then you can buy johnsons floor paste wax and color it yourself.  neither wax contains silicone-this is important.  should take about 4-6 hours to wax the bed properly, it will clean it up and make it sparkle.  USE NO OILS.

i would not have anyone try to make a footboard, especially a carpenter-it wont go well but try to go back and search out the shed for parts after looking at the pictures so you will know what you are looking for.  foot wont be the same at the head and is short.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for narrowing that down for us.  Last question: when we arrived to look a this bed to see if we wanted it, the shed smelled of orange oil, and there was a bottle sitting near the bed.  The lady who was selling it had cleaned the whole bed with it. We have the bed in the garage and have not done anything to it yet.  She must have cleared off dirt and dust, but it is not what I would consider "clean" yet.  Do I need to clean off the orange oil they used before I wax?  Also, there is one section of a decorative piece that is a little loose. Do you recommend a particular kind of glue that I can slip underneath it to secure or just a standard wood glue?

use mineral spirits to clean off the "orange oil" chances are it is terpenes, which is ok but mixed with mineral oil and silicone oil, which is not ok and are non drying oils.

mineral spirits or low odor mineral spirits will work and will clean well.  just make sure you are outside and keep rinising the rag in clean mineral spirits so you do not spread the grime around.  then wax.

the original glue used was hot hide glue or animal glue.  if you have and are friends with hide glue use it.  if you use yellow wood glue then make sure you clean all the old glue off both surfaces first, then butter the glue on and clamp it cleaning the squeeze out of glue off the surfaces before it dries--with water.

if you have some hide glue, warm it, put it where it needs to go, clamp the piece in place for a few hours.

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robert klein


Regarding American antique, vintage, and collectible furniture I can help with wood identification, styles, age, periods, historical coatings, materials, techniques, repair, restoration, refinishing. Please read instructions for posting.


I have been in the antiques furniture and restoration business and in the sales of American antique furniture for 40+ years and have continued my education in the trade attending workshops and seminars through several organizations.

Professional Refinishers Groop, Int., AIC, Antiques Dealers Association

BA Florida State University BA University of West Florida 1971

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