How to Become an Antique Restorer

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To become an antique restorer, you either need a formal education in a relevant field, or apprenticeship-based work experience. In some cases, you’ll need a combination of both.

 

This could be an excellent career choice for you if you’re someone who’s passionate about antiques, has an interest in work that requires manual dexterity, is interested in both the artistic and the scientific, and is willing to learn the ropes from someone who’s more experienced.

 

Below, we’ll explore in more depth what you would be doing as an antique restorer, how to become one, and how to advance your career.

 

 

Education and Experience Requirements

The formal education and experience requirements you’ll need to meet in order to work as an antique restorer will vary quite a bit from job to job, and will largely depend on the type of antiques you’ll be restoring, and for whom.

 

In general however, becoming an antique restorer requires knowledge of history, materials science and chemistry, as well as skill in various restoration techniques, as they related to the types of items you’ll be working on.

 

This knowledge and skill set can either be gained through schooling or an apprenticeship, or through a combination of the two, depending on what your area of specialty will be.

 

For example, if you’re looking to restore furniture, a common route into this field is to find a local (or distant) expert in furniture restoration, and become an apprentice. You may or may not need a formal education or work experience to be accepted into such an apprenticeship, depending on the requirements of whomever is taking you on.

 

However, if you’re looking to work as a fine art restorer and conservator, you will likely need a formal education in art history, materials science, or a related fields, combined with an internship at an art gallery, museum, historical society, or other such organization, before you’ll be able to find permanent employment in the field.

 

Success Tip: To find out more about what requirements you’ll specifically need to meet, contact an antique restorer in your area that specializes in the area in which you hope to, and ask them for guidance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is an Antique Restorer?

General Job Description

 

Antique restorers are concerned with the preservation and conservation of antiquated cultural property, which can include a virtually unlimited range of objects, such as furniture, clothing, weaponry, vehicles, toys, works of fine art, archival materials, and much more.

 

They use practical and scientific restoration techniques to conserve and restore these various objects. They also provide expert advice, consultancy and instruction concerning the storage and care thereof.

 

 

General Job Duties

Although the duties of an antique restorer can vary, they are typically responsible for the following tasks:

 

• Gaining a thorough understating of client’s conservation, storage and restoration needs

• Taking photographs of an documenting the restoration process

• Working closely with a range of materials and equipment in precise and detailed ways during the conservation and restoration process

• Providing individuals with expert advice concerning the storage, conservation and restoration of antiques

• Maintaining current knowledge of antique conservation and restoration techniques

• Traveling to various locations to assist with antique conservation and restoration

• Sourcing and acquiring materials for use in various projects

• Might be responsible for business administration tasks, such as marketing, bookkeeping and customer service issues

• Might be responsible for the preparation of course materials for restoration-related coursework

 

 

Working Hours

The working hours of an antique restorer can vary, primarily depending on their employment structure, as well as the amount of responsibility inherent in their job.

 

Those who are employed with an outside organization typically have more structured hours, which often fall within the 9-5, Monday to Friday schedule.

 

For those who are self-employed, their hours may vary quite a bit more, as they are free to set them, although they typically have more responsibilities relating to business functions such as customer service, marketing, bookkeeping, which can take up additional hours.

 

 

Typical Work Environment

Antique restorers spend much of their time in a workshop setting, which can be full of physical hazards. For example, their work often involves the use of toxic chemicals, such as those found in solvents, when treating and using various materials in the restoration process.

 

They also use a variety of hand and power tools that can cause serious injury. As a result, they must follow safety precautions to avoid injury or illness.

 

 

Is This Profession Right for You?

Many who succeed and find fulfillment as antique restorers share common traits. Here’s a brief overview of what separates them from those who don’t:

 

• You have an interest, and abilities, in work that requires manual precision

• You are very patient and methodical with your work, and able to concentrate thoroughly on tasks

• You’re interested in working primarily in a workshop environment

• You have a keen interest in antiques, and the conservation and restoration thereof

• You have the rare combination of artistic and scientific ability and interests

• You’re willing to learn and work under the guidance of someone who’s mastered antique restoration

• You’re willing to perform administrative and marketing duties (if hoping to become self-employed)

 

 

Important Skills of The Job

To be competent and effective as an antique restorer you’ll need a number of skills. For example, you’ll need to be able to:

 

• Assess an antique, including dating, materials construction, authenticity and damage

• Plan and choose the appropriate ethical treatment and techniques to undertake the repair or restoration of a piece

• Draw upon historical information that enables you to identify objects and put them into historical context

• Learn and acquire new skills using a range of traditional and modern materials and techniques

• Use and handle chemicals safely

• Learn the names and correct, safe usage of assorted tools and machinery

 

Success Tip: Fortunately, through a proper apprenticeship program, or through the right coursework, you’ll have the opportunity to work on and hone these skills.

