WWYD with this old piece of furniture?

fourambluesMarch 19, 2013

We have this old, wood bar that's seen better days:

The top flips up to reveal a metal ice tray and a spot for mixing drinks, and the back of the cabinet has cutouts with mesh for ventilation. Why does a bar need ventilation, I wonder? It was never a very fine piece of furniture, but an older relative handed it down to my in-laws, then it went from them to DH and me. It could be about 100 years old.

I like it a lot, but it's in such bad shape that something has to be done. Also note that my decorating taste tends toward comfortable contemporary. So this piece is a departure from my usual style, which is kind of fun.

I'm not up for a major stripping and restaining project, and can't afford to hire someone else to do it. The front is all veneer, so dipping it isn't an option. So I think that leaves a spit-and-shine touch up job or painting.

What would you do? Are you going to tell me to get it appraised before ruining a priceless antique?

Thanks for any suggestions!

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Fori is not pleased

Is the veneer in good condition? It looks pretty good from the photo, like all it needs is a few dabs with a stain pen. Just how bad is it?

Looks 1920s-ish to me.

I hate seeing that style painted. Sometimes it's all that can be done since the veneer doesn't always hold up, but they never look right painted.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 3:46PM
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My3dogs

Can you show us the bad areas, as it DOES look fine in the photo. You might be amazed at what a little Restore A Finish and some 0000 steel wool could do!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 3:57PM
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valinsv

Ditto what my3dogs said! The piece is lovely and the Restore-A-Finish is very different than refinishing. Actually refinishing a piece can diminish the value and in many cases need not be done unless there is severe damage.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is one of my own projects which didn't take more than a couple of hours to complete:

before

after

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 4:20PM
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fouramblues

fori, I had a feeling that a paint job would just look wrong. The veneer has gouges, but what really concerns me is the edges, which have disintegrated. They're always catching the fluff of my swiffer. The veneer is actually chipped in only one spot in the front.

my3dogs and valinsv, I'll be thrilled if steel wool and elbow grease and restore a finish are all that's necessary! (Never heard of this product.) valinsv, nice job on those side tables -- wow!

So you think my piece will revive with that treatment?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 4:51PM
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cooperbailey

If it were mine, I would have already painted it with chalk paint, and distressed the edges so the mahogany tone peeks through and adds its magic. Graphite looks great on a bar piece and with polished nickel hardware lends a fresher contemporary vibe.
IMO.

This post was edited by cooperbailey on Tue, Mar 19, 13 at 17:55

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 5:51PM
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My3dogs

You might end up using a bit of very fine sandpaper on the edges that catch your Swiffer, but yes, I'd be trying the 'RAF' as you sometimes see it called and the steel wool. Personally I'd do that, although I enjoy re-doing things with chalk paint, too.

Try the RAF in a few of the worst places, and if it doesn't make it so that you like it better, since your taste is more contemporary, you might enjoy it more painted.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 6:57PM
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oakleyok

What a fantastic piece! I know it's hard to tell in the picture but the contrast against your wall is beautiful. Therefore I'd use RAF first, and if that doesn't help then I think it'd be okay to paint. Either way it's going to be beautiful. One of my heirloom pieces from my dad is an antique smoke stand with a fridge. My youngest son who was caught smoking as a teen gets it when I die. LOL

Question about RAF. I tried to do my antique buffet top, but it really didn't do anything except put a light stain on it. I have the 0000 steel wool. Was I supposed to use that before I did the RAF? :)

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 7:09PM
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Fori is not pleased

I've found a stain pen and some wax work better than RAF, but it really does depend on what finish is on there in the first place. The rough edges probably do require some very gentle sanding.

I'd love to see some details of its innards. The ventilation holes do seem odd. Is there a label on it anywhere?

