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Re-coating the Buffet

Thanks so much for all your sweet comments about my post yesterday about my grandparents’ and the buffet. I read every single comment, and I’m working on replying to everyone. Those of you who were all “Whew! Glad you didn’t paint it. I almost lost sleep over that” cracked me up. I had you on the edge of your seats, eh?

Alright, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of how I cleaned up and re-coated my grandparents’ 1920s buffet. As I said yesterday, Bruce from Minwax told me everything I needed to do to bring new life to this beauty.

Here’s the before picture of the buffet taken last fall. Before it sat in our garage collecting dust for months.

vintage buffet before

And here’s the after.

1920s buffet

I started by cleaning the dresser with TSP substitute (the old TSP has been outlawed in some states and is bad for the environment), which you can find at Walmart or any home improvement store. If you’re afraid to use TSP try making a soap and water solution. That didn’t work very well on the buffet so TSP it was. I used a rag for larger areas of the buffet, and a toothbrush to get into all the grooves. I wiped the excess TSP with a rag, not letting the TSP sit on the piece for too long. Make sure you wear latex and nitrile gloves when using TSP.

cleaning furniture with TSP

After cleaning the dresser I used a Minwax stain marker to touch up some scratches on the top. I didn’t even realize what I had written out in the photo below– I was merely tracing scratches when my mom, who was looking over my shoulder as I used the stain marker, said, “Does that say ‘Dawn’?” Uh, yeah it does. Thanks, a lot, Dawn. She even took it an extra step by underlining her name. (We don’t have a Dawn in the family so this was from a previous owner. I hope you’re happy, Dawn.)


I did the best I could with the stain marker, but you can still see some scratches on the buffet. It is what it is.

After I got done with the stain marker I started to apply Minwax Wipe-On Poly with a clean, lint-free rag.

Minwax wipe-on poly

Here’s a before-during-after photo. The first photo is what I started with. The second is after cleaning with TSP. The third is after applying the wipe-on poly.

refinished vintage buffet

I like how the wipe-on poly brings out the color of buffet and gives it just enough shine.

antique buffet legs

Okay, on to the hardware. I cleaned them up because they were gross. Patina lovers, please refrain from punching me in the throat.

I get that some people love patina. And antique collectors and dealers love patina. But here’s the deal, folks, in my opinion, the patina hid the beauty of the hardware. The hardware on the buffet is so pretty and intricate. You could barely see that with all the gunk layered on it.

buffet hardware

Here’s the thing about the buffet. It’s my buffet. I never plan on selling it so I don’t care if I devalued it by taking 90 years of dead skin cells, dust, and tarnish off of the hardware. Anyway, there’s other things about this buffet that devalue it (see Dawn above… and keep reading).

I cleaned the hardware and applied some antique gold Rub n Buff to spruce them up a bit. Again, please don’t punch me. Brad made me feel bad enough for removing it when he told me he liked the patina… after I had already removed the patina from one piece of hardware.

antique buffet hardware

I’m still not done with the buffet. Eventually I’ll have to attach the new leg brace on the right side. The original piece broke off and couldn’t be salvaged so my uncle made a new one for me. It’s a little long so I have to cut it down, stain it to match, and attach it to the buffet. This is another reason why the buffet has probably devalued, but I don’t care about its monetary value.

1920s buffet with arrow All in all, I spent around 6 hours cleaning and re-coating the buffet and hardware.

At the end of the day I’m happy with how the buffet turned out, and that’s what matters most.

vintage sideboard

 Now all I have to do is style it. Fingers crossed it takes me less than 8 months to get that done.

What do you think about the buffet makeover? Can you believe that Dawn chick? The nerve. Who’s excited to see me style the buffet?

How to re-coat furniture-- especially family heirlooms you don't want to paint!

Note: Minwax didn’t pay me to mention them or their products. Bruce from Minwax did give me the stain marker and his free advice.

This post contains affiliate links.

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  1. Um, I absolutely LOVE the hardware sans patina. It’s just stunning!! Love the whole thing, love love.

  2. Love the buffet and great step by step on how you completed. I hear you with projects sitting for awhile. I have a stack of those–great motivation to see your finished project!

  3. WOW… I love the way it turned out and I love what you did with the hardware. No punching in the throat from me 🙂

  4. I LOVE the new buffet! I also like the hardware all cleaned off and shiny, sorry antique dealers! I definitely think it’ll be a conversation piece in your home, which is wonderful since it has memories attached! Happy for you!

  5. I was shocked to see the hardware so “white”! But at least you kept it to the original and just cleaned it. I am “inheriting a piece of furniture from 1850, it’s a couch with the original gold colored upholstery, and I am hoping to clean up the wood part of it like you did using the same products so I don’t screw up!

  6. It looks beautiful all polished up! What a stunning piece of furniture. I also love the shiny gold hardware. If you think about it, cleaning them up is really more original… But I’m no antique dealer!

  7. Gorgeous! It tured out so beautiful and the wood really shines now. I love the polished hardware – it really pops against the piece.

  8. It looks so beautiful! I’ve never used wipe on poly, but I may have to now! 🙂

  9. I loooove the clean hardware! It sparkles.

  10. The buffet looks amazing!! Nothing wrong with adding some of your own personal touches, especially when you don’t plan to ever get rid of it. And, honestly (after working at an antique store for a year) people will still buy a piece like that and pay a pretty penny for it. It’s beautiful. I can NOT wait to see how you style it!! Love that there was “Dawn” scratched into it. That’s kinda funny.

