THE DIPLOMA COURSE IN ANTIQUE FURNITURE CONSERVATION RESTORATION AND REFINISHING TECHNIQUES

(INCLUDING FRENCH POLISHING)


ONE ACADEMIC YEAR (36 WEEKS) IN LENGTH [course 01]



DESCRIPTION OF THIS COURSE

On this course you will learn how to restore fine antique furniture to a high professional standard. We work on a personal one to one basis with you as much as possible so we are only able to take 4 students each year on this course. Our many years of experience and the personal nature of the tuition allow us to cover a great number of topics with great clarity in a short time and make it safe for you to work on high quality antiques from the first week. This coupled with our new highly efficient home study section allows us to offer this course at a very affordable cost. Our focus has always been on producing excellent results, in the most efficient way possible. We combine the traditions of the past with the technology of today. This is an ideal course for those wishing to set up their own conservation and restoration business.

This course is conducted at our course venue near the centre of the beautiful cathedral city of Exeter in easy reach of the M5 motorway, railway stations and airport.

THE COURSE IS DIVIDED INTO 3 MAIN PARTS:


PART 1 - FINE ANTIQUE FURNITURE CONSERVATION, REPAIR & RESTORATION (WOODWORKING)

You will be personally tutored by Peter and Josie Thomson and will learn our extensive range of antique furniture conservation and restoration techniques.


THIS IS A LIST OF JUST SOME OF TOPICS WE WILL COVER IN PART 1 OF THIS COURSE:

  • You will learn most of the specialist antique furniture repair techniques listed below whilst working on high quality antique furniture, tutored as much as possible on a one to one basis by Peter and Josie Thomson. Due to the personal nature of the tuition it will be safe for you to work on high quality antique furniture from the first week of your course.

  • You will learn how to sensitively and efficiently dismantle fine antique furniture without doing further damage to the piece. You will learn about our dismantling methods, the reversed clamping system, paired wedges and many other techniques and tools used for this purpose.

  • Once the piece of furniture is apart, you will learn about our methods and the tools used to efficiently remove nails, screws, old glue, and dirt from the joints, splits and cracks in the right way so all original surfaces and the integrity of the joints are preserved.

  • Then we will show you how to reassemble the piece of furniture using the right clamping systems, purpose made jigs, the right glues and again ensuring all original surfaces are preserved.

  • You will learn to recognise the different types of timber used in the construction of antique furniture, the original surface colour, appearance and texture of 16th 17th 18th and 19th century timbers and veneers. (It is essential that you are able to recognise an original surface so you know what to match to and preserve when conducting a repair).

  • You will learn how to tell the age of a piece of furniture by the colour and texture of the carcass timbers, its design and construction.

  • You will learn how to choose the right section of veneer so it matches the piece of furniture you are restoring perfectly, in figure, pore size and colour.

  • You will learn how to let in a small patch and how to re-glue a small area of lifting veneer.

  • You will learn how to lift and re-lay a large area of veneer and how to re-glue a lifting area of veneer in the centre of a large veneered panel.

  • You will learn how to clean under and re-glue a lifting area of marquetry, stringing or inlay.

  • You will learn how to cut and replace a missing area of marquetry, stringing and inlay.

  • You will learn how to cut new veneers from solid timber and join knife cut veneer to a greater thickness.

  • You will learn how to repair a rule, tenon, dovetail, knuckle and other joints used in the construction of antiques.

  • You will learn how to flatten a warped table top and deal with twisted furniture components.

  • You will learn how to secure splits and cracks due to timber warping and shrinkage.

  • You will learn how to remove nails and screws while preserving original surfaces.

  • You will learn how to repair cracked or broken areas of turned, moulded or carved decoration.

  • You will learn how to make mouldings and stringing of all types.

  • You will learn about antique locks.

  • You will learn how to fret cut brass, silver, mother of pearl and bone to make escutcheons and repair inlay.

  • You will learn how to age, refit and repair handles, casters, fittings and other findings.

  • You will learn how to prevent and treat woodworm infestation.

  • You will learn how to securely stabilise areas of furniture that have been badly weakened by woodworm, whilst retaining the integrity, colour and appearance of the original surfaces.

  • If you intend to use the skills we are teaching you in any sort of business then it is vital you start to build your portfolio of work as soon as possible. We will photograph the work you do from the first week of your course to build up this portfolio. You are of course invited to take photos too.

  • Health and safety in the workshop.

This course requires the ability to use hand tools well. If your tool skills are less than good it is mandatory that you first attend the 8 Week Diploma Course in Tool Skills Development.


PART 2 - REFINISHING TECHNIQUES AND FRENCH POLISHING SYSTEMS

You will be personally tutored by Peter and Josie Thomson. You will learn the refinishing techniques and French Polishing systems required to complete the restoration process of fine antique furniture to a high professional standard.


THIS IS A LIST OF THE MAIN TOPICS WE WILL COVER IN PART 2 OF THIS COURSE:

  • You will learn how to carefully clean and re-wax an original antique surface that is in fair condition.

