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Vintage Sideboard Buffet Makeover

I was finally able to put my hands on this beautiful piece.

Hmmm, it seems like I couldn't wait to get started on this, but nope.

I wasn't looking forward to tackle this project at all!

I still have a table in the garage full of Citistrip that I didn't remove. The product did little for me to remove the finish and I gave up. That same day I began working on refinishing the table I'm now using in the breakfast area. That one was done, you can check the final reveal HERE.

However, the though of finishing another piece of furniture was in the back of my mind, untillllll some weeks ago...
When I had to remove the sideboard from my son's room since I'm updating his room and he isn't too fond of antiques yet. In fact he hated it in there, I don't know why. :/

This buffet was a Craiglist find, you can read about it HERE. It happened two years ago, I wasn't looking for it, someone was giving it away with a wooden screen and since it was very close to my home I picked them up immediately.

From far away it looked OK, but up close you can see the reality. The finish felt all bumpy, the top looked dirty after cleaning it, and worse of all were the pulls, they had been stained ugh!

So, now that I had to take it out from its hiding spot I had to do something to make it look pretty.

I followed my friend's Beck recommendation HERE on how to strip furniture of it's finish. This piece was an "easy case", no paint to remove, only varnish. ;)

These are the materials you'll need:
  • Lacquer Thinner
  • Acetone
  • Mineral Spirits
  • Tung Oil (That's what I used for finishing it up, you can use any finish you want)
  • Heavy duty rubber gloves
  • Steel wood pads ( I used 3/0 and 4/0 to remove this light clear finish)
  • soft cloth rags
  • Old soft tooth brush
  • Metal container
  • Safety glasses
  • Respirator/mask
Other recommendations:
  • Work outside or in a well ventilated area.
  • Wear long pants and closed toed shoes.
  • Use a drop cloth or cardboard/newspapers for the many drips.
  • Rags and/or steel wool impregnated with chemicals can burst into spontaneous fire. Let them out to dry.
  • Dispose of rags and waste in accordance with local regulations.

In a metal container mix lacquer thinner and acetone in a 50/50 ratio.

Using the steel wood pad begin scrubbing the wood, going on the grain direction. This stuff dries quickly, keep a clean rag on the other hand to begin wiping the residue as you work.

Note: I was impatient to begin working on this, I had almost all the materials needed except the heavy duty gloves. A drawer was the first part I tackled. As you can see, those are NOT the proper gloves. I worked on one drawer alone and I had to change the gloves like six times and used two at the time. They're not designed to work with these chemicals! For the remaining of the project I used 3M tekk Protection Heavy Duty Chemical Gloves I bought at Lowes.

This piece, thankfully, didn't have too many nooks and crannies, but for removing the old stain that accumulated in those places I used one of my kids old toothbrush. For the corners I used that metal pick thingy, I don't know its name.  Again, dipping the toothbrush in the lacquer thinner/acetone mix, brushing the wood and cleaning with a rag.

This is how the drawer looked after removing the varnish.

After getting rid of the varnish you go can go ahead and neutralize the wood from all those chemicals with mineral spirits.

Of course, I had to go all around the piece, sides, legs and top, doing the exact same steps mentioned above. It was easy and very rewarding to see how all the dirty finish was being washed away with the chemicals that acted like soap, you only need to brace yourself with patience, because it's dirty work.

At this point you can inspect the surfaces to be sure they are clean and smooth before going ahead with the staining. I found a rough spot on the top surface of the sideboard. I used a piece of fine sand paper to smooth it out.

I didn't stained it, I liked the tone of the wood. My final step was to seal it up and protect the wood with Tung oil. I applied it with some old socks I had on hand. Three coats, sanding in between coats with the steel wood. The Tung Oil has some odor I didn't like, but the odor goes away in a couple of days. 

I didn't do much to the inside of the buffet. It looks like this was the #65 of who knows how many of them, that same number was on the drawers back.

The only part of the inside I touched, was the top. I cleaned it too.

And here are many of the before and afters. ;)

My post on how the pulls were cleaned is right HERE. The difference is like day and night!

I love the contrasting colors of the wood.

And, oh my goodness, the shoes as I said in my original post, are one of my faves. Did you know they're called "Ferrules" (metal cap attached to the end of a slender shaft for strength or to prevent splitting) or "Sabot" (a French term for the gilt-bronze "shoe" at the bottom of furniture legs), I didn't!

I spent a good amount of time searching this piece on the internet. I wanted to know it's right era. I couldn't find another piece just like this. My best guess is, this is an Art Deco Vintage Sideboard Buffet. I might be wrong.
If you happen to know something about it, please let me know.

When I first got this piece, Beverly, a dear reader sent me an e-mail with this information about it:

"Your buffet is an absolute treasure and with patience and diligence, I feel you'll enjoy it more in the years to come. I want to point out a feature that you may not know about - and that it the hinged top. From your photograph, it was difficult to tell about the pieces of wood or cardboard on the bottom when the top was lifted - but only the finest buffets were manufactured with this feature and the purpose was to provide a hiding place  for silver flatware and also your jewelry if you wished to hide it there. Most all were lined with Pacific cloth to deter tarnish and most also had the traditional silverware dividers. It's possible that they were removed and is the reason it appears as it does.  I have also seen these spaces only lined with Pacific cloth with no dividers at all; regardless of how you decided to refinish your buffet, having a special place to hide your valuables is a wonderful asset for your family."

Hmmm yeah, I think we're going to enjoy it for years to come!


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  1. Wow, isn't that wood beautiful the way you finished it! I'm so glad you didn't paint it, this is just perfect for that piece.

    1. Thanks Julie! It was my first time using Tung Oil and I love the subtle sheen and feel it gives the wood. I love painted furniture, it's all the rave right now but for this piece it would've been a sacrilege! :D

  2. Cristina you are a master with restoration!! That takes a huge amount of patience and detailed work, very, very nice job.

    1. hehehe, I like that title, but no, I'm not there yet, Jaime! Let's say I'm a very patient person. Thanks for your kind words. ;)

  3. Oh my gosh!!! Cristina, this is just gorgeous!! You did an amazing job, and the tung oil finish was the perfect choice! I love it, love it, love it! Amazing job!

  4. Cristina, I echo the praise and admiration of Julie and Jaime for your hard work to bring this beauty back to her glory. Thank you for all the details on the dirty finish and how you removed it. Absolutely gorgeous piece. ~ Christina in FL

    1. Thanks Christina! It's dirty work but it was all so worth it.

  5. OMGosh...I can not tell you how jealous I am of this piece...absolutely stunning!!!! And yes, my best guess would be "art deco"...possibly from the 20-30s. This piece is perfect for the stripping process you used. If you had tried to sand the old finish off you would have ruined the veneers. The hardware is simply amazing!!! Outstanding job!!!

    1. Thanks Beck! I wouldn't have done it without all your wonderful info. Yeah, the stripping process for this piece was easy and again you're totally right about the sanding. I'm now ready to tackle the other table I left in the garage, as they said, knowledge is power. Now I know what to do with that. :)

    2. It is indeed...that is the wonderful thing about the can find so much information. Unfortunately, some is just flat wrong!!! Weren't you just amazed at how easy stripping it was with this formula...I wish I could take full credit but I found it somewhere online...have no idea where! But it works so well! And I use old "nut picks" to scrap out tight corners! I think toothpicks might work as well! I am so glad to see that you used the tung oil finish. Little hint...about every 1-2 years I take a piece of 0000 steel wool, rub down the tops, wipe it with tack cloth and then apply another coat of oil...freshens and brightens and removes any scratches or wear. I have kitties...scratches just melt away! SOOOOO much better than poly! Again....AWESOMENESS!!!

  6. Wow! Looks perfect Cristina! Another great job!

  7. That turned out fantastic. Amazing what a lot of elbow grease can uncover. A beautiful piece of furniture my friend! Cheers.

    1. Thanks Karen! Those are the right words: Lots of elbow grease!

  8. Oh my goodness! That is amazing! What a piece of furniture! You did a great job on refurnishing it. At looks brand new!
    Teak furniture are very hip in Norway, where I come from, right now. But this was a special one. In fact, a lot of my first times refinishing furniture, where teak furniture:)

  9. Great project, I love the transition from worn to fabulous!
    Have a lovely weekend,

  10. Cristina,
    Can you use those two product on all wood stain surface to remove the sealent, dirty and stain? I have three pieces of wood furniture I don't want to paint a chalk paint on but I would like to clean them up and if I have too restain the pieces. Can I use the same steps you did here? Also, to seal the pieces should I use tung oil or water proof poly? By the way, the pieces are a dining table, dresser and night stand. Thank you

    1. Hi Vanessa, yeah, those two product are great to remove the old poly, you can re-stain or leave the wood as is, but you do need to seal it. you can use wax, tung oil or poly. In my opinion wax and Tung oil are not as strong as poly to protect them, but I like the soft sheen they give the wood, a more natural feel. You have to re-apply the wax and/or the Tung oil perhaps every year to keep the wood protected. I would begin working on the smallest project, in your case, the night stand. ;)

  11. OH MY GOODNESS! I've used similar pieces in my bathroom renovation (turned a desk into the vanity and the matching dresser is the linen cupboard) but same as your piece - they don't look bad from far but up close they don't look in great shape. I've been completely reluctant to touch them because I'm scared to damage the inlaid veneer.
    So now what I might do instead is find another piece, test it on that, and then go to these pieces (because if I mess up on these ones, then i have to redo my bathroom...)

    1. I would love to see your bathroom renovation, Annet! I'm pretty sure you can easily get rid of the stain they have with those two products I used on my piece, the trick would be on what do you want to use to seal the wood. I used the Tung oil because it really is fool proof but I don't know is if it's OK to use it in a bathroom.

  12. That is one of the prettiest pieces I have ever seen on the Internet. Thank goodness you decided not to paint it. And thanks for the tip on using Barkeepers Friend to remove tarnish. I had no idea.

  13. Esos son los trabajos que a mi me gustan , ya que yo suelo también recuperar muebles ,, ese bufet quedo como nuevo y me encanta el acabado que le diste , parece una pieza recién salida de una tienda

  14. Wow, you did a beautiful job restoring the lustre of the wood on this piece! Sounds like a lot of work but well worth it in the end. Talk about a fabulous CL find!

  15. The transformation is amazing! I can only imagine how rewarding it was to see the dirt come off. I may have to try my hand at something like this.

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