Refinished Curio Cabinet

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Project by Paul posted 06-17-2008 09:48 PM 4569 views 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I failed to take a “before” picture, but this piece was primed white and painted rusty milk paint red with gold paint “gilding” on the thumbnail molding profile around each window pane.

I sometimes wish pieces could talk. This one has an interesting lost story. I asked the owner if she knew anything about it but she had purchased it inexpensively out of a dealer’s estate and knew nothing of its history. This piece was obviously made exclusively with hand tools. The boards are hand planed, the rails/stiles/sashes have molding profiles either cut with molding planes or a scratch stock. All the joints are pegged with hand-made pegs. In my opinion, an old “handyman” piece made by a skilled farmer/rancher. The drawer cases are just nailed together and obviously constructed again, with plane and handtools. I wouldn’t be surprised if the wood was cut, dried and milled by the crafter.

The wood-type was a mystery to me though. I thought it was walnut at first, but the more I stripped and scraped and sanded, the more a reddish/salmon colored wood emerged. After a little research, and living in Texas, I thought it was perhaps mesquite – but unlike the description of mesquite, it isn’t a hard/dense wood. Quite soft, in fact. Doesn’t smell like cedar. For density and grain pattern (in some places), it reminded me of Mahogany, but the color? It didn’t look good with a clear finish test spot though – very unattractive, in fact. So, I used dark stain and laquer top coat.

Since it was clearly a “primitive” piece when it came to me, I did sand it some, but I actually tried not to remove all the rough spots which give it its character (and someone had tried to cover with paint).

-- Paul, Kentucky

6 comments so far

View Roz's profile


1707 posts in 4266 days

#1 posted 06-17-2008 10:10 PM

Very nice save Paul. It looks like air dried Walnut from the pictures. Do Hackberry and Elm grow in that part of the country? The Hackberry is very soft and once stained will not release all of the die when stripped. The grain of those woods can resemble Walnut and it is soft. All are woods that would have been plentiful many years ago if grown in your area. Great find and a very interesting piece. Thanks for posting.

-- Terry Roswell, L.A. (Lower Alabama) "Life is what happens to you when you are making other plans."

View Paul's profile


660 posts in 4572 days

#2 posted 06-17-2008 10:14 PM

Terry -

It seemed softer than Walnut and I had never seen Walnut with this bright of a reddish hue. I’ve never worked with Elm but I always understood it to be dense and difficult. I want to say I’ve seen Hackberrys around but not Elm. Does Hackberry have a reddish hue? I’ll research Hackberry. Maybe?

-- Paul, Kentucky

View CharlieM1958's profile


16283 posts in 4698 days

#3 posted 06-17-2008 10:45 PM

Really interesting piece. Like you said, it would be great if it could tell its story.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 4385 days

#4 posted 06-18-2008 03:56 AM

Not hackberry, looks like Spanish cedar to me ?

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14181 posts in 4462 days

#5 posted 06-18-2008 04:47 AM

looks South American


-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Paul's profile


660 posts in 4572 days

#6 posted 06-18-2008 05:09 AM

hmmmm, I hadn’t considered the possibility of an old “south of the border” hand tooled import. It does have that feel. I looked up spanish cedar and “could be” but if so, it’s lost the aromatic quality of the wood

-- Paul, Kentucky

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