  11. Beautiful! You inspire me and hopefully others to not paint everything!
    Look at the beauty in that wood you brought back! I will try this on a table that I thought about painting.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Shannon Salo says:

      Gorgeous! And again. Thank you for not painting it!!!!

  12. I’m not really into antiques, but I love furniture with a story behind it. You did a wonderful job & have given me the courage to do the same on my grandmother’s side tables. I am curious of what you were going to do to it with the chalk paint.

  13. I think it looks fabulous!!! I can’t believe how clean and new looking you got the hardware on there. I had to scroll back up when I saw the photo with the shiny hardware to see if it was the same. LOL I think it looks great!!! Great job in sprucing it up. I can’t wait to see how to decorate/style it.

  14. It is STUNNING!!!!! You did a fabulous job and I am so glad you didn’t paint it 🙂

  15. I love it!! And really love the shiny hardware. 🙂 I’m with you, who cares about the value … do what you love!!

  16. I LOVE the way you write — you make me smile every time I read one of your posts. Beautiful job with the buffet. And I’m with you on the hardware.

  17. I LOVE this piece! I am glad you polished up the hardware. Patina is ok and all, but I would rather something look like it did originally. That is more valuable to me! Gorgeous!

    Kelly Vaughan
    She’s In High Cotton

  18. This really does look pretty and I like the hardware either way.

    And I was cracking up at the dawn scratched in it. That’s just classic. Damn Dawn.

  19. I think the shiny hardware really makes it fresh. Don’t get me wrong I love me some patina, but it is 2013 and your house isn’t an antique mall 😉

  20. You did a beautiful job with this piece…the wood now has a look of “life” to it that is wonderful. I have a couple pieces I have inherited that lived with smokers 🙁 I will try this to get them clean again. Great Job and thank you for sharing the process!

    1. Kathy Wire says:

      Good old Murphys soap and hot water will clean the tar from cigarette smoke off the wood. Wad up newspaper and put in any drawers, it will absorb the smoke odors from the inside. And finally, on a couple of sunshiny days set the piece out in the sun, doesn’t work on overcast days…but it will eliminate the remaining smoke odors . I inherited a number of beautiful pieces from family that were heavy smoker’s and was told it couldn’t be done but you would never know it now!

  21. Your buffet looks gorgeous! And as much as I love patina, I have to say that the cleaned up hardware looks much better for this piece. The patina looked too 70s. Good luck decorating it! It should be fun.

  22. It looks fantastic! Love the cleaned up hardware–I wouldn’t have expected it could look so fresh and bright. You did an awesome job, and I got a laugh out of the ‘Dawn’ in the top. We ended up with a gigantic piano for free (woohoo!) quite a few years ago, and although I’ve never put a ton of work into restoring it, I did try to sand out a number of bad scratches (it came from a home with 6 young children who definitely thought it was a jungle gym, from the looks of things, and who knows what it had been through before that–it’s very old!) and the one awful scratch I couldn’t bring myself to sand away is an “I love daddy” carving in sweet little kid handwriting. So adorable, and even though I’m sure it devalues it, it always makes me smile.

  23. great job on the re-coating of the buffet! Love Minwax and Bruce’s knowledge is invaluable!

  24. It looks so great!! Thanks for the tips on restoring wood furniture- I’m sure they will come in handy! I love that this piece has so much sentimental value to you and the hardware looks fantastic : )

  25. Good for you, girl! I love that you say, “It’s my buffet.”

    ‘Cause it is. And the value of it is what you value in it. We get so wrapped up in what it’s worth to OTHER people that we don’t really consider what it’s worth to us. I’m glad that you make it into a piece you loved. That’s the best part of this whole restoration!

  26. I LOVE the buffet! It turned out FANTASIC! I also love the WIpe on Poly. I use it a lot. Thanks for sharing your buffet pictures and you family story:)

  27. So beautiful! I love it without the patina. It makes wonder if people from back in the day would say “Gross, why don’t you people clean off the hardware.” Seriously, I love the hardware, shiny and new.

  28. It’s beautiful! Terrific job. I just love to use wipe on poly for all my wood pieces. Love the luster and not the shine!

  29. Such a gorgeous buffet! I love that you chose to bring out the beauty of the wood. Wonderful job, Chelsea!

  30. Floyd Gary Thacker says:

    I would have to forgive Dawn because she was probably a child. You know how they like to write their names everywhere. But it reminds me of when my parents bought their first bedroom set and my mother was going on about it being solide wood – oak. My brother proceeded to hammer nails into it because he thought it was “wood” and that’s what you do with wood. Anyway, children do these things. Got to love ’em.

    I like to see results with a product before I buy it, so I appreciated your before, cleaning, & after MinWax photos. Thanks!

  31. Hi, I love your buffet, all that you did to it. I have a similar price that I created into a bathroom vanity with a bowl sink, it looks fantastic. Great job.

  32. Looove it! Great job! I have a similar piece, my Grandma’s buffet, with a bad scorch mark on top. Any suggestions? I guess worst case is to sand down to the bare wood & refinish it. Thanks!