  • You will learn how to recognise the correct solvent to use when removing old perished polish from an original antique surface.

  • You will learn how to carefully remove perished shellac and wax from an original antique surface using a variety of solvents and retaining as much of the original surface as possible.

  • You will learn how to remove stains and marks from a polished surface without needing to use solvents.

  • You will learn how to remove stains and marks from an unpolished surface after using solvents.

  • You will learn how to use the many different types of stains and which ones to avoid.

  • You will learn how to match a newly inserted patch to the original surrounding surface.

  • You will learn how to match a new furniture component, like a replaced chair leg, to the rest of the chair.

  • You will learn about shellac polish, its history, how it is made, its safe use and storage.

  • You will learn about wax polish, its history, how it is made, its safe use and storage.

  • You will learn how to make and use a polishing rubber.

  • You will learn when and how to use polishing mops of all sizes.

  • You will learn how to wax polish all types of furniture.

  • You will learn how to produce several French Polish finishes.

  • You will learn how to bleach areas of antique furniture without causing damage to the surrounding original surfaces.

  • You will learn how to flawlessly fill small and large gaps and holes.

  • You will learn how to make and use the right kind of grain fillers.

  • You will learn how to sensitively distress a repair to match it with the original surrounding surface.

  • You will learn how to use pigments and stains to flawlessly hide cabinet repairs, marks and stains.

  • You will learn how to use pigments and stains to paint entire panels of figured veneer. (Used sometimes on the sides of 17 thcentury Walnut cabinets).

  • You will learn individual Polishing systems for the restoration of 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th century furniture.

  • You will learn which polishing products and secret old formulas to avoid using.

  • You will learn where to buy your polishing supplies and we will arrange trade discounts for you.

  • Health and safety advice regarding all topics listed above.


PART 3 - THE HOME STUDY SECTION - THEORY AND PREPARATION EXERCISES TO SUPPORT THE PRACTICAL PARTS OF THIS COURSE
(TO BE COMPLETED AT YOUR HOME)

Peter Thomson started teaching the restoration of fine antique furniture over 35 years ago and has used his extensive experience to design this home study course complete with a detailed course manual.

Prior to the start of the course and during the time between the personal tuition weeks you will carry out this 16 week, carefully engineered and well supported home study course.

The home study course is designed to provide the essential background theory to all aspects of the practical course work listed in parts 1 and 2 above. The home study section also instructs you on essential skill developing exercises and restoration projects that will thoroughly prepare you for each new week of one to one personal tuition with us. For example, during part 2 of this course you will be shown how to make a polishing rubber (an essential tool for applying shellac polish). Your ability to be well practised in its use is vital. After instruction from us during one of the personal tuition weeks, you will know how to make and use the polishing rubber but you will still need to fully master the skill and make it second nature, this can only be done by practicing. This repetitive but essential practicing is best done in the peace and quiet of your own home, leaving your private tuition weeks free to learn new skills. You will receive plenty of online support, in the form of video exercises and personal support from Peter Thomson. You will also be given a detailed course manual describing how the more difficult systems and techniques are carried out. The home study manual, combined with this detailed course manual, will help you to remember and relate to what you have been learning. It will also be an essential ongoing reference for the course and for many years to come.


THIS IS A LIST OF THE MAIN TOPICS WE WILL COVER IN PART 3 OF THIS COURSE:

  • You will learn the essential background theory to all aspects of the practical course work listed in parts 1 and 2 above.

  • You will be shown in the home study manual many skill developing exercises designed to prepare you for each new week of one to one personal tuition with us.

  • You will learn how to set up your workshop. (If you are not setting up your work shop right away, you will need to set up the work area needed for practicing restoration projects and exercises at home). You will learn how to build your bench, the best place to site your workshop, controlling humidity, where to buy the best hand and machine tools, the best kind of lighting and heating to use, every question will be covered.

  • You will be advised on purchasing antique furniture for your own restoration projects at home during and after the course.

  • You will learn how to run a successful furniture restoration business. Marketing, how to cost and give quotations for restoration and refinishing work.

  • You will learn how to build a portfolio of your restoration work. We will photograph the work you do from the first week of your course to build up this portfolio.

  • You will learn where to buy your polishing supplies and we will arrange trade discounts for you.

  • You will learn how to find and then reclaim veneer, brass handles and other fittings from "breakers" (broken up antique furniture, the best and cheapest source of restoration materials.)

  • You will learn how to source new restoration materials, new timber, veneers, leather, locks, handles, slotted screws and other fittings and findings.

  • You will learn the essential conservation rules, systems and methods that should always be applied to your restoration work. This ensures you always retain whatever is original. Integrity, value and desirability are greatly diminished when any originality is lost.


THE DAILY COURSE SCHEDULE

Please click here to see the full day by day course schedule showing what you will learn and where you will be on each day of this course.

Call Peter Thomson on +44(0)1392 432 786 to have your questions answered.

