Antiquing is one of our favorite things to do as a couple… I know it doesn’t sound “manly,” but when you are married to a history teacher, antiquing is totally up his alley too. We have been able to find some fun items over the years that have become staples in our home. But usually, when we buy something, it needs a little TLC.
So, I wanted to do a quick post on refurbishing antiques. For an example, I will showcase my early 1900s library desk that just so happens to be my office desk. Obviously, depending on the piece, refurbishing will be different for everything and everyone. But my main point is if it is a true historical piece, keep it’s integrity. It will be good to you if you’re good to it.
Step 1: Clean It Up
If you have a piece that is in pristine condition you may not need to do much more. Take a soft cloth or brush and make sure any debris are off the item. Next, dampen the cloth with simple water and wipe clean. If the item is extremely dirty and you will be truly refurbishing use some mineral spirits to get a good deep clean. Mineral spirits can damage any varnishes or top coats, so use wisely and always use with CAUTION.
Use any chemical where it is well ventilated and wear a mask, if possible.
Step 2: Sand off the Old.
When I got this library desk, you could tell it had been used as someone’s work bench. It had spent some time outside, lots of spilled paint in areas, deep scratches, and about an inch of dirt. It needed lots of love. I took an electric hand sander, medium grit sand paper, and began my hours of sanding every nook and cranny. When sanding always go with the grain, and focus on one section at a time.
After the first sanding. I sanded it down about four times.
Step 3: Fix Any Damage.
Depending on the piece, you may need to repair any large cracks, broken knobs, wobbly legs. Most repairs can be done with some basic tools, wood glue, and yes more sand paper to make any repaired areas smooth before the next step. On my desk, it needed some intense sanding, new knobs, and some extra care inside the drawer.
Step 4: Stain or Leave Natural.
Depending on the type of wood you may choose to stain your piece. Yes, you can paint too… but remember this post is about real antiques and keeping their original integrity. I chose a red mahogany stain color from MINWAX to accent the natural colors I loved about this piece.
Step 5: Seal It Up.
Once your stain is the desired color and every area is evenly stained, it is time to protect all that hard work. I recommend using a water based, polycrystalline. It’s so easy to work with and cleans up with warm, soapy water. I recommend doing at least two coats. Allow each coat to dry and evenly apply with a smooth brush.
Here’s my quick Insta-Story on how to seal!
Step 6: Finishing Touches
I kept what I could to keep this piece as close to the original design. However, due to some broken knobs I needed to find something new. The drawer was also extremely splintery and rough. So, after sanding and deeply cleaning I used some decoupage glue and lined the drawers with some fun, neutral colored honey comb scrapbook paper I found at Michael’s, the craft store.
Do what makes you happy! If you have a piece that you want to paint, paint it. If you like the natural wood than just leave it natural. The point of this post is to just give you a few tips on how to make a piece of furniture better. So, keep these tips in mind the next time you go antiquing by yourself, with a friend, or your spouse!
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