There are many types of antique furniture casters—brass wheel casters, porcelain wheel casters, brass rig casters and wooden wheel casters. Some also brass rig casters and porcelain wheel casters swivel. Most collectors of antique tables or furniture prefer to maintain the integrity of their pieces by ensuring that all the parts—including the leg casters—are original. Unfortunately, antique table leg casters are often worn, dirty or in need of repair. By following a few steps, some antique table leg casters can be restored or salvaged and used again.
Place the antique table upside-down on a padded surface like a mat or old blanket so that the top of the table is kept safe from damage and you have easy access to the table leg casters.
Remove the four casters from the legs of the table by either unscrewing them or gently prying them out with a flat blade screwdriver.
Wipe the casters with a soft clean cloth and examine them for damage or wear. Old casters were not made with consideration given to the amount of weight that they would have to support, so any wheels that are attached to the casters may be flattened or cracked.
Casters that have been bent from use and over time can be repaired by placing them on a padded flat surface. Cover the area on the caster that is bent with a small piece of cloth to prevent any additional damage to the brass finish. Use a small upholsterer's hammer to pound out any dents in the casters.
Clean any dirt or debris from the casters by using a pipe cleaner and an old toothbrush. Dirt, hair and dust can get inside the casters and cause the wheels to stick.
Remove any rust from brass casters using brass cleaner. Apply with a small artist's brush and allow to sit on the brass for 30 minutes. Wipe off the brass cleaner with a soft clean cloth. Get into tight spaces on the casters with cotton swabs to remove any remaining brass cleaner.
Sand with a light grade sandpaper if any rust remains. Remove any dust created by the sanding process with a soft cloth, then repeat the process of polishing with brass polish.
Add a drop of sewing machine oil to the wheel part of the antique table leg casters. Move the wheel around several times to ensure that the oil is well distributed. Place the casters that have been oiled on newspaper to absorb any extra oil that may drip out of them. Roll the casters around on the newspaper before attaching them to the table legs.
Replace the casters into the antique table legs. If the holes in the table legs are too big, use a small amount of wood putty to decrease the size of the holes and to help hold the casters in place.
- Old mat or blanket
- Flat blade screwdriver
- Upholsterer's hammer
- Soft cloth
- Pipe cleaner
- Old toothbrush
- Brass polish
- Cotton swabs
- Sandpaper, fine grade
- Sewing machine oil
- Wood putty
Replacing a broken caster wheel is usually impossible because of the way antique casters were made. Consider purchasing either a reproduction caster if a match is available, either singly or in set of four.