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Saturday, November 10, 2018

CEDAR CHEST REFINISH

This Lane Cedar Chest belonged to my Dad's parents and has been a part of my household as long as I've lived on my own.   I'm estimating it's age to be from the 1920's or 30's at best.  So, she's going on close to 100 years old.

I don't know how long I've been wanting to refinish this piece.  I just knew that over the years it had lost its lustre and I wanted to restore its beauty.

Below is a picture of it before I began the restoration.  It's made of a mahogany wood and has beautiful lines and details, including those gorgeous legs....but not only was the finish dull, there were plenty of scratches, gouges and dings that had happened over the years.
This is the piece after the restoration.  Isn't she a beauty!?  I decided not to go quite as dark with the stain.  I actually think that you can see more of the character of the wood with the lighter color.
This truly was a tag team effort between my husband and I.  Before I began I read a lot of information on restoration, watched videos, you name it.  The last thing I wanted was to damage it along the way.  It took us several weeks to finish (we also had a couple of weather delays due to some unexpected cool weather that moved through), since there are lots of steps along the way, but it was definitely worth the effort.

You can see the scratches on the leg (original) on the left and look how pretty that new leg looks with a fresh coat of stain and finish!  
Let me take you through the steps.....                                                                                                                                                                  The first step was to remove the old finish.  After doing lots of research I opted to use Blue Bear stripping gel.  I liked that I could use it indoors, it was a gel and was a more natural product (made of 100% American grown soy beans).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This took some time since you actually need to let it sit after applying the gel.  The finish actually turns into a molasses like consistency.  I used rubber gloves, plastic scrapers and about a roll of paper towel.  I had purchased a canvas tarp and placed that under the chest to catch any drips.  I didn't end up with too much on the tarp, but was glad I had taken the extra precautionary step.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Since I didn't want to touch the wood inlay medallion on the front of the chest, I covered that using wax paper and double sided tape.  It worked like a charm.  If you look closely at the chest, you'll see lots of grooves, deep decorative cuts and of course the spindle legs.....these areas took lots of time!  After the finish was removed, I used mineral spirits to get at any leftover residue.  I used a brush to put it on and a rag to remove it.  
Next up....sanding.  Lots of sanding! We used the electric sander first, followed by a lot of hand sanding.  This took a good deal of time too...again, the legs and grooves took the most time.   Little pieces of sandpaper and all sorts of experiemental techniques in order to get at those tough areas.  My cuticles were an absolute mess afterwards!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    After the sanding came the staining.  Followed by the finish.   We used the Varathane brand for both the stain and polyurethane.  I chose American Walnut with a clear satin finish.  
               

And there they are side-by-side the true "before" and "after".  I'm confident this piece is going to stay in the family long after I'm gone.  Hopefully, our efforts will keep it looking good for the next 100 years!                           
                                                       

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