 

 

Typical Salary Level

It’s difficult to determine what you could earn as an antique restorer, as there are several variable that would affect your potential earnings. For example, what you would earn would be dependent on:

 

• Whether you’re self employed, or work for an organization or an individual

• The size and type of your employer or client base

• The region in which you work, and the market you serve

• The type(s) of antiques in which you specialize

• The scope of your job duties and functions

• Other possible factors

 

Salary - Canada (Alberta figures only): According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the average salary level of Albertans working in the Museum Technicians and Conservators occupational group is $72,973 per year. Unfortunately, at the time of writing there were no figures available from reliable sources for the rest of Canada.

 

Salary - United States: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean salary level of Americans working in the Museum Technicians and Conservators occupational group is $45,610 is per year (May, 2017 figures).

 

 

Employment Possibilities

There are a variety of organizations and individuals that employ the services of antique restorers, such as:

 

• Historical and heritage sites, including homes, buildings and historical settlements

• Antique dealers (shops or individuals) and other businesses

• Auction houses

• Automobile restoration shops

• Furniture restoration companies

• Museums

• Art galleries

• Self-employment

 

 

Job Postings

Our job search feature enables you to look for 'Antique Restorer' jobs in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. Give it a try!

 

Success Tip: Try using alternate terms, such as 'Restorer', 'Restoration', 'Conservator', and an other terms that might help bring up relevant jobs.

Career Advancement Possibilities

If you’re skilled as an antique restorer, and you display a solid work ethic, you’ll earn a solid reputation in the industry. This would likely result in many opportunities to advance your career in different ways as time goes on.

Below is an overview of what such career advancement opportunities might look like, depending on where you choose to take your career:

 

Working for an Organization: If you’ll be working as a restorer for a museum, heritage site, or other such organization, career progression would likely take the form of moving into supervisory or management roles.

 

Working for Yourself: If you hope to get into business for yourself, career progression would naturally result in your business growing, which could mean taking on more clients, or employing other antique restorers and conservators.

 

Consultancy: As gain expertise, particularly in a very specialized area of antique restoration, you may decide to start working for individuals and organizations (both non-profit and for-profit) on a consultancy basis, to lend your expertise to projects of all scopes and sizes. If you become very renowned in your field, your consulting services could be in demand worldwide.

 

Teaching: Another option is to move into the field of education, and teach restoration related subjects at post-secondary institutions, or at workshops and seminars. Both teaching and consultancy can be done while working for another organization, or while running your business, they don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

 

Becoming a Specialist: Becoming more specialized within a specific area of antique restoration, and gaining expert status in the eyes of the industry and the public at large, is a form of professional development that can be applied to any of the above-listed forms of career advancement.

 

Success Tip: If you plan to start your own restoration business, it will likely take some time to develop a large enough customer base to earn a stable income. For this reason, it’s common for antique restorers to first work for a shop, in order to gain useful contacts and hone their skills while a consistent paycheck is coming in, and do some projects on the side in their spare time.

 

 

Similar Careers in Our Database

Listed below are occupations in our database that have similar responsibilities, and/or require similar skills, or are in the same sector of industry, as ‘Antique Restorer’:

 

Antique Dealer

• Art Dealer

• Art Gallery Curator

• Furniture Designer

• Historian

• Historic Preservationist

• Museum Curator

 

 

Relevant Scholarships

The ‘Relevant Fields of Study’ section below shows fields of study in our system that can help set a good educational foundation for a career as an Antique Restorer. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on our All Scholarships by Major page.

 

Success Tip: Every year, literally millions of dollars in scholarship money goes unused due to a lack of applicants. Apply for as many as you can, and keep record of those for which you do apply.

 

 

References for This Guide

Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become an antique restorer:

 

Occupations in Alberta: “Conservator.” (December 11, 2012). ALIS - Alberta Learning and Information Service. Retrieved Apr. 23, 2018.

Job Profiles: “Antiques Dealer.” (n.d.). National Careers Service. Retrieved Apr. 23, 2019.

Education: “What Do You Need To Become Antique Restorer.” Millie Jones (February 4, 2014). What Do. Retrieved April. 23, 2019.

Job Profile: “Furniture Conservator/Restorer.” AGCAS editors. (July, 2017). Graduate Prospects Ltd.. Retrieved Apr. 23, 2019.

Preservation Week: “How to Get into the Preservation Profession.” (June 8, 2017). American Library Association. Retrieved Apr. 23, 2019.

Occupational Employment Statistics: “Museum Technicians and Conservators.” (March 30, 2018). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved Apr. 23, 2019.

 

 

Relevant Fields of Study for Becoming an Antique Restorer

The following majors in our database are relevant for becoming an antique restorer. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!

 


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