    1. I read in another blog that if you sand it too far down that it won’t take stain. I’ve never heard of that but she had “after” pictures and pointed out the places she had over-sanded. Sure enough they didn’t take the stain. Have any of you heard of this? Is it only certain wood that does this? Makes me nervous now to sand.

  33. Thanks for the post! I have my husband’s grandmother’s buffet in my dining room and would love to bring it back to some of its original glory.

  34. Too funny about Dawn! I remember carving a cute little bird into our upright piano, but thought I was being smart by carving my brother’s name next to it – so maybe Dawn’s sibling needs to be blamed!

    1. I read in another blog that if you sand it too far down that it won’t take stain. I’ve never heard of that but she had “after” pictures and pointed out the places she had over-sanded. Sure enough they didn’t take the stain. Have any of you heard of this? Is it only certain wood that does this? Makes me nervous now to sand.

  35. i’m working on refurbishing a 30’s bedroom suite. It’s very intricate and I’m cleaning it with Q tips and a wax I made out of mineral oil and beeswax. It’s taking forever but I’m excited with the results. It’s fun to paint old furniture but some pieces, like you buffet, should be saved as they are. It looks great.

  36. Thank you for sharing your hard work on this buffet. You’re grandparents must be so proud that you restored the beauty to this piece and this grandma is so happy it isn’t turquoise.

  37. Great restoring job, the buffet looks gorgeous! With your step by step guild I can do it too!!
    I can hardly wait to see how you styled it!!!

  38. Oh, I like it. I can’t believe that is the same hardware. I didn’t know you could clean it to such a shine. What did you use?

  39. I really like what you have done with the buffet, I was just wondering what the polly was strong smelling and this should be a job for warmer weather, I would prefer the hardware not cleaned that’s just my personal preference . Thanks for the info…

  40. You did a FANTASTIC job….it is absolutely beautiful! I have an old buffet that I want to bring back to life. Thank you for your help!

  41. Kimberly Brown says:

    I love what you did. I’m inheriting an antique bedroom suite from my parents and am so happy I found your blog. I’ll do exactly this to bring the beauty back to these pieces. They’ve seen some abuse, so wish me luck!

  42. Thanks for these directions. I have a 200-year-old French dining table, the only “real” antique I own, and the top needs refinishing–we’ve been using it every day for over 30 years, kids and all). I’m sitting on the fence between having it professionally done (mucho moola) and doing it myself. You’ve given me a bit of courage.

    I guess maybe it’s a generational thing, but I really LOVED the patina on the hardware. I think the reason is because the generation that preceded mine wanted everything new after the Depression and the War. When I discovered the look of Art Deco, discarded as old-fashioned by our parents and first recovered by us, and then the 19th Century, I was beside myself with the joy of knowing that everything was not born after I was. It’s a sense of a history that the previous generation preferred not to remember.

  43. I have an antique dresser that I use as a buffet. It could use a good cleaning. And by the way, I didn’t do it!

  44. FABULOUS! My grandmother was an antique dealer (and the mother of 4 daughters, so I have had many opinions on restoring trickle down through the years, ha ha). I have inherited many wonderful pieces. I admit, most I have painted (i know ugh). However, with a piece such as yours, by restoring it, you have completely retained the integrity of the piece. Although I love a nice patina, I think your choice in polishing the hardware was awesome !!
    The piece still screams gorgeous antique, yet by polishing the hardware, you have actually updated it and given it a little “funky pop” which attracts even more attention, Well done, well done, well done!

  45. Thank you I just inheritated my great grandparents buffet and want to bring it back to life but everything I have found was painting and that is not what I wanted. It looks beautiful.

  46. Thanks for the tips! I have one just like this that belonged to my Great Aunt. I have the rollers that was originally on it. It is a beautiful piece of furniture and like you I will not sell it. It will go to a daughter who actually has it now. I am going to recoat it as well. Love the out come. Thanks again.

  47. Kudos on a job well done. I heartily endorse the wipe on poly from Minwax. I sanded down the deeply damaged top on our dining room table this fall and wiped on several coats of the finish, sanding lightly between coats and wiping with a tack cloth. It gives a lovely boost to the color of the wood without the heavier look of straight polyurethane. It also leaves no brush strokes, because you wipe it on, not brush it. Anyone who has qualms about refinishing a piece would do well to use it. Old t-shirts make the perfect applicator.

    Again, you did a great job giving an old piece a new lease on life.

  48. Love the gold hardware! That made the look. You did a great job.

  49. I noticed you had to get additional matching hardware, where did you find them?

  50. Beautiful. You know all that furniture people are painting now will have o be stripped & restored someday when the painted look is out. I say stay classic . Good job. I love Minwax products. Wasn’t aware of this type of poly Have used their Antique Oil which is a rub on & swear by it. The finish is totally impervious to watermarking etc.

  51. Great job!Just beautiful. I used a magnifying glass to read the stain pen. Is it “Early American”? The top of my antique bookcase ? cabinet with engraved doors, is heavily scratched. Please let me know your stain color,with many thanks.

  52. Thank you so much for showing us how to do this. Yours turned out just beautiful.

  53. I love the transformation. I recently did this with a beeswax product. It brought our wood furniture pieces back to life.

    I mention to my organizing clients all the time, by looking at the details in your home, you are showing yourself and others that you own up to your responsibilities. If you don’t take care of those details, you may not want those items.

    Thanks for sharing. Great pictures.

  54. Thanks for this article. I am just like you. I have inherited several pieces of furniture that belonged to family members. They have faults but they are still important to my history and memories. I plan to follow your outline to redo some of these pieces. Thanks again

  55. I just found this post. The buffet looks amazing! I found a great furniture cleaner. Just mix olive oil and white vinegar together. Yes, it smells like salad dressing but your furnture won’t. Rub and buff it in with an old sock. It’s amazing. I bought an old rocker. It’s beautiful but needs TLC. I’m going to clean it with my mixture and follow your steps. My rocker is too beautiful to paint.

  56. Your buffet is gorgeous! I love it and I love the hardware all shiny and looking new, better than the patina it had before. You did a great job! If you ever find Dawn, she owes you a day of house cleaning!! 😀

  57. Love!! Last year i brought home my great grandmothers buffet after my grandparents passed. It has spent the last 30 some odd years in my grandparents breeze-way in California. I tried to clean it to the best of my ability, being afraid to do to much cleaning. Over the last thirty years of being dumped on, and banned in to, it is in remarkable great shape. Just a couple of pieces of 1/4″ trim that is almost broken and was loose (fixed it with a syringe and wood glue). Because my piece set in the changing weather temps I first conditioned the wood with a 1/4 cup of olive oil and 1 tbsp of lemon juice. That was a year ago, I am in the middle of a huge remodel and I will be saving this post to thoroughly clean my great grandmother’s buffet. The wood is gorgeous and I can not wait to see it shine!

  58. Beautiful work! I have an entire 1920/30’s dining room set to re-coat (and re-veneer). Then I’ll probably touch up the living rooms set as well. I like that you took the time to clean the hardware. Yes, antiquers talk about the “patina”, but may I remind you all that patina is a word created to pretty up the concept of settled and congealed old dirt! Ewh.

  59. Malinda Frost says:

    Thank you for lovingly restoring this piece! I just chringe when I see beautiful pieces being painted over with chalk paint or colored paint. I have always loved the beauty in the stained wood grain of older pieces and the stories they tell (Dawn!). Thanks for the info on the products that you used, I’m keeping your blog for future reference..

  60. laura Brunner says:

    Beautiful job! Will this treatment work on furniture with sun damage? The finish of my table is dry and cracked. I want to restore it, but hope there is something I can do without sanding it all the way down.

  61. It’s absolutely stunning!!

  62. Marlene Dickey says:

    LOL you sold me on cleaning up the hardware when you mentioned “dead skin cells”…yuck. Never thought about all the DNA that is on my buffet I bought years ago just like yours. Can’t wait to clean it up like you did. Thanks for the great info. On my way to Home Depot to get the wipe on poly.

  63. I love all your hard work. I, too, have several pieces of furniture from our Grandparents, and they are treasures. I’m with you on the patina. And the value to me is in using an heirloom. Thanks for showing us how to do it!

  64. Absolutely beautiful. I too own an old Buffet with a Hutch and Dinning table and chairs to match, they need this clean up treatment badly. You give me hope to tackle one piece of furniture at a time.

  65. I love the hardware de-patina’d (I just made the word up). The glow of the gold is stunning. Great job!!

  66. If you were going to sell it, then the hardware should have stayed the same.
    You’re never letting go of it so I believe you should have it look the way YOU want it to.
    It’s a beautiful piece and the result is stunning. Great job!!

  67. Help! I can’t stop! I started with my old pineapple bed…it turned out beautiful. Moved on to my ugly old chairs, beautiful. Sewing machine cabinet…beautiful. Who would have known. Thank you so much. Only thing I do different is scrub them down with Dawn dish washing water. Let it dry totally and wipe them down with Minwax. I leave hardware as is and scratches. Each has a story to tell.

  68. Love it! I have a secretary that was my great grandmothers but it has a musky smell. Any ideas how to get rid of it before I put time and effort into reviving it?

    1. I have heard to spray shellac it and it covers up that musty smell..

  69. Hi Chelsea.
    U did a fabulous job! It looks stunning. Ur instructions r great, i have s small round antique table that is so gross w/built up dirt and grime. Im going to use ur method to clean it. Wish me luck! Take care. Thanks for posting

  70. Peggy Harris says:

    Thank you SO much for this. It’s exactly the information I’ve been looking for. One quirk: while I was reading, a pop-up ad appeared in the lower right corner. (for Pinterest) There was no way to close it, yet it covered your pictures and text. Even when I opened it and went to the site, then returned to you, there it still was, blocking the view and making it difficult to get to the information. My guess is that you don’t know this is happening? Again, thanks for this awesome info! I’m going to use it to beautify my bedroom vanity. 🙂

  71. Beautiful buffet!!! I have used Restor-A-Finish to give several antique pieces new life . . . just rub it on with a small soft cloth and then polish with clean soft cloth. Restor-A-Finish is available in various wood colors.

  72. Livy Hamer says:

    I have a buffet very similar to yours, it was made by the Blue Bird Manufacturing Co out of Los Angles. I cannot find any information on it. I am missing one of the two piece hanging knobs. I love how yours turned out, I am going to clean mine and continue the hunt for a knob. Thank You!!!

  73. Personally, If a piece isnt worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, who cares if you paint, refinish, polish??? It’s going in your house, YOU need to love it. I love what you did with the hardware! This piece cleaned up beautifully and the finish refreshed so nicely but with that old patina on the hardware it NEVER would have come to it’s full glory. That nice, fresh looking hardware is the shining jewel this piece needed. Nice call.

  74. Great post!
    I have old old buffet and dining room table. Would love to try this! How long did you wait between the cleaning and minwax stage? And if the buffet goes well, maybe I’ll tack the table too! (Hubs even guest post on my blog once about our old table!)

  75. Do rinse the tsp off? I have a china cabinet to do. Don’t want to sand

  76. Wow! I can’t believe I ran across this on Pinterest. I have almost this same buffet. Mine has crystal knobs instead of brass but I love it. I’ve always been a little afraid to really clean but thanks to you I’m going to try. Thank you so much.

  77. How did you clean the hardware?

  78. I just came across this on Pinterest as well… I have a buffet with the same lines that I love. Also glad you didn’t paint it! =) I’ve seen so many lovely antique pieces that have been painted – and some so horridly it hurt my retinas.

    Enjoy your beautiful buffet!

  79. Linda Bartel says:

    it is so refreshing to see that someone else besides myself believes in preserving the authenticity of old beautiful furniture. Why does everyone want to slap a coat of paint on everything? Breaks my heart to see such beautiful pieces of history ruined.

    1. Thank you! I totally agree. I know sometimes there’s no sentimental value so people don’t care about painting it. I just couldn’t do that to my grandparents’ buffet. That, and the wood is gorgeous! 🙂

  80. Being an ex-antique dealer and furniture restorer, you did the right thing! saving the patina is necessary for 1700 or 1800’s pieces, if they can be saved, would be great, but to have an unprotected alligator finish or worst a painted finish on this buffet, isn’t going to make the piece any more valuable. I have picked white paint out of the most beautiful mahogany, tiger strip oak, and walnut, while wondering out loud how anyone would prefer white paint to such beautiful wood. Don’t even get me started on people who let their silver tarnish! Enjoy the buffet and the memories it holds, plus you have a well constructed piece to pass on for many generations! I hope they all appreciate it and treat it with TLC!

  81. yes its pretty but I see it in a beautiful light tealy blue with some glazing.. that would truly make it a fabulous wow pc.. maybe someday.. lol

  82. How refreshing to see this piece come back to life! I am so glad that your efforts worked so well and that you didn’t haul out a paintbrush and some chalk paint. Phew! Another piece of lovely furniture rescued from that insanity.

  83. We have one almost exactly the same. I haven’t had an appraisel done on it yet. If you have, would you private email me an let me know an approximate range?

    Thank you,

  84. Do you have to wear gloves with the TSP substitute?

  85. Chelsea, You really did a great job and it appears to be a piece of quality furniture. It drives me crazy when I see paint on every thing. I have collected for 47+ years and have done plenty of stripping to get junk off. I really like the Miniwax Touch Up Pens too. One product that has been around for many years that I like is Old English Scratch Cover. I find it at the supermkt and the home bldg. stores. I like to use the Miniwax to get the big scratches first. I saw a trick on tv (one of the restoration shows) that she showed getting paint off of hardware by putting it in a crock pot. Don’t remember the chemical but after several hours the paint had bubbled up and washed off. )
    WARNING: Do not use the crock pot for food again!!!) Good luck!

  86. Thanks so much for sharing. How did you remove the patina from the hardware? I will try these techniques.

  87. Hi there. I’m a designer and antiques dealer. I use the same products with great success when restoring many of my pieces. I always say that if a piece isn’t going in a museum, restore it to your liking.
    You’ll enjoy this piece for many years to come!

  88. DORLIS GROTE says:


  89. kathy carlin says:

    What a wonderful job you did with your buffet. I have one I bought at a 2nd hand store 3 years ago almost just like it. I see you cleaned your hardware; but you didn’t mention what you cleaned it with. What did you use to clean your hardware? Thank you so much Chelsea. I really appreciate your work and your site!

  90. You did a wonderful job, gives me hope for an old dresser that is very dark from polishes, I think. But, I have to say that I am not fond of the renewed look on the hardware. Wondering if there is something else one could do to clean it up without removing all the patina?

  91. Lori Genther says:

    This turned out beautiful! I have an old primitive sideboard that is stained with 50 years of cigarette smoke. Do you know if the tsp substitute would work on it? I have tried cleaning it before, can’t even remember what I tried. Seemed like the yellow smoke never comes off all the way. Thanks Grandpa! 🙂

  92. You took an old girl showing her age and made her young and beautiful again. I know alot of people don’t like to remove the patina but it really makes the piece stand out! I do it and will continue to do it. You have a beautiful buffet be proud of her!

  93. Thank you for this blog post. Love the buffet! I needed this info right now. I inherited a picture of my great great grandparents in a VERY elaborate frame. It is at leadt 150 years old. I am going to use this method to bring it back to life.

  94. Your restoration is just beautiful. The buffet looks brand new. I have a setee and a gentleman’s and ladies chair that I need to work on as well as reupholster. Thank you for your advise. Now I know what to do.

  95. Alice Tagg says:

    Stunning. I have a bedroom set of my grandmothers and now I know what to do to clean it up. I will definitely be using the wipe on poly for it. I’m very glad to see it not painted. Some BEAUTIFULLY crafted furniture shouldn’t be hidden by paint.

