Q: I have a leather-top Baker coffee table from the 1950s. In recent years, the leather has been badly stained by water. As a result, the top is pretty unsightly. Is there an economical way to remove the stains and restore the leather, or to replace the top?
A: Leather inserts on coffee tables and other furniture of that vintage were coated with lacquer to protect against stains. So, depending on the extent of the damage, there are three basic solutions: Touch up the lacquer; strip the coating, clean and recondition the leather, and apply a new clear, protective finish; or install a new leather top.
Bill Shotwell, senior restorer at Restorations Unlimited in Sterling (703-904-9575; virginiafurniturerefinishing.com), offers the full range of options, with prices ranging from $200 to $400 for a touch-up and cleaning to $400 to $600 for a replacement. If he installs new leather, he can add 23-karat gold tooling around the perimeter, which he rolls on with a heated, embossed brass wheel, for $2.50 a linear inch.
Besides professional treatment, there are other options. Try rubbing on shoe polish, then buffing with a soft cloth. If that doesn’t work, you might want to strip what remains of the lacquer and refinish the leather. Stripper recipes and other tips are available by searching the “Knowledge Base” at WoodWeb (woodweb.com) for “refinishing an old leather table top.”
Or you could even replace the leather yourself. Use a wide putty knife to scrape away the old leather. It often helps to dampen the surface with warm water. When the surface is clean, fill any gaps with wood filler and sand smooth. Any texture differences will show up in the new leather.
Several companies sell replacement leather tops via the Internet. James Lane in Jupiter, Fla., who does business through the Web page antiquerestorers.com/LEATHER.htm, stands out because he offers free adhesive spreaders and free practice leather with all orders and has links to how-to videos. His replacement leather starts at $40 per square foot, with a $90 minimum. You may never have guessed his recommendation for the glue: wallpaper adhesive.
Q: I have a china cabinet with curved glass in the door. The glass broke. Where can I get a replacement piece?
New York City
A: You’re in luck. Flickinger Glassworks (718-875-1531; flickingerglassworks.com) is a shop in Red Hook, Brooklyn, that regularly bends glass panels for china and curio cabinets. The shop bends flat glass by placing it on a mold — the company has 4,000 shapes — and heating both pieces in a kiln. This causes the glass to soften and slump into the desired shape. (Fused-glass artwork is made the same way.)
Replacement glass about 14 inches across and 45 inches tall — typical dimensions for a china cabinet — would cost $350 to $400, said Charles Flickinger, the owner. Expect to pay more if you want custom features, such as a bevel, an irregular curve, an engraved design or hinge holes, or if you need shipping or delivery. “What people do is take a picture and email it to us,” Flickinger said. Then the company quotes a ballpark price, followed by an exact one once the customer sends precise measurements and details about any custom features. Instructions for measuring are on the company’s website under “Request for quote.”
In the Washington area, the local source for curved glass used to be Dodson’s Curved Glass in Frederick. However, it has gone out of business. Carol Hutchison, owner of Hutchison Glass & Mirror in Jessup, Md. (301-984-7500; hutchisonglassandmirror.com), said she tried to buy the company because she has many customers who are woodworkers and occasionally need curved glass. But that didn’t work out, so she recommends Flickinger or Precision Glass Bending in Greenwood, Ark. (479-996-8065; e-bentglass.com). However, Precision Glass Bending is wholesale only, so you would need to place your order through a glass company, a cabinetmaker or other professional.
You can also order bent glass through Van Dyke’s Restorers (800-237-8833; vandykes.com). It’s a special-order item, available in sizes up to 24 inches wide and 56 inches high. Van Dyke’s website includes instructions for making a drawing showing the exact curve you need.