About the artist...
Just as a color drawing can be a kindergarten crayon or a Picasso oil, so refinishing can range from stripping with a vat and a hose to the careful handiwork of a master. Ray Fields of Purcellville approaches each refinishing or restoration project with the dedication of an artist. “You want to leave the patina and the original finish as much as possible. Save the wear on the stretchers, the dirt around the handles. Never put water on your furniture. It raises the grain, loosens joints, loosens veneer. Any stripper will burn wood if left on too long, will darken it. Never sand furniture, except as a last resort. You’ll take it back to virgin wood and lose all the patina. It’s better to use chemicals to remove a water mark, and then restore the area to the original color,” says Fields.
Color is another focus of Fields’ artistry:
“Color is very important to the character of the piece. Every period, every wood has its color that time and use have enhanced. A table top will fade, finish may darken or take on a honey color. To preserve the value of the piece, you have to preserve or restore the color.”
Fields learned his trade working first as an apprentice with Lou Shields. Eighteen years of experience and in business for himself for the past 8 years, Fields uses all he has learned about wood, color, technique, and style to give his customers superior service. He has also developed techniques of his own that allow him to refinish or repair both antique and modern furniture at a very competitive price. “Not many people have the experience to know how a piece should look, and are willing to take the time to do a good job for an affordable price. I go the extra step for the customer or for the piece. Each job is done differently, depending on what the customer wants or what the piece requires. The correct color, finish, the proper handles, all are crucial to the integrity of the piece,” he says.
In Fields’ shop are examples of many periods, woods, and finishes, from wax to the patient perfection of French polish. Country cabinets glow softly while more formal pieces gleam with a perfect glassy sheen achieved by “stocking the grain” and putting on a finish that is taken down again and again. There are American, English, and French pieces, with a large number of dining tables which have become Fields’ specialty.
“I have perfected a hard, hand-rubbed finish that is virtually maintenance-free, “ Fields explains. “I also have a spray-on finish that looks hand-rubbed. My customers can have their cake and eat it too. I can give them a better job than they’ll find many places that charge much more. With hands-on experience on all kinds of furniture, I have a versatility that leads to great customer satisfaction. “Hard work has given me the knowledge, God has given me the talent, and every day He gives me the strength to accomplish the tasks ahead. It’s a winning combination.”
This article has been updated from the original version written by Melissa Manning in 1994. Thank you Melissa.