Let me take you back to high school.
Remember that first day of a new class, looking around the room, scoping out your classmates? Who might be your friend? Who is going to be a troublemaker? And where is the – oh, there he is…
The hot guy.
Perfect hair. Great smile. Gorgeous eyes. At first glance, he is your dream guy.
And then you get to know him a bit and you realize that attractiveness stops as soon as he opens his mouth?
Yeah, that is this cabinet.
And what’s so funny and true about this analogy is that I was so busy making heart-eyes over this cabinet that I didn’t even notice! My mom pointed it out to me, though, as mothers do. (With boys and furniture.)
She was sitting in a chair next to it on Friday and said, “Eeeew, this cabinet really needs to be cleaned”
“Oh, I know. Can you just run the vacuum inside?”
She got the vacuum out and started to work on it. “Marian, the vacuum just isn’t going to cut it. I think we need to wipe it down. And what is all of this stuff nailed into the back?”
I had even styled the piece quickly to photograph it and had noticed it was a little dirty, but I hadn’t noticed that there were massive, thick cobwebs (containing what I’m sure were small animals) hanging off the bottom of each shelf. I also hadn’t noticed that it was so caked with grease and dirt that you couldn’t even see the wood.
And I had only noticed “a few nails” in the back, not dozens of nails and other random bits, like a wooden spool-looking-thing with crusted rubber rings hanging around it. I didn’t even want to touch that thing!
My love for this cabinet was still holding firm, but I realized that I was blinded by that love and didn’t notice how much work this “perfect cabinet” was going to be. I also realized that this was way too much to dump on my mom, so I jumped in and we worked on it together.
I started by removing superfluous nails. It’s pretty amazing that I could remove over 20 nails from a cabinet and it was still able to stand upright.
I will have to shore up a few places, but there were nails that were clearly intended to hold the back together or the top in place, but they weren’t driven into anything. They just went through, their pointy ends sticking out, making me glad my tetanus shot is up to date.
Then, we scrubbed…
…and scrubbed, and wiped, and scrubbed again, and vacuumed, and wiped, and scrubbed. (We used Dawn in the soapy water and sprayed 409 directly on the cabinet, both to cut the grease.) We had to change out our bin of water at least eight times, because it would just turn black as soon as the scrub brush made contact. At one point, I was certain we would have to hose it down. It was one of the dirtiest pieces I’ve had to clean and that’s saying a lot given that I have cleaned out a chicken incubator, among other things.
But, we started making some progress. You could see the beautiful patina of the wood revealed under the layers of grease and dirt and the top of each shelf was no longer netted with spider’s eggs and webs.
I did have to shutter and shimmy a few times as my forearm would knock into a shelf and stuff would fall down on me, but we got it all cleaned by the end of the day. Well, relatively clean. It’s not clean compared to a hospital operating room, but it’s clean compared to what it was.
The next thing I needed to “fix” were the spots of spray paint (purple and orange) that were on the insides of both doors. I stirred up a custom mix of MMS Milk Paint in Shutter Gray and Trophy. I don’t have an exact ratio, but I had to keep adding one or the other until I got the color right. I didn’t want to lose the wear on the original paint, so I brushed it on very lightly, just enough to make the color uniform. I sort of “feathered” the new paint into the old. This process always looks ugly at first, but it blends a little bit better once distressed.
And I used full coverage over the spray paint, since I didn’t want those spots to be visible.
Once the paint was dry, I rubbed over the surface with 60 grit paper to pull off some of the new paint, blending it in with the old.
And then, we applied Tough Coat to the entire thing. Inside and out! It really needed to be sealed, so it could actually be used.
And, I have a new helper for a few days, Emily, and she was a Tough-Coat-ing champ today.
And now it looks sooooo much better. I mean, it was a looker before, but now it’s beautiful at first glance and upon closer inspection.
Now you can actually see and appreciate the gorgeous patina on that old wood, too.
And you don’t get the heebie-jeebies when you peek inside.
I’m also pleased with how well the interior of the cabinet doors match the exterior paint color. I really don’t think people will know unless they read this blog post.
Since I do have an extra set of hands in the studio, we’re making a big push to get a lot of things painted and finished this week.
More to come…
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