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Cabinets, Furniture, Woodworks/Refinishing Antique Chinoiserie Cabinet


Black Door
Black Door  
Chinoiserie Cabinet
Chinoiserie Cabinet  
QUESTION: Hi there,

I have been refinishing furniture for 7 years now. Mostly painting & am an artist, so can do decorative painting. I have taken on the hardest project to date and I think I really undercharged. It is an old chinoiserie cabinet. I am only painting the cabinet section and not the fancy section it sits on or scroll piece on the top. It was red and paint all chipping off. She wants it shiny black. The hardware is brass and lots of tiny old screws. I managed to get them off though. Wondering what type of price should I have charged to do a piece like this?
It has taken me 40 hours so far & many more to go. I have attached pictures of before and one door after. Thank you so much.

ANSWER: Hi Marilyn...40+ hours does seem a little excessive..the red was most likely lacquer, what is your finish schedule over it, as it is prone to keep chipping and flaking off? What you're doing is specialized work, whether you can get paid a fair wage for it is questionable, at best,...and that's really a negotiation that only you can make with your client. Unfortunately, that particular piece was most likely a fairly mass produced piece, and therefore, likely does not hold the type of value such a restoration would warrant...meaning the fee you'll have to charge will be more than the piece is worth...I like the black better....I just hope you can strike a balance between giving the client what they desire without getting hosed on the didn't say what you're charging.............

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

QUESTION: Thank you for your input. Yes, I have been trying to research how old this piece is. I did find a carved number on it - #9. I looked at Biddington's Patent No.'s and that indicates it would have been made in 1836. That is if I can trust a number on the furniture? Not sure. Do you know anything about these numbers. I did sand off all the red paint and primed the bare wood and am using black gloss oil paint - painting by hand. Had taped all the raised sections. Also, wet/dry sanding and using a rubbing compound on the black and polishing compound. I only charge $20/hour, but I didn't think it would take me so long. It may take me 50 hours to complete. So, $1,000. Does that price sound reasonable to you? Thanks again

I don't think you can go by this number on this piece, that certainly seems about 50 years too early to me...I think $1000 is a lot of money, but it's really only important whether the client thinks so...Unfortunately, such a drastic change to the original, red lacquer probably doesn't help the value of the piece, whatever intrinsic value it had...(as these are a bit out of style and not tremendously desirable nowadays...)....but if the customer is happy...then you should be too......regards- Greg

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Greg Scholl


Questions on Woodworking, wood finishing and refinishing of all kinds, repairing furniture and wooden objects, Architectural details, Woodturning, carving, tool usage, product usage, some chemistry as it applies to woodworking and related interests,cabinet making and furniture construction/design, etc. I have experience with all manners of colorants, finishes, paints, stains, dyes, glazes, and coatings, wood species recognition and usage,tool recommendations, blade types and recommendation,techniques and methods for many Woodworking related issues, etc.


Fine furniture restorer and cabinet maker for over 30 years,serving high end Antique dealers, Interior designers, Collectors in the CT area. Consulting for area Painting/Decorating and Building contractors on non painting issues..(staining, wood prep.,clear finishing, floor restoration and architectural detail restoration and repair, etc.) Sold, built, serviced, setup Home, Industrial, and Commercial stationary woodworking tools for a major tool retailer in CT. for three years, sold hand and power tools , provided knowledge, parts replacement, service, and on site service, Trade show Demo, and training as well.

Published in Fine Woodworking Magazine (12/97), included on Fine Woodworkings first "Best of Fine Woodworking" CD-ROM (2002) ...("27 year compilation of expert know-how")

Art School at Silvermine Guild in Norwalk, CT., 9 year apprenticeship in a European run Cabinet and Restoration shop in CT., various classes on subjects having to do with the field. Seminars from major Tool manufacturers, Skil/Bosch, Delta, Powermatic, Ritter, Porter cable, Milwaukee, Dewalt/B&Decker, Performax.

Past/Present Clients
Many varied clients including work on Martha Stewarts' Westport, CT. show house, many fine Antique dealers and private collectors in and around Fairfield County and in Woodbury, CT. (the Antiques capital of CT.), Golden Age of Trucking Museum,Consulting for area Painting/Decorating and Building contractors on non painting issues..(staining, wood prep.,clear finishing, floor restoration and architectural detail restoration and repair, etc.), local Museums and Historical Societies. For the last two years I have been employed with Schwenke Auctioneers Inc.- Woodbury Auction LLC., as a staff photographer,IT tech,and doing restoration and repair work as well.

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