Our patient before surgery.

A couple weeks ago, I started on the restoration of the antique washstand pictured to the right. It was made from walnut and had one heck of a walnut slab for the top. It also had amazing doors and with the oval frames, it really gave it a very interesting look. Through the years, both the top and the doors had seen a fair share of repairs, not all that were showing real well.  The first step was to get the doors cleaned up and restored to as close as original. The old H hinges were not period correct for the washstand doors so they would not be used in the restoration. At some point in the life of the washstand, the H hinges had replaced the original hinges as the wood that had been holding the original hinges had seen it’s day. Those areas had been filled with some kind of filler or putty, but it was not strong enough to hold the screws for the original hinges. To rectify the problem, I removed all of the old wood putty, and with the wood chisels, I cut an area for new pieces of walnut. Once these repairs were made, the door frames were reassembled.

Next up was the finish. Besides some blue paint that had made it onto the washstand, it had been refinished with a stain that left the walnut with a bit of an orange tone. Although it may not be necessary to strip a piece of furniture in its entirety every time, I decided to not debate with the past stain color, so I reached for a bottle of my trusty soy bean gel (non toxic environmentally friendly stripper) and began the process of getting the color off. To my surprise, I found the walnut under the orange toned stain to be real dark and rich in color.

During the stripping process, I decided to also tackle the inside of the washstand, and with some warm water mixed with a wood bleaching agent, I removed all of the old grime. I went pretty easy with the bleaching agent as the washstand had the word “Granville” stenciled on the inside back wall so I did not want to loose that piece of history.

Oh the top of this washstand! If you have an old piece of furniture, with a solid and I mean one big board of original old growth walnut, do not drive a nail through it to help hold it in place. Wood this size needs to be able to move a bit. I very carefully removed the top and all of the finish nails. I used a color match wood filler to fill the nail holes and to help color in and stabilize the one long crack. The top has an amazing grain and to re-attach it to the washstand, I opted to use tabletop fasteners. The sides of the washstand were nice and thick and the tabletop fasters worked great in this application.

Now I needed to tackle the broken side leg. With the washstand on its side, I cut the damaged edge of the leg off. This left me with a nice flat surface to work from. Using the other good leg as a pattern, I duplicated a replacement walnut leg. I use a Festool Carvex Jig Saw and it is a lifesaver with this type of repair. To help stabilize and join the new leg, I used a biscuit cutter and aligned the new leg with a biscuit and re-glued the leg in place.

The original drawer had an individual batten board bottom and the prognosis on them was not good. Since the washstand was going to be an everyday piece, I opted to replace the drawer bottom with a piece of euro birch plywood. What an improvement this was, especially with a coat of high performance satin finish. However, work was not done on the drawer yet. The washstand had wood drawer slides and over the course of time, those rails had worked loose from the cabinet body and had worn down about 3/16” of an inch on each side. This caused the drawer to drop in the front drawer opening. In order to save the original runners, I screwed the runners back in place and then added a piece of maple to the top of the runners. I tapered the front of them and to reduce the friction of wood moving on wood, I then rubbed them down with some wax.


The patient after surgery

With repairs made, the entire washstand was ready for stain and topcoat. The color selected was Brown Mahogany by General Finishes. On this old walnut, it gave it a very rich look. This color was then top coated with General Finishes High Performance in Satin. With the new Antique Brass details and the white washstand knobs, this piece is a knockout. It is always nice to see the before and after photos to help visualize how far we have come with a project like this. This washstand is now heading home, but with the invention of indoor plumbing, you will not find a chamber pot behind those two beautiful doors.

Need help with a project at your house, or want to tackle a repair or restoration and do not know where to begin, then drop me a line at popsrestorations@gmail.com and be sure to follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/popsrestorations