Job as a Furniture restorer

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Faye Smith trained as a furniture restorer and is starting her own business in Oxfordshire. She is in demand as people look to specialist craftspeople to make sure that antique furniture continues to work well and look good after years of use – and sometimes neglect.

Why did you choose your job as a furniture restorer?

My parents collect antique furniture. From the age of about nine I went to auctions with my mother so I grew up with a real love of antiques. There is a real sense of history when you are handling old pieces of furniture.

What do you do first to restore furniture?

My main aim is to make sure that the piece of furniture functions properly. I start by talking to the client about the work they want me to do. In my workshop I examine the piece of furniture very carefully and write a report on its condition. I also prepare an action plan, detailing the work I am going to do. This helps me to estimate the cost of the job.

What tools do you use?

I use a variety of traditional hand tools like planes and chisels, but I can use modern machine tools for some parts of the work. I may have to make replacement parts for furniture. It's important to use old wood wherever possible. I save old furniture that can't be restored and use the wood on restoration projects.

I use a variety of stains to make the replacement part match the original furniture. A good eye for colour is important in this business.

What about health and safety?

That's very important. There's a lot of sawdust and you use a whole range of chemicals. You must work in a wellventilated area and wear a mask when appropriate.

What hours do you work?

This depends on the job in hand. Being self-employed, I tend to work a bit in the evenings completing the office work involved in running a business, such as recordkeeping, ordering materials and so forth. Working for a company, you would expect to work a normal 36-40 hour week. Sometimes, you may work a bit longer if there is a deadline to meet.

Who are your customers?

Private collectors and antique dealers. I always take photographs of the furniture I work on before, during and after restoration. They are useful to show potential customers the standard of work I can achieve.

What skills do you need in your job as a furniture restorer?

You must be very practical and good at problem solving. You have to be physically strong because old furniture is big and heavy and you need to move it around as you work on it. As well as collecting and delivering furniture, I also have to visit various suppliers to find suitable materials and fittings for each job.

What do you enjoy most about your job as a furniture restorer?

It's very satisfying to know that I've made a piece of furniture look as good as possible. I also enjoy going to auctions and finding bargains.

Faye's route to her job as a furniture restorer

  • Four GCSEs.
  • One A level.
  • Pre-foundation and foundation courses in art and design.
  • Spent four years travelling overseas.
  • HND in Furniture Restoration and Conservation.

Faye's furniture restorer tips

  • You must enjoy the sense of working with antiques, as you'll spend most of your working day looking at them very closely.
  • You must be practical and prepared to learn a wide range of different techniques.

Furniture restorer related jobs

  • Cabinet maker
  • Conservation officer
  • Furniture manufacturing operative
  • Furniture polisher and finisher

Salary of a furniture restorer

  • A new entrant to the work could expect to earn £9,500 - £12,000, rising to £15,000 with more experience.
  • Many furniture restorers are self-employed craftspeople and their earnings can be higher.

Qualifications for a job as a furniture restorer are:

  • NVQ Levels 2 and 3 Furniture Restoration.
  • OCN Certificate in Furniture Restoration.
  • Certificate/Diploma of Higher Education in Furniture Restoration.
  • HNC/HND in Furniture Restoration.
  • BA (Hons) in Furniture Restoration and Conservation.
  • MA in Furniture Restoration.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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