How do I clean this compass and table?

My aunt has an old compass that I’d like to clean. There’s a lot of dirt inside. The glass face won’t come off - won’t even move - and I’m guessing that it’s glued on. So, how can I unglue it? And once I’ve removed the glass and cleaned the compass, what glue do I use to glue it back on?

The compass.


There’s also a table with some dried-on gunk on it. Neither water nor wax have helped. It comes off if I scratch it vigorously with my fingernail. Detail showing veneer beneath. How do I clean it? There’s also a mark to the bottom left: any thoughts on that? Further, elsewhere the table has suffered from sunlight - do I simply keep polishing those areas until they come back?

What a fantastic looking compass! Would you be prepared to take it to a jeweller and pay to have it professionally cleaned?

I’d take the compass to an antique restorer, you’ll need to do some research to find someone truely qualified. You might start by calling a good museum for a referral. The table too, if it’s an antique.

Unfortunately I can’t spend serious money, nor can I remove the items from her home.

In that case I’d suggest leaving the compass alone for a later time, you could destroy the value by doing it yourself. As to cleaning the table, you might want to read this before trying, it talks about wood flooring, but I think it’s applicable:

Hence asking here first. :slight_smile:


Do some digging before you mess with the compass.

The table reminds me of when water was left on old furniture and the finish gets cloudy. There is a reason they were insistent you use coasters with glasses. You need to be sure to never set a damp towel over the back of an old chair too. It looks like it has a tiger maple or similar on it, but it could be a finish treatment. They where very skilled at imitating woods with the finish alone. I would also recommend the table is only restored by a skilled person. Once you work on either of the items you will not be able to fix the damage that is done by you. I would save until you can afford to have the table repaired, it’s too beautiful to have ruined. The finish damage may only be the wax layer that can be easily repaired by the right person into a family heirloom.

I had a bed that was finished in many wood types and patterns. It was all in the finish and years of use took a toll to have a flood finish it off. I really liked that bed, it was my dad’s as a kid.

I heartily agree with those telling you not to attempt the cleanings yourself.

The dirt and grime on the objects are part of their history, and although a talented restorer/conservator can remove the stuff that is simply grime, over cleaning can and does ruin items.

Ever watch antique Roadshow?

I remember one in which a man brought in a silver tea set dating from the 1880’s. He proudly said how he had polished it up for the show. The appraiser looked sadly at him and said that the patina he had removed was possibly the most valuable aspect of the piece as it gave it authentic charm and enhanced the provenance. Uncleaned value would have been about $6500 US. In the cleaned condition it was worth about $2000.

Save those items (carefully to avoid further damage and soiling) until you can have it proffesionally done. Really, they are beautiful items and need appropriate care.


Oh yes indeed, but with the comass, there’s a huge accumulation of dirt on the inside. All I want to do is remove the dirt. As for the table, yes, it looks like a job for a professional, but that’s the point of asking here first - I’ve no wish to ask my aunt to spend large amounts of money if I could do it myself.

Unless the table dates back to the 18th century, has some maker’s mark, or has some unique provenace, I doubt you’re risking much by trying to clean it. The compass is another matter. I doubt it’s worth a fortune, but it could possibly bring several hundred, to a grand or two. I wouldn’t worry about the dirt inside, unless it’s an indication of some kind of internal deterioration.