Over the years, I have transformed many well-made, discarded pieces of furniture into useful and interesting additions to my home. My favourite examples are: an old wooden ice box that now holds stereo components; a wooden seed package display cabinet from a hardware store is now an eclectic kitchen cabinet; two tall chimney cabinets now hold years of photo albums, and a radio cabinet from the 1940s has become a foyer table and bookcase.
Maybe you have been given a family heirloom or have found a piece of furniture that could become very beautiful, useful and practical. If you're questioning if the piece has monetary value, take it to an expert and have it appraised before doing anything that could devalue it. You may have to look a little deeper to see the real beauty if the previous owner added his or her own touch with coats of paint, but, with your imagination, a little knowledge, some effort and a few dollars, you can transform your find and keep it out of the landfill site.
Removing the old finish
I had to remove the red and yellow paint from the desk bookcase I found (pictured above). I prefer to use a furniture stripper because sanding removes wood volume. Also, it's possible lead paint was used on older pieces and sanding makes the lead particles airborne and dangerous if inhaled.
I used Home® Paint & Varnish Remover, and Minwax® Antique Refinisher to remove the old finish.
Repair and replace
Be certain to examine and address all repairs. Make small repairs with Minwax Stainable Wood Filler, use wood glue on loose joints, and replace damaged or missing hardware. Visit your local Home store for a great selection of replacement hardware.
A common problem when re-installing old hardware is that screws have lost their holding power due to wood volume loss. In this case, you will need Minwax High Performance Filler.
Add nourishment and colour
Once all the finish has been removed and the repairs have been made, I recommend adding nourishment and colour to the old wood by applying two coats of Minwax Early American Wood Finish. This will also add tone to the existing patina.
The trim holding the glass on the doors of the bookcase needed to be replaced. Furniture can be made from many species of wood that may not take colour the same. By applying a couple coats of Minwax Gel Stain in a Chestnut colour over the other stain, I was able to match the new trim to the colour of the cabinet.
After the stain colour is dry, protect the surface from day-to-day use by applying three coats of Minwax Satin Wipe On Poly. I prefer to use a lint free cloth. Be sure to allow the finish time to cure before putting it to use.
With my desk bookcase looking great, deciding what room to use it in may be difficult. Will it be a desk for the spare room, a laptop computer station for the kitchen, or a display cabinet in the living room?
That's the Finish Ralph Swan is a wood care expert for Minwax and is a frequent contributor to Home at Home magazine.
What you'll need
- Minwax woodworking products 1625-959, 1627-378, 1650-047, 1872-334, 1876-615, 1879-569
- HOME paint & varnish remover 1650-172
- steel wool pads 1665-166/175
- wood glue 2020-040
- putty knife 1630-391
- Natura cheesecloth 4532-018/027
- HOME odourless paint thinner 1675-468