Collectibles-General (Antiques)/question




This is really an interesting piece of furniture.   
I believe it is a Maddox kidney shape desk.
How to refinish?!
I have done numerous hours of research. What finish can it be?  I just not quite sure how to refinish the leather. There is a big spot with no clear finish( from water damage). The wood? Though it was shellac...  but there must be some type of old varnish they used...

I hope you can help me!
Thanks for your guidance and openness to your knowledge.

Noel - The finish on your desk is nitrocellulose lacquer. It was the go to finish on furniture from the late 1920s to the late 1980s. The leather has the same finish. The wood is mahogany and secondary woods stained to look like mahogany (primarily birch and gum).

Do not refinish the leather. Simply add color if needed on the bare spot. Apply a light oil based stain over the entire leather surface. Then finish with a coat of lacquer-compatible finish such as shellac. Do not use any oil or water based products like urethane. It will peel off.

This is a task not easily done with the modern "consumer safe" products available in home stores. You may need professional help.

Good luck.

Fred Taylor

Collectibles-General (Antiques)

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Fred Taylor


I will attempt to answer questions about American antique furniture, including construction details, style, period, manufacturers, care, repair and storage. I do not have any background in appliances, musical instruments, sewing machines, trunks, lighting, clocks or children's and baby furniture and will not respond to questions about those items.


I ran an antique furniture restoration business for twenty years. I am a nationally syndicated columnist on the subject of antique furniture for such publications as Antique Week and New England Antiques Journal. I have produced one video on the subject of furniture identification and my book "HOW TO BE A FURNITURE DETECTIVE" is now available.I have also published articles in Antique Trader, Chicago Art Deco Society, Northeast Magazine, Victorian Decorating and Lifestyles, Professional Refinishing, Antiques and Art Around Florida and Antique Shoppe. You can visit my website at

BSBA Finance, University of Florida, MBA Finance, University of Florida

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