Restoring Decorative Antique Tilt-Top Tables

MPF Conservation specializes in antique furniture restoration, furniture repair, antique upholstered furniture, and traditional woodworking.  This page documents small and large tilt-top tables, which can be used as side table or small dining tables.

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, left row, and after treatment, right.

American Pennsylvania William and Mary Tilt-top Table circa 1730

The original hand-crafted top was a solid plank. Damage occurred to the top in the 19th Century presumably splitting a major grain line; see image for losses. A fresh section of planking was scavenged from another table, likely from the same era and same wood species, but with a decidedly different tangential.cathedral grain pattern.

Follow us on our blog to be informed of our documentation of this project.

Before treatment, left, and after treatment, right: note the surface is now
highly reflective and the shape you see is Kate sitting taking the image.

British Caribbean Mahogany Tilt-top Table circa 1750

British furniture design and manufacturing was decades ahead of their American Colonial counterparts during the 18th and much of the 19th centuries. This tilt-top incorporated multiple joined boards which formed its top, as well as a highly dimensional decorative central column.

Condition issues included a broken decorative finial, hot liquid spills which moved the historic varnish, and surface ring damage to the historic French polished top.

Before treatment, left, and after treatment, right.

American Colonial Pennsylvania Bucks County Cherry Tilt-top Table Ca. 1740

A family heirloom, this large Bucks County table was passed down through the generations.

It came to us with several cracks in the base and the solid single slab top was cracked in two. Our goal was to repair all compromised areas and assess previous repairs for viability over time. Details:

  • The flouting dovetail legs had original forged bracketing plus nails mixed with construction glue from the 1950s. As the legs were stable, they were left as is; to repair might have caused unnecessary damage.
  • The stretchers and birdcage was compromised and critical, shown left, therefore treated using traditional woodworking methods and materials.
  • The table top was re-glued and secured with the historic stretchers after they were repaired.
  • The historic finish was infilled and and preserved, amended with fresh shellac, shown right.

Before treatment, above left, and after right.
Details of the tilt (before treatment) below.

American Cherry Late Empire Table circa 1810

This is a large example of a tilt-top table, comprised of two primary cathedral/tangential grained planks meticulously joined at the table’s center. 

Table was French Polished, process shown
below. After treatment, right.

Numerous repairs were performed, and after reparation the table was topped with several coats of reparation shellac then French polished, below.

Follow us on our blog to be informed of our documentation of this project.

Additional tables can be found in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon Caves National Monument, McLoughlin House, Maryhill Museum, and the Amasa B. Campbell House on our Institutional pages.

If you are interested in other Wooden Objects, see below: