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Antique Vanity Restoration with General Finishes

Grannie Good …

Every once in a while we receive a custom restoration project that makes our hearts go pitter patter. Enter “Grannie Good”.

This Victorian vanity came to us by way of Mississippi. She’s a family heirloom. (More on this back story to come – because I love a good backstory) She’s been awaiting the right time and the perfect home. She is now in our hands and we are quite honored – while we are a bit overwhelmed with the responsibility!

So where shall we start? We said good morning to in the studio for a few days waiting for her to speak to us and then… she did. We started with a good cleaning with 50/50 denatured alcohol and water. After a few days of facial scrubs we began the repair process.

Victorian Vanity Restoration
Victorian Vanity Restoration

We started with glueing the loose veneer. Thankfully my neighbor is a high-tech-lab-tech and can hook me up with a few blunt end syringes on occasion.  I carefully clean and store them after every use because those beauties are hard to come by. If you ever tackle a project such as this I highly recommend this rather unsophisticated tool. Applying the wood glue to every loose spot we found. Clean the excess with a wet cloth and clamp. And, clean and clamp more.

Yes, the piece of furniture posing as a workstation under the drawer is sellable inventory. Should I be using it as a workstation for a glue up project? No!

Likewise, that is a hard-to-come-by General Finishes paint chip book lounging around where it should not be either. I changed my ways the following day.

Veneer repair

Clamps. Many, many clamps.
Thankfully, we own many clamps.

Veneer Repair
Veneer Repair
Veneer Repair

Recreating missing parts with bondo.

Furniture Trim Repair

Repairing the missing trim and molding is a tedious task. However, soooo rewarding when complete. Sometimes we start with a oven baked clay mold and sometimes something of a pourable nature is called for. In this case hot glue was the ingredient of choice.

Cover a matching piece of molding with vaseline or cooking oil and layer on hot glue. Once it cools and hardens, delicately remove your new mold. I used a pallet knife to gently pry the glue mold away from the trim.

Next up, auto bondo. Working quickly, mix the auto bondo and fill the mold. Dry time depends on the thickness of the repaired piece. I usually wait overnight and then peel the hot glue away.  Fit it into place and prepare to sand for a while.

Fair warning, you must clean the donor piece again, and again. And, again.

Autobond Furniture Repair
Autobond Furniture Repair
Autobond Furniture Repair

Finally, we start adding the beauty!

Just Kidding. First there are days and days and days of sanding.

A few more repairs including new drawer glides at this stage as well.

Granny Good has so many intricate curves going in so many directions. So which grade sandpaper shall we use? Let’s see …100,125, 150, 220? All were applied. And what sanders? Disc sanders, finishing sanders, hand sanding and then more hand sanding, and then a little more hand sanding.

New drawer glides were also added at this phase. A few of the drawer glides awaited their placement until the final day. Why wait you ask? Because after delicately repairing one of the center drawers with a mold and auto bondo … I dropped it. While the bondo held beautifully, the brutal fall on the concrete floor did require a touch-up repair and more paint. So, we waited for everything to harden and cure again before seating and adjusting the center drawers.

For real, we start adding the beauty!

A new back panel was cut and primed.  And tape. Lots and lots of tape.

Ongoing debate for furniture artists (and our own studio), paint first or stain first.  I love a good challenge so painted first. We used a 50/50 blend of General Finishes Snow White/Antique White and several brushes to get into all of the nooks and crannies. Think the ever trustworthy Purdy brushes worked the best along with an artist brush for hard to reach places.

Moving on to the stain. We are loving the ease of applying General Finishes Gel Stains and used Antique Walnut which was applied to the top, base and six of the drawers. and now, we wait for the stain to dry 72 hours and begin our three stage topcoat process.

And finally she gets her jewels. Much of her original hardware was able to be restored with a short soaking in vinegar and an aggressive scrub of Bar Keepers Friend (magic stuff). One center drawer was missing a pull. We managed to find an exact replica of the hardware! We ordered a full replacement set along with new wooden wheels because every girl needs a new pair of dancing shoes!!!

Victorian Vanity Restoration

A little before and after!

Victorian Vanity - After Victorian Vanity - Before