  96. I really like how you spruced up the hardware. Sometimes I think patina’s are overrated.

    Thanks for the tips. I have a set of four parlour lounge chairs and a sitting room table (not like a coffee table) that they brought from the Netherlands when they immigrated to Canada after the war. Before I reupholster it (desperately needed) I am going to freshen up the pieces using your techniques.


  97. I just seen the beautiful job you did with the buffet. The hardware looks so nice, by changing those you made It your own. If I was you, I would put the old hardware in a zip-lock baggie and put them in a ‘ junk drawer’ and maybe some days in years to come you may use them for a different project, who knows. (That just a little idea from a old lady, who 73} I have had good luck cleaning small items that has years of goof on them by boiling them in salt water. Just do that to things that you don’t care if you ruin them but want them clean. Good luck on all your projects.

  98. Joan Holland says:

    Patina, Schmatina! My mother was an antique and fine art dealer for 40 years. She wouldn’t touch the original stain or gunk on anything. It drove me crazy as a kid. Now, everything old that I bring in my house gets a facelift. After all, it’s mine now and I have to love it to keep it in my home. After all, by the time I’m finished using it, it will be an antique all over again..lat least I hope I live that long! Enjoy your treasure, you did a beautiful job and I got a couple of ideas I’m going to use myself.

  99. Just a quick question. Will this method also “fix” watermarks?

    I, too, am glad you didn’t paint this piece of history!

  100. so beautiful.. i love this.. i have a similar piece I was thinking about painting actually.. if i were to redo it.. it already has some shine to it.. would i need to take the old stain off? or can i do this over it? thank you!! the nerve of that DAWN! 😉

  101. Ok, here’s a thought. My guess it was Dawn’s SISTER that did the actually writing. 🙂 I was smart enough that when I was being naughty, I wrote HER name. haha!

  102. Wow! I just saw this on Pinterest, and have to tell you a funny story. My husband finally had me convinced to sell a gorgeous flame mahogany dresser that’s been our garage for a year. The girl that came to buy it talked about how she was going to paint it, blah, blah, blah…she was going to have to come back later to pick it up, but left me a deposit check. I was doing all I could not to cry in front of her. When she left, I said there was no way I could sell it. I had to call her the next day and tell her I’d decided to keep the dresser! I still have it. It’s still in storage, but I’ll be damned if anyone will ever paint it! Love, love, love your buffet! I can’t wait to move so we can use my dresser again, and I can fix it up like your buffet.

  103. Again, saw the “how to Re-Coat…” on Pinterest. I had actually ‘pinned’ it a while ago and just came across it when I needed it!! I had bought my pregnant daughter one of those glider/rockers about a week ago. Got it the Goodwill for $9.99. It’s so comfy and will be perfect for nursing the baby….Nice wide sloped wooden arm rests but YUCK! The wood is disgusting! I figured it could be cleaned and it appears the wood is great underneath but, how to clean it? I had some thoughts about Murphy’s Oil Soap or Linseed Oil but was undecided. Well, I guess I found my answer!! Thank you so, so much!! Not sure why the cushions were decent and not at all gross, just dated. I have a plan to cover them. Pretty simple design. That wood had me a tad perplexed though. Just what I need is a ‘project”!! hahaha…..

  104. Pamela Snider says:

    Wow really beautiful, I’m not a fan of painting old furniture. You did a great job, I have my husband’s grandma’ s buffet I’ll be using this to renew it.

  105. christy newman says:

    I’ve heard tsp and tsp substitute aren’t used for deglossing. So I’m confused how the Stain gets under the poly top coat previously on there? Or was the precious top coat more of a wax? Thank you.

    1. I used the TSP the clean the grime off, not to de-gloss. So the TSP took the grime off and then the poly added shine back into the piece.

  106. I LOVE IT!! I have my grandmother’s bedroom set and an antique secretary I need to refinish but do not want to loose the original look. Thanks for the great step by step instructions

  107. First of all, Super Post! I too refinish and restore furniture, being self taught two years ago with a lot of reading, you tube, and trial and error. I’m a big Min Wax fan as it gives the best results in this part of the states (Silicon Valley, CA) One step I add when dealing with light to low medium scratches is to use 0000 steel wool, sometimes 000 if the scratches or water stain is deeper. I dip the tail end of the steel wool into the Min Wax can of stain and ‘wool’ away the scratches. This also works great on veneer. Also, for those that don’t like the chemical shiny finish, I use liquid bees wax for the same shiny.

    Regards / Chris Cordova, Owner of Timeless Treasures Antiques

  108. Thanks for restoring rather than covering that exquisite wood with a coat of paint.

  109. April Mull says:

    You did a wonderful job! It’s great to see another Hoosier that like to keep the antique’s looking original!

  110. It looks so pretty – you should be proud of your hard work. Yes some painted furniture makeovers are nice but too often they just ruin a nice piece like yours.Good on you for taking the much harder route of cleaning it up!

  111. I absolutely LOVE that you re-coated this (verses painting it)!

  112. Do you know if this method can be used on grimy kitchen cabinets?

  113. Suzanne Melton says:

    Just got here from Pinterest!

    Love what you did. I think some pieces look great painted and some look great natural.

