Vintage Furniture Tips by Klinginfo.com
After five years of talking to people through Klinginfo.com and also our personal experiences with vintage furniture, we decided to share with you these helpful thoughts: First on the list are some tips on cleaning and refinishing vintage furniture. Second, what can be done with vintage wooden beds? Finally, we would like to discuss the construction quality and value of vintage Kling Furniture compared to today’s typical new furniture.
Tips on Cleaning and Refinishing Vintage Furniture
The first step is to remove all dust inside the chest and drawers with a vacuum or blower and then wipe down with a damp cloth.
Next wipe off the dust on the outside of the furniture with a damp cloth. The cloth should be damp but not wet. For crevices and styled feet you may wish to use damp Q-tips. For pieces in very good to excellent condition this may be sufficient.
If the furniture finish has a build-up of wax or fingerprint oil/dirt on it then a mild solvent such as mineral spirits is recommended. Mineral spirits should be used very sparingly with a soft cloth. If it is to be applied across the piece you may wish to remove the drawer pulls as this will make cleaning the finish easier and more consistent.
The Kling family has had very good results on mahogany pieces using Howard Products Restor-A- Finish to cover scratches, water rings, white heat marks, and to bring some color and luster back. This product comes in different colors, such as “mahogany.” It should be used sparingly and if used too liberally will darken the furniture. Some of our customers have also reported good success with this product. Another simple way to enhance a finish is to reapply a thin coat of good furniture paste wax like Brixwax or Minwax.
“Stripping” and completely refinishing a piece of Kling Furniture will rarely be worth the time and money invested. Normally the goal is to make the best of the existing finish using the steps above. However, we have seen people who have refinished Kling mahogany and cherry pieces with beautiful results. Be aware that the dark factory finish on mahogany and cherry was designed to provide a consistent look on all drawers and the case. Refinished mahogany and cherry pieces tend to be lighter, redder, and show more of the lovely grain. However, there are likely to be significant color and grain differences between drawers and this becomes apparent in refinished pieces. Kling pieces should not be dipped in a strip tank or hard sanded. These procedures may ruin the furniture and its value.
This is a stripped and refinished Mahogany Dresser. Note visibility of grain and lighter color.
A furniture refinisher has reviewed the tips above and also recommended a good easy to read, down to earth guide called The Furniture Doctor by George Grotz.
What to do with Vintage Wooden Beds?
In a set of vintage bedroom furniture, the bed is most likely to be the weak link. The pins where the headboard and side rails meet may loosen causing an unsteady rocking feeling to the bed. The side rails may dry out in time and crack due to the heavier mattresses we use today. Queen size beds are popular today while most vintage furniture is double (full) size. So what are your options? All of the ideas described below assume that a 60 year old bed is NOT a precious antique—your goal is to get the most value and pleasure out of your vintage furniture set—so the bed may need to be compromised.
a) If your headboard and footboard are in good shape and you want to upsize to a queen bed what you want are “full to queen converter rails.” These will allow you to keep your headboard and footboard and use new metal side rails that accept a queen size mattress. Since the width difference between a full and queen is only 6 inches (54 vs. 60 inches), the mattress is only three inches wider on each side and looks just fine against most headboards. Getting the correct and tight connection between the bed and the new metal rails becomes the issue so check the fittings on the metal bedrail you buy.
Another Tip: Many new mattress designs are very thick and can overwhelm the headboard, so if you are buying a new mattress consider getting the “low profile” box spring (5 inches thick instead of 9).
b) A more flexible and less expensive option is to take your headboard and screw it directly to the wall and then use a standard heavy duty metal bed frame on castors. You can screw the headboard to the wall at the optimal height for appearance sake depending on your mattress. Just be sure to make it level and you will also have to connect it to the wall studs for it to hold.
c) If you like your furniture but don’t have a bed or don’t want to use the one from your set find a complementing “brass” or metal bed frame. They come in a variety of colors so you can you complement or contrast.
Vintage Furniture vs. Kling Vintage Furniture vs. New Furniture.
There were many fine furniture manufacturers located in the United States over the last century. As the twentieth century progressed it became more and more challenging to build quality furniture at affordable prices. Volume furniture manufacturing centers found in New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan migrated to lower cost regions like North Carolina and later overseas to China. Today, furniture made of composite wood such as found at IKEA is very popular.
So why does high quality vintage furniture such as solid cherry, solid maple or solid mahogany bedroom sets in very good to excellent shape sell at a discount to cheaply built new furniture? The answers are many, but not all are valid. Vintage furniture in bad condition with many scratches and water marks is undesirable—no question about it. Some vintage styles definitely look dated because—well they are! And lots of vintage furniture was built poorly to start with so junk is not an inappropriate description.
When you go into a vintage furniture shop or similar venue how do you find quality vintage furniture? Open the drawers. A Kling set will have a patented drawer guide that will feel much more substantial than most vintage furniture. Also, most Kling is identified by a round or rectangular Kling mark in an upper drawer. However, most people simply do not know how to recognize quality vintage furniture. As our mission at Klinginfo.com is to preserve the historical record and legacy of Kling Furniture, we document the quality of Kling furniture and how you can identify it at estate sales, vintage furniture shops and other places where used furniture is sold. To identify a particular set or to see what the most popular Kling vintage “finds” are see our instant electronic products.
Found inside a top drawer:
Rectangular Metal: 1946-62. Round KF tag inconsistently used: 1936-45
From the 1953 Kling retail Catalog,
These are things you will see on quality furniture like Kling:
Below, pull out a small drawer, turn it over, and look for the above.
Note: You won't find our postcard.