THE PREPARATION YOU WILL NEED TO DO FOR THIS COURSE

You will need a workspace/workshop at home to practice what you will be learning with us at our workshops, carry out restoration on your own pieces of furniture at home and to prepare for future weeks of personal tuition. An extension, garage, spare room in your house, or a good quality wooden building in the back garden will be fine. Most of the people who train with us want to start a small business and we always recommend keeping overheads low by working from home if possible. You can of course rent or buy a workshop space if you prefer a more formal setting for your business. We will provide help and advice with whatever option you choose.

WHERE THIS COURSE IS HELD & ACCOMMODATION

This course is held in our well equipped course venue. The atmosphere is enthusiastic yet relaxed and the venue is light and warm. You will have your own bench and selection of tools. There is also an extensive range of other specialist hand, machine tools and polishing equipment. For accommodation in Exeter see Places to Stay

THE KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE OF THE COURSE TUTORS

The first tutor is Peter Thomson. He is a 4th generation master craftsman. He completed a traditional training at his family's antique furniture restoration workshops and then attended West Dean College where he received a B.A.D.A diploma in antique furniture restoration and conservation in 1974. He has worked for the National Trust, Sotheby's, the Jordanian Royal family, museums, private collectors and dealers both here and in the U.S.A. He started teaching over 35 years ago. He has renovated some of the world's most rare, beautiful and valuable antique furniture. Having run a successful restoration business for many years, he is very well qualified to supply the expertise required for those wishing to set up a restoration business of their own.

The second tutor is Josie Thomson. She completed her training with distinction 14 years ago, a master craftswoman, specialising in refinishing and French Polishing techniques.

Her ability to render a difficult antique furniture repair invisible is unsurpassed.

THE SKILLS YOU ARE REQUIRED TO HAVE IN ORDER TO PARTICIPATE ON THIS COURSE

This course is open to everyone, men and woman of all ages, the complete beginner, carpenters, cabinet makers and other woodworkers who want to learn how to restore antique furniture.

If you are a beginner and your hand tool skills are not of a high standard the 8 Week Diploma Course in Tool Skills Development will be essential preparation for this course.

THE COURSE STRUCTURE

On this course our students receive personal tuition, so we are only able to take 4 students each academic year.

The course is one academic year (36 weeks) long. Ten weeks of this are spent in our workshops receiving personal tuition and 16 weeks are spent completing the home study section at your home.

The personal tuition weeks at our workshops run from Monday to Friday from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm. There is 1 hour for lunch and coffee/tea breaks during the day. This course is tailored to the requirements of each student as much as possible and all are invited to work at their own pace.


DATES FOR THIS COURSE

This years dates: 9th December 2019 to 24th July 2020

Next years dates 28th September 2020 to 21st May 2021


FEES & BOOKING

The full cost is £4,985 and includes: All Personal tuition, a light lunch, tea and coffee each day, the home study course section, course manuals, most of the wood and materials. A deposit of £900 is required in advance to secure your course place.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of this or any of our courses please call Peter Thomson on: +44(0)1392 432 786 or enquire via our Contact Form.

We provide an attractive Gift Card with an enclosed course voucher that makes one of our courses the perfect birthday or other present.

A rare 18th century long case clock by S. Rudge. It fell from the roof rack of a moving car and was nearly destroyed. It was superbly restored by a student during one of our diploma courses. Photos below show the clock before, during and after restoration.

Clock before repair Clock being repaired Clock being repaired Clock being repaired

A fine 17th century cushion framed walnut mirror being restored by a student on the diploma course.

Mirror frame repair

A fine Regency rosewood table being re-veneered by a student on the diploma course.

Regency table repaired

A fine 17th century oak joint stool being restored by a student on the diploma course.

Oak stool repaired

A fine 18th century bureau-cabinet in walnut being restored by a student on the diploma course. (The student is a professional restorer)

Bureau-cabinet restoration

A fine 18th century mirror being restored by a student on the diploma course.

Mirror repair

A. Veneer selected and cut to size, ready to be laid.

Veneering

B. Veneer has been laid

Veneer laid

C. Veneer perfectly matched in and re-polished by student.

Veneer polished

19th century music box being re-polished using our French Polishing system.

French Polishing box
French Polishing box

The replaced foot of a Victorian chair after being colour matched by a diploma student – Photo shows before and after colour matching.

Chair foot
Chair foot

A split, many stains and burns removed from a table top by a diploma student.

Stained table

Before and after photos Prior to reviving the colour and ageing.

Stained table

18th century dining table disassembled & in the process of being restored by a student on the diploma course

Stained table

The same table; a leaf being rejoined

Stained table

A well executed repair to a foot of the same table.

Leg repair


The same repair after colour matching.

Furniture leg repair

A 19th century country chair, most of the joints were broken. Here being restored on the diploma course.

Country chair repair
Country chair repair

Woodworm infestation being treated by diploma student.

woodworm

Peter and Josie Thomson providing one to one tuition.

One to one tuition
woodworm
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