Low impact furniture restoration

Restored By Hand
There’s a gorgeous girl with an eye for design and a heart for the planet.

Adele Spencer is making it her business to gently work old furniture back to life, restoring beauty to the piece without modifying its story.

Spencer’s restoration business, Restored by Hand, replaces the blunt instrument of power tools with low impact, traditional restoration techniques.

Beeswax and a polissoir are the primary tools of her trade. A champion of the polissoir in Tasmania, she sources the reed burnisher from Virginia. The seventeenth century handcrafted tool lends itself to the otherwise difficult task of rubbing cold, hard beeswax into timber. Her choice of tools is unsurprising, her preference is to keep as close to the earth as possible.
'Unstained wood timber is more beautiful as it is. Beeswax is more impervious than fancy finishers. It doesn’t change the colour of the wood and the reed burnisher crushes the wood fibres that seal the wood,' Spencer says.

Before Restored by Hand, Spencer spent ten years behind a computer screen, dreaming of creativity. She has dabbled in restoration and has long-toyed with artistic enterprise.
'I’ve always been interested in working with glass but I was concerned with making new pieces from new materials and the impact that has on the world.'

Earlier this year she cut herself adrift from the certainty of the public service and swam into unknown waters. She was soon buoyed by mentor and antique restoration expert, Richard Kent, who taught her hand restoration techniques that reflected her desire to live gently.
And so began her tuition. She has restored numerous pieces for Kent and Kent Antiques, a Georgian huon pine chest of drawers, old kitchen scales, and more. Spencer points to a coat rack of two and a half metres as an example of pursuing a low impact approach to what first appeared to be a straight forward restoration.
'It was a stained piece so I hand sanded the coat rack. Everything used to be stained because everyone wanted the colour of rich mahogany rather than pine. I always start at a medium course grit and work my way down. I used wood glue and clamps to deal with the splits. Nails are too violent on old dry wood. I have a gorgeous hand drill and found screws of the same diameter. I cleaned off the hooks and coated the rack in bees wax and buffed it all up. It ended up not so simple. What matters is caring for the piece and respecting it,' she says.
Spencer has just the right amount of perseverance and perspective for this work.

She is also drawing on the craftsmanship of other Tasmanians like Taig from Wellington Steelworks.
'I needed an escutcheon that looked like the original and he crafted one for me. It’s beautiful and barely possible to see any difference.'

Spencer is mindful of living gently too. She is exploring her desire to reduce her impact on the world: sourcing clothes ethically, sustainable design and eating less meat. She also uses 100% natural Wellington Apiary beeswax.
While Spencer’s work is available at Kent and Kent, she is immersing herself in Restored by Hand and focusing on commissioned works.

At the December Market you will find Restored by Hand set up like a lounge room to showcase her work. Pieces will be available for sale, but she is keen to provide the inspiration for your own lounge room or elsewhere. Consider what furnishes your home and have Restored by Hand give it new life.
The Market is located at the Masonic Temple, 3 Sandy Bay Road on scheduled dates. You will find Restored by Hand there on their next market on 6 December 2015, between 10 am – 3 pm.

Otherwise contact Spencer via her webpage to commission work. And remember that while her work is done by hand it is affordable because waxing is efficient; that’s environmentally and financially friendly.

Here's her webpage, Restored by Hand.

A tool you’ve (probably) never heard of, the polissoir.
Here’s our post on the Market
Find out more about the Market on their Facebook page here