If it doesn't go it doesn't go. I could almost see doing a blackish...um...what's it called? the polyurethane with coloring in it? Like Minwax "Polyshades"? Sort of half way to painted.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 7:23PM
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nursetammi

I would try a stain pen and some Old English scratch cover (medium or dark wood). My mother in law who is 90 can make any piece of furniture look great with those two things :) Its worth a try and takes no time at all.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 8:05PM
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fouramblues

Hmm, I like having a piece that deviates from my typical style, but distressed black chalk paint might be a little too far for me. Thanks for the suggestion, though, cooperbailey!

oakleyok, love the story behind your smoke stand!

fori, here's a pic of the inside:

No labels, though.

I'll do some research on both RAF and stain pens. I do believe that I'm going to have to sand the rough edges before doing anything else. And clean it. It's really gross. I gel stained my kitchen table, and it looks great. But I completely stripped that. I wonder if I could gel stain or do polyshades with just a good sanding?

Thanks for all your good suggestions! And keep them coming if you have other ideas. I really want to salvage the old beast, so the more info the better.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 9:12PM
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Olychick

Not really germane to your refinishing questions, but I wonder if it's an old radio cabinet that's been converted to a bar and that's the reason for the mesh in the back? Some of them had the lids that raised. I would think a bar would have had a place for storing bottles, glasses, etc. built in behind the doors. It's a very pretty piece, whatever it is.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 9:30PM
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fouramblues

Well, that makes a heck of a lot of sense, olychick! I even found on ebay an old radio cabinet converted to a liquor cabinet, so it seems that mine is not unique. :)

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 9:41PM
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Fori is not pleased

I was wondering that as soon as I saw the slots for 72s!

It's certainly on the nicer end of record player cabinets which is probably why it was repurposed.

That also gives you liberty to paint it if you want and think that would make it fit in better with your home. But I think it would be worth trying to save the nice veneers. It's a fun piece! It hides booze! What could be funner?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 10:17PM
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jlj48

I really like this piece of furniture. I am so drawn to old furniture that has interesting lines and lots of detail. If it were mine, I would clean it up, try restore a finish, and even some sort of furniture wax. I love the combination of the light and dark areas of stain. Gel stain is a possibility, and I would do that before I painted it, but you would lose that light and dark mix of finish.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 12:05AM
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Olychick

Fori, you must be young...it was 78's :)

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 12:52AM
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stacieann63

It definately makes sense that it was a stereo cabinet. Especially, if it was from the early 1900's during prohibition. I would try the RAF or the the old English first. The old English will give you an almost black finish on areas you sand, so be careful. If you lighlty sand the rough areas and use a gel stain or one of the polystains you can match the original finish easily. It is a nice piece and its quite fashionable these days to repurpose old furniture into something functionable for today.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 1:35AM
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fouramblues

LOL, fori: "It hides booze! What could be funner?" Funny thing is, I started getting serious about cleaning up the piece because I had the ingenious idea that we should convert our liquor cabinet into a stereo cabinet! What goes around comes around...

I've started giving it a series of lemon oil baths, so it's already looking better. Then I'll gently sand the really rough spots, and then work on covering up all the dings. I'll sure let you see how it turns out!

Thanks for the encouragement, everyone!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 2:43PM
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bronwynsmom

Stereo didn't exist in those days, my young friends - it is probably an old Victrola cabinet, with a turntable in the top to play the records.

I have one that is simpler and less interesting in storage - it still has its old turntable and its numbered green felt slots for records.

My father put a radio in the front on one side behind the doors during the '40's, and in the early 80's, my dear aunt sold all the old Capitol hard single-sided blues and roadhouse recordings to somebody for $10 for the lot.

If I didn't love her, I'd have killed her.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 4:39PM
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sombreuil_mongrel

I think it may have been an "orthophonic credenza", a very expensive acoustic phonograph. (a Victrola on steroids) A shame it was gutted if that's what it was; they sell for $750, more than that cabinet is worth now, I dare say.
Casey

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 5:09PM
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fouramblues

Oh, bronwynsmom, the selling of those records is so sad! You're a very kind niece.

sombreui_mongrel, I just googled that term, and the images look startlingly like my liquor/phonograph cabinet. But here's something I just realized: there's no hole on the side for a crank on mine. Hmmm...

