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Pine is a soft wood and in the 19th century it was cheap and plentiful. It was therefore used to make furniture for those unable to afford the more expensive oak, walnut and mahogany. It was also used as carcases for items such as chests of drawers which were then veneered in more expensive timbers. In order to make the pine furniture more attractive to the purchaser it was frequently painted and scrumbled ( a technique which makes paint resemble wood grain) or heavily varnished so that it would look like mahogany.
In the 1920s and 30s such furniture was very much out of fashion so in many households it was given a new lease of life by being painted, often in white, cream or green.In the 1960s and 70s, now out of fashion in its paint or, if it had survived, in its original varnish, a new generation of frugal homemakers began buying it up very cheaply and stripping off the old finishes to reveal the old pine beneath. This was done either by hand or by immersion in a stripping tank. The pieces were then waxed.
Even old items which had damaged veneer were stripped using a blow torch and then hand finished. These pieces are easily distinguished as they show construction joints which the maker had not bothered to conceal as they were to be hidden by the veneer. The old pine took on a very pleasing golden honey colour and became, by the 80s and 90s, very desirable, with a consequent rise in the price both of finished pieces and those in the raw. With the advent of shabby chic, pieces from the 20s and 30s, with their coloured paint intact have become very desirable.
Whatever your preference, a piece of antique pine furniture has a charm, individuality and durability that cannot be found in its modern equivalent.