    In the case of your buffet, you did the right thing…INCLUDING CLEANING THE HARDWARE AND BRIGHTENING IT!

  114. this piece is beautiful. You did a great job. but have to say that i liked the patina(dead cells and all) better. (no throat punching from me :))

  115. I love that it is your grandmother’s piece (I’m so into family history and trying to keep at least one piece of each generation) I love that you kept it original and it came out so beautiful!

    I have an old 1920’s radio cabinet (sans radio) that exactly in the family from the 1920’s but my husband’s brother did purchase it before he passed. My husband doesn’t want me to paint it, so I was excited to see how you handled your grandmother’s buffet. I am going to use it (don’t laugh please) as my dog’s wardrobe! She’s a little Chinese Crested Powder Puff and has a larger wardrobe than I do, lol. I already have her hangers and all. 🙂

  116. I love everything you did with this. Great job.

  117. It looks beautiful, even with a missing leg. I’m sure Dawn approves of it as well…

  118. Anna Starner says:

    I love what you did with the buffet. I am not a fan of the distressed look many are going with. They just look like a little kid worked on them. I don’t mind a light sanding on the areas where they would naturally wear but to much is too much. The brass hardware is beautiful polished. By conditioning the wood you are preserving it for future generations. Wonderful job!!!

  119. Beautiful! Good luck styling! Thanks for linking up at #MerryMonday

  120. A great tutorial ! Love how it looks! You did a great job…and I really like the pointers….might use them on some of our heirloom pieces…

  121. Thank you for not painting this beautiful piece. 🙂
    It looks wonderful

  122. Barbm1712 says:

    Appreciating the vintage genuine wood and letting the beauty of the carpentry and lovely grain seems to be missing in our paint happy era. I’m so glad you decided to restore this beautiful piece to it’s glory and didn’t make it gray or aqua. You did a beautiful job, and while I’m one of those who likes the ‘patina’ on the hardware, some of it just HAS to get cleaned. I love the look of wood and the history that connects one generation to another in these vintage pieces. Kudos to you!

  123. Dawn Winter-Haines says:

    Don’t bash on Dawn too much…. Some of us Dawns are really nice people. LOL. Beautiful job on the buffet. Really gorgeous!

  124. Your buffet is gorgeous! I love the hardware. I cleaned the hardware on my vintage china cabinet. I couldn’t believe how beautiful they were. Somebody a long time ago took the original stain off of the mahogany which has left the wood an orange colour. I am not quite sure what to do, I love the cabinet but I hate the colour. Your tips are wonderful. Thank you for your post.

  125. I so love what you did with this beautiful piece. The buffet lloks remarkable. Thanks.

  126. Thank you so much for saving such a beautiful piece. I prefer WOOD instead of turquoise paint. I literally cringe when looking at some of the “improvements” people make to such beautiful furniture. You go girl!

  127. What do you mean by style it?

  128. Thalia Ellis says:

    You can mix equal parts of boiled linseed oil, white vinegar and turpentine. Apply with 000 steel wool in the directio of the grain. Whipe with soft cloth. I did this on a antique table and it looks like new.

    1. Ha! What I did to my white-scarred table with extender “flaps” or “wings”–I don’t even know, but I ended up making it useable for this past Christmas! It had had a pad on it to protect it, but I had gently ironed it to get the wrinkles out of the tablecloth, and whoa, wide stripes of white all over the top where the iron had melted and melded the protective plastic barrier to the wood. My children thought I’d be devastated but…I used a harsh but effective treatment, and brought it back. It at various times mineral spirits, linseed oil, and scrubbing with both cloth and ahem a plastic scrubby and fine steel wool. I was so pleased with the results, after sort of hydrating it with lots of good furniture oil, that I’m not afraid of damage anymore to any wood piece (well, not TOO afraid, and not TOO much damage!).

  129. It looks beautiful! I’m glad you preserved the old finish. I have a buffet that is extremely close to yours in style, but the finish is in much rougher shape. Not sure if I’ll end up painting it.

  130. Great job. I have my hubby’s grandmother’s dining set with buffet and china cabinet. It is not in the best shape either but is a sentimental thing. I used Dr. Woodwell furniture restorer and though it has been a much more labor intensive process, because of the years of crazed wax buildup on it, the results have been worth it. I can respect your desire to preserve your piece for posterity. Good work!

  131. Looks stunning! Would this work on a dining room table as well?

  132. gwendolyn says:

    This is Beautiful . I wish I had one. It would look good in my bathroom. love love love it.

  133. Did this piece have any veneer? I just got two pieces from my grandmother’s estate and trying to figure out how to restore.

  134. Fabulous job cleaning it all up! It looks amazing! (PS. it’s yours, who cares what anyone else thinks about what you do to it. It is a gorgeous piece with a story- why can’t we find “Dawn”?….) it now has a home and a life and is loved… isn’t that what we all want?

  135. I love how you brightened your buffet. I was reading about the hardware patina. I have always been scared of taking it off but then when I saw yours, I saw the beauty. The pieces you see in museums don’t have patina. Yours looks new again but anyone can tell it’s an antique. I have one simular to yours and I’m now see that I can “brighten” it up.

  136. I love how you brightened your buffet. I was reading about the hardware patina. I have always been scared of taking it off but then when I saw yours, I saw the beauty. The pieces you see in museums don’t have patina. Yours looks new again but anyone can tell it’s an antique. I have one simular to yours and I’m now see that I can “brighten” it up.