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 7:24PM
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valinsv

Before the RAF try cleaning it with Murphy's Oil Soap and/or mineral spirits, then some light sanding. Be careful not to sand off the finish, it's better to start with the 0000 and work your way up. When done wax it.

I also think it would look lovely done in chalk paint, just don't have experience with it. I've read few posts from others that have mahogany stain show up pink so you would definitely need to get some advice from the experts before going that route.

It all depends on the look you are going for.

Either way it's a lovely piece. Let us know how it turns out.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 10:33PM
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marcolo

You can see the exact same arrangement of shelves here.

Unfortunately your front screen is gone.

I would absolutely repurpose it for music components, though.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 11:20PM
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fouramblues

Well, thanks for all the good advice, folks! I rubbed a lot of lemon oil into my liquor/phonograph cabinet, then decided that I really should have cleaned it first, so used Murphy's, which completely stripped the oils and made it look awful. I didn't panic, but just used a lot more lemon oil, then sanded the really rough edges and applied some Old English walnut scratch repair. It looks pretty good (I still need to work on the feet):

And then... my sweet but clumsy nephew knocked the antique table right next to it over, and made a huge ding in both pieces. It's a good thing I love that kid.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 10:41PM
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snookums2

That's a really pretty piece! Great job restoring its finish.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 10:49PM
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donnawb

Looks great! I am so glad that you didn't paint it.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 10:59PM
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valinsv

It turned out great!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 12:04AM
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Fun2BHere

It looks beautiful.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 1:01AM
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My3dogs

You did a wonderful job on it. It's beautiful!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 7:42AM
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awm03

It looks much better, a truly pretty piece now. I'm so impressed with the job you did on it!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 8:29AM
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fouramblues

Thanks, all! I'm also glad I didn't paint it, dd50! It's a little embarrassing that mostly what it needed was just a good cleaning... :-0

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 10:05AM
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nosoccermom

It looks great! Could you post exactly what you did and what products you used?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 12:56PM
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fouramblues

nosoccermom, here's what I had on hand: 00000 steel wool, 300 grit sandpaper, cotton rags, rubber gloves, Old English lemon oil, Murphy's oil soap, and Old English scratch cover for dark woods. I did things in the order in which they occurred to me, not necessarily a sensible order.

1. Rubbed lemon oil over everything with cotton rag, using steel wool on the really gross parts, or where the finish had turned white
2. Sanded the ruined edges
3. Went back and used wet rag with a dot of Murphy's all over. (Still not sure this step was necessary or good)
3.5. Let it dry
4. Lots more lemon oil with cotton rag
5. Scratch cover on edges and gouges

It seems that the piece has sucked up all the lemon oil, and that I need to go back over it again. I expect (hope!) that eventually it will be reconditioned properly and will need only very infrequent application of lemon oil.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 2:52PM
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ILoveRed

Amazing how great it looks. Beautiful piece.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 4:14PM
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sombreuil_mongrel

It looks amazing.
BTW, Orthophonics were available with clockwork or electric motors, so no wind-up hole would mean it was an electric one.
Casey

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 8:47AM
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trailrunnerbiker

wow....just wow....that is one gorgeous piece.What a stellar job you did of rehabbing it . c

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 10:03AM
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madeyna

It really looks great. I think I am going to start trying your process before I reach so quickly for the washable marker and the polyshades.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 12:05PM
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fouramblues

Thanks for all the kind words! I should tell you that it's still really drinking up the lemon oil, so it looks really good for only about a week. So I'm not sure if my "method" is the best. I really hope I don't have to apply the oil weekly forever!

Casey, thanks for the info! I though all old phonographs were crank style.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 12:37PM
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nosoccermom

Thanks so much for posting the steps you took. I was interested in the question of "dry" wood.
Here are a couple of links:
http://www.furniturecaretips.com/antique-furniture.htm

Here is a link that might be useful: restoring moisture to dry wood

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 6:05PM
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island

That looks fantastic! Please straighten the door pull on the right though. :>)

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 8:24PM
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