Restoring Antique Teacarts / Serving Tables

MPF Conservation specializes in antique furniture restoration, furniture repair, antique upholstered furniture, and traditional woodworking.  This page documents various types of teacarts, some of which also double as small serving tables!

Right, a Victorian tea cart circa 1885 after treatment.

Teacarts were quite popular in the Victorian Era (Queen Victoria, 1837 –1901) and up through the 1940’s, when my grandparents generation still had people over for tea in the parlor.

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 polished 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, above. Worst before treatment
condition ever! After treatment below right and bottom.

Mahogany Family Table / Teacart circa 1890

This is a very unusual four-wheel teacart in that it has a very wide table top when deployed, and an additional pull-out on top (see all the stages below). There are several types of trays hidden in the cavity under the top, including a mirrored tray, shown right after treatment.

The teacart may have arrived in the worst condition of any object we’ve taken possession, having spent decades of its life wrapped in tarps inside the family barn. Our clients discovered it when their relatives passed. Issues:

  • The frame was terribly damaged by poor repairs (nails, screws, more nails, brackets, and did I mention nails?)
  • Carpenters glue squirted into joinery causing a clabbered mess.
  • Cleaning maintenance (Windex sprayed indiscriminately) and applications of boiled linseed oil badly damaged the historic shellac varnish causing the varnish and pigment to crawl and accrete, to alligator, and to change texture.

Before treatment, left, and after treatment, right, of the table top.

However, the bones were there, and it needed only proper treatment to become a lovely serving cart. This is an excellent example of saving a family object.

Initially our clients wanted to keep the historic mirror at this time but sadly its badly chipped edges turned quickly into long cracks (last image below). A thin vintage mirror took its place a short time after delivery.


  1. The entire teacart was disassembled and all joinery amended or rebuilt.
  2. Nail, bracket and screw abuses repaired.
  3. Broken and warped rear wheel hubs and spokes rebuilt and rubber tires replaced.
  4. Broken and lost front rotating wheels were rebuilt, and new stainless steel bearing created and installed, shown right.
  5. Created veneer to infill veneer losses.
  6. Hinging mechanisms, dropleaf gate supports and side apron damages either repaired or replaced.
  7. Repaired components were reglued after amending, using gap filling glues and hide glue.
  8. Finish restored: cleaning, a dozen layers of restorative shellac and then a rub-out

After treatment, below, in stages of deployment (before mirror was replaced).

Before treatment, left, and after treatment, right.

Mahogany / Tulip Poplar Victorian Teacart circa 1885

The Victorian teacart was falling apart! The three wheeled teacart was a mix of Mahogany solids and veneers, and tulip poplar solids. A glass tray sat on top of the cart securely by overlapping the frame, shown above.

Mitchell disassembled all parts and repaired shattered pieces before handing the parts to Kate to finish the parts using shellacs made in-house to match the historic shellac. Once reassembled, it was ready for another hundred years of service.

Below, after treatment.

If you are interested in other wooden objects, see below: