Restoring Antique Pembroke and Gate-Leg Tables

MPF Conservation specializes in antique furniture restoration, furniture repair, antique upholstered furniture, and traditional woodworking.  This page documents Pembroke and Gate-Leg tables.

Pembroke and Gate-Leg tables are a specific type of side tables. They are often used for Game Tables though they lack the storage that sits hidden in a true game table. They are known to be functional or decorative pieces that can move about a home where they are needed.

Additional side tables (such as
the Old Wood Mason Monterey table
with vintage California Tiles
shown right) can be found in the page on Side Tables.

Mitchell is a member of the AIC (American Institute of Conservation) and the Preservation Artisans Guild

In all cases below, we perform the following details using traditional techniques as needed:

  • Disassemble as necessary
  • Inspect parts for viability
  • Clean all parts as needed
  • Repair / re-glue / amend broken parts
  • Replicate missing parts
  • CHOOSE Finish Method below:
  • Historic varnish is amended with several coats of pure shellac and rubbed to patina or French OR
  • Historically accurate varnish coating with combinations of gums, tree resins, oils, waxes and natural earth pigments is applied  OR
  • Historic painted finish is repaired and amended as needed

Before treatment, left, and after treatment, right and below.

American Elm Gate-Leg Table circa 1810

A family table from the American northeast, interesting in that is a double gate-leg which folds out to be a small dining table size. It contained major condition issues which required complete disassembly before finish treatment.

Follow us on the MPF Conservation Blog to be informed of our documentation of this project when posted. 

Before treatment, left, and after treatment, right.

American Gate-Leg Pembroke Cherry Wood Table Ca. 1810

This was a family piece handed down over generations. The table had severe condition issues: delaminating joins on the table leaf, loose leg joinery, loose apron joinery. The gate leg’s wooden hinge bores were undermined. The varnish was original but had a modern over coating.


  • MPFC disassembled the leg and apron joinery and cleaned the joints, then re-glued with hide glue
  • The screw bores were conserved and the hinges were properly secured
  • The modern varnish overcoat was removed to the greatest degree possible without damaging the undercoat of historical pigment and varnish; the table then received a proper top coat of shellac varnish, then was waxed and rubbed to a beautiful historically accurate patina.

Before treatment, left, and after treatment, right.

Kentucky Cherry Wood Gate-Leg Table Ca. 1820

This Kentucky table began its life with a smaller table top. The original top was made of cherry sapwood, and the historic tangential lumber was selected with small knots intact. Imperfections of this sort are more typical of Folk furnishings, however, the original craftsmanship exhibits sophistication of technique and intent toward perfection.

During the second half of the 19th century (during the Post Civil War reconstruction period, the table top boards were separated at their joins and additional boards from cherry heartwood (likely from another table) were scavenged and joined to the original table to enlarge the top. When the table came into the studio, the top had structural failures and there were condition issues with the leg joinery, gate hinge and apron joinery, shown below.

Beginning with disassembly, the conservation steps listed top were followed.

Before treatment, left, and after treatment, right.

American Federal Table circa 1790

This table was also a legacy, handed down to many generations. The table was created of Caribbean Mahogany solids with quarter-sawn flame figured satinwood burl veneer which beautifully graced its owners’ homes for over two centuries with NO damage!

Burst water pipes overhead in our client’s high-rise suite in Portland dropped many gallons of water on the French polished top. The water mixed with caustic debris leached from the drywall which ate into the historic varnish and leached vital inherent waxes from the French polish causing it to present a dry grayish pallor. MPFC was called in when the table was still somewhat wet.


  • MPFC placed the table in a protective clamping mechanism until the moisture content returned to a normal level; it stayed in a warm room alone in our studio for many weeks.
  • The mahogany grain raised slightly, but the original grain filler remained within the grain channels.
  • Conservation protocols listed top were followed to restore the finish, and numerous successive layers of restorative non-pigmented 1lb cut shellac were applied.

Once the restorative brush coats cured we French polished the top, then rubbed it to reveal its historic patina.

Below, after treatment.

Before treatment, left, and after treatment, right and below.

American Federal Caribbean Mahogany Game Table circa 1820

A well-used family piece from our client’s great grand-uncle, a mariner from Massachusetts, the folding game table made its way cross country to Portland. It had one “life-threatening” condition issue, a degraded joinery condition between the gate leg and the gate hinging system.

Both the top and interior bisected top were badly stained from decades of family use: heat impressions, food and beverage stains, added to the scratches and abrasions. The good news was the historic shellac had not been over-coated with modern products.

All treatment items listed were followed to bring this to a successful polish, though one stain was persistent and could only be minimized without removing the historic finish.

After treatment, below.

Additional side tables of many shapes and sizes (shown above) can be found in the Imperial Collection in Crater Lake National Park (also check out the Library Tables), in the Monterey collection in Oregon Caves National Monument, the Drop Leaf Table page (yes, actually more of a side table) of the McLoughlin House NPS, and on the page featuring the Berkey and Gay collection.