  137. I love how you brightened your buffet. I was reading about the hardware patina. I have always been scared of taking it off but then when I saw yours, I saw the beauty. The pieces you see in museums don’t have patina. Yours looks new again but anyone can tell it’s an antique. I have one simular to yours and I’m now see that I can “brighten” it up.

  138. I love how you brightened your buffet. I was reading about the hardware patina. I have always been scared of taking it off but then when I saw yours, I saw the beauty. The pieces you see in museums don’t have patina. Yours looks new again but anyone can tell it’s an antique. I have one simular to yours and I’m now see that I can “brighten” it up.

  139. I love how you brightened your buffet. I was reading about the hardware patina. I have always been scared of taking it off but then when I saw yours, I saw the beauty. The pieces you see in museums don’t have patina. Yours looks new again but anyone can tell it’s an antique. I have one simular to yours and I’m now see that I can “brighten” it up.

  140. Sally Kyker says:

    Thank you so much for this. I have a full 1920’s dining suite that I was going to chalk paint…yah, me too would devalue the set lol! But after seeing the richness of the wood you attained, me thinks I am going to fall back in love with the wood grain of the pieces. Would much rather try this method than cover it with chalk paint. Will try and see what happens…thanks again!!!

  141. Michelle Hurlbut says:

    I found a buffet EXACTLY like this one at a consignment store for $250! I was afraid to approach my husband about it(in fact he initially refused to go to the store to look at it) since we really didn’t NEEEED it, but the minute I showed him your pictures he said “BUY IT!!!” I plan to take the top trim off, put a plywood slab on top with extended back to use for seating. I have a few porch corbels to use as support. I would love to put a granite slab on top but too expensive…. I am going to install hardwood flooring instead and have our carpenter trim the edges with some ornate crown molding. I had my great-grandmother’s walnut headboard made into a bench and with casters on the legs, it will go PERFECT with this! Thanks for showing me such an easy way to update it- I hate refinishing and have had good luck with other pieces just touching up scratches and overcoating with a light stain.

  142. I’m excited about this post since I have several pieces of antique furniture to clean and brighten. Question: Did you sand the buffet before applying the Minwax? I assume you did not because you did not mention that you did. I looked at the directions on the Minwax and it says to sand so I am concerned about the top coat sticking to my furniture.

  143. Patricia Snyder says:

    Wow! It turned out beautiful! I have my parents’ bedroom set from 1949. It has a gorgeous mahogany stain and a lot of intricate carvings down the front corners. It has scratches mainly on the tops. It’s in very good condition but can use a good cleaning. I did try cleaning it with a product that was called furniture soap, or something like that, but I wasn’t happy with how it turned out. I’m about ready to head out to Lowes and pick up the Minwax markers, the TSP product, the Poly and some gloves and cheesecloth! There are 5 pieces to this bedroom, a double dresser with 6 drawers, a tall dresser wit h 7 drawers, a vanity with 7 small drawers, a vanity bench and a night stand. There’s also a mirror that hangs on the wall over the vanity and one over the double dresser. They are in nearly perfect condition, the mirrors have some silvering but the wood is great! You’ve inspired me to start a winter project. Hopefully, I’ll get it done. I’ll get back to you and share the results in the spring. Thanks!

  144. Patty wright says:

    Great article very helpful

  145. Luz Bobadilla says:

    Lovely work!!!…. And about the hardware, I think you did what you consider was the best for the look of the furniture……which I liked it.

  146. Alma Miranda says:

    Thank you for removing the dirt aka ‘patina’. As an art restorer, I’m horrified that people think its pretty. The only patina I like is that of copper and brass. There is a reason the Sixtine Chapel got the ‘patina’ cleaned out, to preserve the work of a master.

  147. Sandra Caryl says:

    I laughed out loud when I saw “Dawn” I also have a “Michael” in my antique dining room table I cover it time to time with old English scratch cover oil it wasn’t funny then but twenty years later I’m OK with it.

  148. Judi zickefoose says:

    Oh my goodness! I am so tired of seeing everybody paint these beautiful pieces of furniture. My Buffet looks almost identical to this.
    I have a 12 piece set: the 10′ refectory table, the china cabinet, the buffet, and the server. we are busy moving into our new place on the farm, but when I get time, it will be YOUR post I come back to to figure out how to beautify and love the furniture that has been in our family for almost a hundred years! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  149. CHRISTINE MELE says:

    Great job with that gorgeous buffet. I just bought a 1917 dining table with chairs. Can you tell me the type of design it is? Nobody knows the “period design “. Not quite sure what to do yet with mine, except, love it. Thank you for your help.

  150. Kristin L Ellis says:

    That is a beautiful piece of furniture. I also have a buffet that was once my great grandparents. It was given to me after my grandmother’s death. I have her buffet, china cabinet, a Queen Anne side table, and a dresser with a secret compartment. The top of the buffet has rings on it from items being placed on it. I have always had a runner on it, but it does have some finish off. I want to know how I can take the rings off and restore the shine to it. I do want to keep the beautiful lines of the wood it has. Any ideas, and are there people out there that can restore furniture like this?

  151. Branda Nutt says:

    I have a similar buffet and matching dining table. How do I find out brand and age?

    Widow in Wyoming

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