How to Refinish an Antique-Also, Before and Afters!

I introduced this piece in my 'Great Finds' post last week. This display case/curio cabinet was exactly what I had been looking for for my dining room. Looking around town at different furniture stores, consignment shops and antique stores, the average price of their pieces were about $500. So when I got this for $150, I thought I had hit the lottery. Upon closer inspection, it quickly became obvious that this piece was being held together by a lick and a promise...and in need of some serious love.

Someone along the way got happy with the clear silicone and foaming Gorilla Glue. The glass was as thin as it comes and only had one piece of trim on each piece holding it in (and about a half of tube of silicone). The joints of the cabinet were filled with the glue.

These are the supplies I used:

I started by inspecting everything and then began taking the glass out. I removed the trim with a flat head screw driver, then used the screw driver to gently scrape the silicone away from the glass. I'm not exactly the most diligent when it comes to wearing protective masks and glasses, but I did wear my glasses for this. You never know what will happen with old glass, and my face was right up in it. I used the Goof Off on all of the places that had silicone and glue, then scraped, dug out, wiped and sanded until it was smooth.

*Warning: Goof Off will remove your varnish. If you're going to re-poly or wax, don't worry about it too much.

                                                              Big chunk of silicone.

I also filled what needed wood filler or wood glue.

And then I brought out the big gun for reinforcement.

And let's play 'Where did I set that razor down?'

After I got a band aid, I sanded the whole cabinet lightly with 300 grit. I wanted to keep the dark patina and also the honey colors running through it. After sanding, I used the Goof Off and rubbed the entire cabinet. I was basically just removing the varnish. When you do this, stain will take in most places, but still leave any of the old color, and will blend beautifully. I used the Minwax stain in Espresso. I went lightly over the honey color and thicker where I got down to bare wood. When I got to the dark patina, I just rubbed it in lightly.

If you're like me, life has happened and you've already broken a couple of pieces of the original glass, and need to find a place that makes it. I called a local glass company, and to replace all of it was only $55. When dealing with older pieces, it's best just to go ahead and replace the thin, fragile glass with new anyway. I don't have young children in my home but I have friends that do...and they like to mess with my stuff. I ordered the 1/8" glass, so it should be a lot more sturdy.

**When measuring for the glass, you want to make sure the trim is out so you can get the measurement all the way across and into the groove. If the trim is in, your glass will be too short. In some cases you can just measure the glass that came out, but mine was kind of floating around in there, and didn't look like it was fitting right...I guess that's why it was full of silicone.

When everything was dry, my husband brought to its final resting place, and then I assembled the glass. This is also when I waxed it.

And, if you're like me, you've already broken one of your new pieces of glass, and have to call the glass company again to beg for a piece made that instant. Thank you Waco Glass and Mirror for your patience and efficiency! One more trip to the other side of town, and here she is!

She still has a little bit of a broken foot on the left, but I think I have something I can chop off and put there eventually. I wanted to hurry and finish this post, because tomorrow I will become the one-handed blogger. I have to have wrist surgery so I will be out of commission on doing any projects in live time, but I have plenty that I can share as I'm recuperating.

And here's a few before and afters. More will be ready in the next couple of weeks.

This is an old cedar trunk my neighbor gave me. My husband retired from the Air Force, so when I did his man room, I wanted something that looked like an old Air Force trunk to store his treasures in. He got this room for his Birthday, and I will share the whole thing in a future post.

I made this dragonfly out of fan blades and a table leg for a little girl at Christmas. Something I saw on Pinterest awhile back. She loved it.

The same family got this toy box I made from scraps found at the ReStore. I shared this in the post about the ReStore, but I'm just so darn proud of how it turned out. And again, it was inspired by the one +Traci BeneathMyHeart did for her boys.

 These little lamp tables I found at my favorite thrift shop:

And this next is probably my most favorite piece I've done. I put it on Etsy, and my sister frantically texted me saying that she thought I was making it for me and not for sale...and it was hers! At least I know it's going to someone who loves it almost as much as I do.

The knobs on it are the ones I featured in the ReStore post as well. They are salvaged from different jobs around town, and I just kept collecting until I came up with something I could put together.

And here's a sneak peek at an upcoming before and after:

Hope y'all enjoyed today's post. I know I'm enjoying my new display case! Y'all come back soon!



  1. for the life of me, i can't understand why you don't have your own tv show to help the masses!

    1. Lol. I think there are more deserving folk here in blog-land. People can do some amazing things. Love ya for sayin' so girl!

  2. What a gorgeous display cabinet for your tea pot collection! It turned out so well. And you have a great talent for finding diamonds in the rough- you could make a post for each one of these before and afters they are so amazing. Love it!

    1. Thank you so much, Alison! Your house is coming along quite amazingly, as well. I love your new table transformation. And for anyone reading this, click on Alison's name to be taken to her blog, Thistle and Plum. Follow along with the saga of puppy Paige and lots of other great stuff! :)

  3. Hello...I am massively late to this post, but I wondered whether you had any tips on getting wood filler to accept stain? Did you use something darker for that part?

    1. Hi Ginger! In this attached post, I cover how I worked with wood filler and stain. Some people say the more you sand it with finer and finer grit, the easier it will accept stain. I haven't had much luck with that as of yet, so I just dab darker in those areas. You will get a sludge on the bottom of the stain can that's good to use, or put some on the lid and let it get tacky. I hope this helps! http://www.secondwindoftexas.com/2013/05/how-to-replace-brokenchipped-veneer.html

    2. Thanks so much for your response! I'll give that a try.


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