I am a sucker for a project. I love to get my hands dirty and make something beautiful out of raw materials. I have dabbled in furniture refinishing over the years, but just as an amateur- nothing too difficult. I have been sitting on a larger project for over a decade, and #shelteringinplace just seemed like the opportunity.
Back when I owned my first restaurant, I attended a few auctions- mostly for equipment, but sometimes furniture. It was at an auction in Thomasville, GA that I fell in love. I spotted a chest and dresser that looked like they were from the 1930s. They were neglected, a little beat up, but still had the gorgeous filigree details, and the gentle sloping lines iconic of the era. I wanted them.
An auction is one of those events where you can lose yourself. There are all these people and you don’t know who will bid on what and what price you should start with. I did not really know the value of true antiques so I was a little lost, and a little high on the crazy bidding atmosphere. I had a set price in my mind I was willing to pay, and when my lot came up, I was giddy. The auctioneer started, and I waited to see a hand. Nobody bid. I was nervous, but excited. They were going to be mine…I just felt it. I shot my hand up as the bid was closing. They were coming home with me.
Sixteen years, five moves, and two states later, I still have them. They are slightly more beat up from use, but still lovely. Covid-19 gave me the time to give them some attention. I cleaned them thoroughly and vacuumed out all the errant sawdust when the drawers were removed. I noticed the wood was thin in some places, and the tongue and groove joints were falling apart as well.
Let me preface this by saying, this takes some attention to detail and patience. I got some Gorilla Wood Glue, clamps, and some very tiny nails, and went to work. I glued the tongue and groove back together, and clamped the pieces overnight to dry. This is essential for the seal to develop. I also shored up the drawers and back with some small wood blocks I put in with small nails. I only want to do this once, so I made sure everything was secure and sturdy for future use.
I mentioned the wood was thin in a couple places, and I didn’t want to harm the pieces further with sanding unless I had to. I ordered a product called Restore A Finish to see if I could bring it back to its original beauty without the rough process of stripping and sanding. They say on the site you can just use a cloth, but I highly rec fine grade steel wool. Gloves are also really helpful.
It took a solid three hours of vigorous rubbing with the steel wool and Restore A Finish, but I am really happy with the results. I probably could have paid a professional furniture restorer to make them pristine back when I bought them, but I never cared about a flawless antique.
A couple of caveats about using this product:
- The color you choose is super important. My pieces are Cherry, but parts are stained very darkly, almost walnut. I went with the lighter cherry finish and glad that I did. The lighter finish allowed the lighter areas of the furniture to still shine, while helping heal the darker pieces.
- It will not get rid of gouges or scratches. I scrubbed…hard on some spots and as soon as I wiped the product off, they re-emerged. I did use a very fine grit sand paper in a couple spots that had enough wood to survive sanding.
- It will not impart a sheen. It will restore luster and color, but if you want it to shine, you need the Feed-n-Wax wood polisher and refinisher.
***Tip***I rubbed the drawer runners with beeswax before putting them back in and wow, what a difference! No more squeaks or tough-to-open drawers.
The Results: Now I can finally unpack my suitcases from the move six months ago 🙂