25 March 2020 by Suyen Hu
I’ve been polishing up an antique corner cupboard today. It’s very satisfying to see the old oak becoming shiny again. I’ve always enjoyed polishing things. It used to be in the corner of my mother’s living room. Before that it belonged to my aunt who used it in a scullery and didn’t value it much. She was proud of her house and washed the stone floor every day which damaged the cupboard as it stood on the floor. Actually quite a lot of antiques have suffered in that way. For years my mother who valued everything beautiful and old really wanted that cupboard; and eventually she bought it and my father hung it on the wall which is where it should be. The polished oak was very attractive in the yellow light of paraffin lamps, for there was no electricity in our village.
When my mother died I took the cupboard home. It had some woodworm so I washed it in paraffin and woodworm fluid, put it in a big polyethene bag and it’s been in my garage ever since. I’ve always wanted to show it, but the architect who designed my house didn’t make many proper corners. Nearly all the corners have windows or doors in them, though I made some corners by changing the windows. So, now after 15 years I’ve decided to make a bit more room in the garage and put the cupboard in the downstairs loo, though I would like to have it in my living room which only has one corner and already has a cupboard in it.
I guess the cupboard is eighteenth century, but it’s difficult to tell with what we call ‘country oak’ furniture which often didn’t follow current styles. Many years ago I made a copy, using old techniques such as a scratch stock for the simple mouldings, which gives a nice hand-made character. I used some very old oak which an architect friend gave me from an old stable and which had a nice colour. The ammonia from the horses makes what is called ‘fumed oak’ which is very attractive.
At the time I was wondering whether I could make a living making furniture for sale so I sold it, which I much regret now. It was put in Mallam’s auction and bought by dealers who often don’t bid against each other and who will sell it on for three times what they paid. It would have been better to sell it privately. But it’s not the price I regret but selling it at all. Maybe I ‘ll see it one day in an antique shop. I did once see a desk I restored in a shop after 20 years.