Learning a lesson or two in furniture restoration
By Bev Wax
A small group learned the ins and outs of how to restore a piece of furniture and extend its life last Saturday during a presentation at the Caryl House in Dover by Mark Yesko, a furniture restorer and conservator. Yesko is the owner of Yesko Furniture Restoration in Natick. He showed his vast knowledge and passion for furniture restoration and repair speaking to the audience and answering many questions.
Yesko learned the trade from his father, a furniture builder, who originally started the business in Europe in 1932. Yesko apprenticed with his father, who immigrated to the United States in 1968 where he opened a furniture restoration business.
Sitting next to an antique spinning wheel, Yesko said he traditionally "goes against the grain" of most American antique dealers' beliefs. He strongly believes that furniture makers wanted their customers to appreciate their hard work and love of furniture making.
As an example, Yesko pulled out two drawers into the center of the circle gathered around him. One was left untouched; the other exposed the mahogany veneer. "The man who made this wanted people to see this ... I want to maintain a piece, yet retain its original beauty;" Yesko said.
He continued that in this country people want to keep things as they are. Antiques should not be touched ... they are more valuable if they look old. Yet, he mentioned that European homes often contain furniture that is restored and gleaming.
But it is hard work to get those old pieces to that state. He said the differences between oils including French oil and lacquers when refinishing furniture.
Yesko also stressed that protection is key.
Dover resident and Caryl House curator Barbara Palmer asked about all the "do-it-yourself" products on the market nowadays. Yesko said that most are dangerous and you should make sure to protect yourself with a mask and proper ventilation. Palmer joked that the products should be labeled, "refinish your furniture at your own risk."
An audience member passed around a photo of an old ship captain's desk in his possession that was cracked. Yesko pointed out that one should just "forget about the cracks" because that is what makes the writing desk old. He suggested that the best way to preserve it is to first wash it with mild dish washing liquid and afterwards oil it. And remember, he told the crowd, that "anything you do, you can undo. This is good."
He noted that tung oil or Danish oil might be chosen for a good piece. He spoke about the application and mixing oil with turpentine. Sometimes sanding might be necessary. The audience learned the common trick of using mayonnaise that will get out a white ring from a wet glass. Yesko showed them how to simply use a hair dryer to get rid of the ring instead ... but of course, this can only be done soon the same day or night as making the stain discovery Afterwards, more work is required.
When asked how much money to put into a piece, Yesko considers everyone more as clients than customers. He suggested it all depended whether you wanted to sell a piece of furniture or wanted to hand down a piece strictly for sentimental reasons.
"Did you purchase it to keep it in the family?" Yesko said that he had honesty and integrity instilled in him as a young child. And that he had no secrets — to refinish a piece of furniture correctly takes time, practice and patience. It is something he strives for in running his long-time business. He ended that while he would love to make furniture, it is not economically practical in this day and age. He is delighted to be in such an interesting profession as furniture restoration and encouraged all those who had further questions to call him anytime. Yesko Furniture Restoration services include refinishing, repairs,