Porcelain figurine appraisal and repair

QI inherited a pair of 18-inch-tall figures that appear to be porcelain. I know nothing about the provenance, except that my mother bought them in an antiques store at least 40 years ago. The marking on the boy states they were made in Germany. Can you recommend a source for valuation? (I know this type of item is out of style, and I would ordinarily hate something that looks like this. But they are so beautifully done!) Also, do you have a recommendation about how to reattach the poor boy’s hand? It’s a clean break.

Silver Spring

(Reader submitted photo) - A reader’s broken figurine.

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AThere are three main associations for appraisers in the United States: the American Society of Appraisers (800-272-8258; www.appraisers.org), the Appraisers Association of America (212-889-5404; www.appraisersassoc.org) and the International Society of Appraisers (888-472-4732; www.isa-appraisers.org). Each maintains a Web site that allows you to find an appraiser in your area. Appraisers work in five major categories: personal property, real property (real estate), business valuation, machinery and equipment, and gems and jewelry. Porcelain objects of all kinds and figurines are within the “personal property” category.

Get a cost estimate before you commit to the appraisal, as hourly fees can be $100 or more.

Another option, if you’re willing to do some of the work yourself, is to spend time at your computer and see what kind of prices sellers are asking. Use Google’s image search and search terms such as “German figurines collectibles” to find pieces roughly similar to yours.

As to who might repair the broken hand, try M. Alam Restoration & Repair Services in Sterling (703-450-4222; www.alamrestorations.com) or MacDowell Restorations in Waterford (540-882-9000; www.macdowellrestorations.com). M. Alam estimated a repair cost of $125. McDowell Restoration’s prices start around $150.

I still love my 20-year-old cherry kitchen cabinets. The wood has aged to a warm glow. However, the cabinets are showing their age. The wood is sticky near the handles and along some of the door edges, and the finish is worn down in places where my fingernails have scratched the surface. I’ve tried various cleaning product with no success. Is there any way of refurbishing the wood short of having the cupboards totally refinished? Would refinishing cost as much as replacement?

Severna Park

The best advice about cleaning cabinets is to check with the manufacturer, because cabinet finishes vary. But with 20-year-old cabinets, you’re probably beyond that.

Before you invest a lot of money in professional refinishing or even new cabinets, you might want to try touching up the damaged areas yourself. Assuming the doors and drawer fronts are solid wood, you could still have the cabinets refinished by a professional if your own efforts don’t produce the results you want.

First, try a series of progressively more powerful solvents to get rid of the sticky feel. Start with rubbing alcohol. If that doesn’t work, move on to mineral spirits (also known as paint thinner), then lacquer thinner. If all else fails, use fine-grit sandpaper, rubbing only in the direction of the wood grain.

This treatment might leave the areas you cleaned or sanded lighter than the surrounding wood. That’s especially likely with cherry, because its surface changes colors naturally as the wood is exposed to light. Felt-tip pens, sold in wood-stain colors in the paint aisle at a hardware store or paint store, work great for touching up scratches or nicks. But for larger areas, such as patches you sanded, use gel stain. Apply it lightly; you can always add another coat to darken the color but can’t easily remove color once it’s on the wood. Finally, touch up the surface finish. If you remove the doors or drawers and work outside, you can use a spray can of clear finish. To refinish in place, brush on a little water-based polyurethane. When that dries as long as the label recommends, add a second coat. Several days later, after the finish has hardened, even out the sheen as best you can by misting the entire door with water and going over it with a damp piece of 600-grit wet/dry sandpaper. Always work in the direction of the wood grain. Wipe off the sanding debris with a damp cloth, then dry with a fresh cloth. If you opt for professional refinishing, the cost should be significantly less than replacing the cabinets. Pete Simonello, owner of the Furniture Restoration Co. in Manchester, Md. (301-221-4613; www.furniturerestorationcompany.com), estimated that refinishing typically costs 30 to 50 percent of the cost of new cabinets, assuming you’re comparing the cost with what high-quality cabinets would cost new. Resurfacing also saves you the cost of replacing or at least having to remove and reinstall the countertops.

For refinishing, Simonello charges $150 to $250 per door and $75 to $150 per drawer front, which includes removing the pieces, taking them to his shop for refinishing (a two-week process) and then reinstalling them. It also includes the cost of refinishing the cabinet boxes themselves, which has to be done on-site. (The company works throughout the Washington-Baltimore area.) If just the doors and drawer fronts need refinishing, the cost is about half.

Simonello said that in his experience, touch-ups usually work well on relatively new cabinets. “But at 12 years or older, the finish tends to start getting soft,” he says. “Touch-ups rub right off.”

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

The Checklist Read Jeanne Huber’s roundup of home-improvement tasks you should tackle in June, such as cleaning out the garage, at washingtonpost.com/home.

 
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