Microscopic examination of furniture and wooden objects

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We can perform scientific examinations on furniture, including the microscopic examination of furniture and wooden objects. This may not only be necessary for an analysis of the findings and material but to verify the authenticity and determine origin and age.

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Microscopic examination of furniture:

looking deeper

Has your antique furniture suffered damage or are you planning to restore an old piece of furniture? Before furniture restorers at ZRW Berlin take any measures to repair the damage or to restore and conserve your piece of furniture, we need to find out as much as possible about the individual object.

Even though we have decades of experience and expertise in the field of furniture restoration in Berlin and Brandenburg - with the bare human eye, we cannot look deep enough to obtain sufficient information to prepare a damage analysis or a restoration concept. For this reason, we use microscopic examination in addition to other scientific methods. Microscopes help us detect hidden structures, textures, details, and identify wood species, binders, metals, and varnishes.

The analysis of all used materials and artistic techniques is the basic prerequisite for us to develop an individual conservation and restoration concept.

However, to track down forgeries, it also makes sense not to rely solely on knowledge of art history, but to investigate traces of work. This is done with microscopic examination and by checking whether the materials and work techniques used to match the presumed dating of the furniture. Such an authenticity check forms the basis for an appraisal of your furniture in case of damage or sale.

Optical microscope examinations

We use microscopic examinations, for example, to clarify the sequence of layers of mounts and varnishes. For this purpose, our experienced wood and furniture restorers in Berlin use the light microscopic methods of:

  • optical light microscopy,
  • reflected light microscopy and,
  • fluorescence microscopy.

A light microscopic examination is  a particularly material-friendly method used for:

  • The damage analysis,
  • Checking authenticity (authenticity testing),
  • The selection of suitable materials for conservation or restoration measures and for
  • age determination and classification of the furniture to a period.

It is usually a non-invasive method, i.e. it does not involve any damage to the object by taking a sample.

Microscopic examination is also a viable method for determining wood species in furniture. However, this requires the preparation of a thin section and is therefore considered a minimally invasive procedure. However, if the piece of furniture was made of hard tropical woods, wood species determination employing microscopic examination can only be used to a limited extent. With European wood species, on the other hand, the preparation of a thin section for microscopy and reliable determination of the wood species is generally not a problem.

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Polarization microscopy and UV fluorescence microscopy

We usually determine coloring substances (pigments) and the chemical composition of metallic coatings on furniture using microchemical analysis. In special cases, however, we can also perform a successful examination using a polarizing microscope.

To be able to determine binding agents such as drying oils, proteins, waxes, resins, glues, coatings, varnishes, and glazes on historical wooden furniture, wooden objects, and used wood, material analysis utilizing UV fluorescence microscopy is the first step, in addition to microchemical group tests and histochemical staining methods.

Microscopic examinations and many other possibilities at ZRW Berlin

The spectrum of scientific examination possibilities is by no means exhausted by the described methods. To carry out more elaborate scientific examinations of wooden furniture, our wood and furniture restorers at ZRW Berlin work together with experts from established institutions and specialized laboratories such as the Rathgen Research Laboratory (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Foundation), the Technical University of Berlin as well as the Technical University of Munich. The spectrum of possible testing methods thus expands considerably and includes, among others:

  • Wood age determination using FT-IR spectroscopy
  • Instrumental analysis for non-destructive imaging tests such as binder analysis, pigment analysis, wood species determination, and wood age determination
  • Examination of pest infestation and carrying out pest identification

Whatever question you have always wanted to ask your piece of furniture, we will find the right way to get you the answer!

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