The 100 year old Kitchen Cabinet

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Project by Don "Dances with Wood" Butler posted 03-02-2009 05:41 PM 6670 views 2 times favorited 26 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Either Sears, Roebuck & Co. or Montgomery Ward had this piece built in South Bend, IN just after the turn of the 20th century. The page shown in the Sears catalog is from the 1904 edition. I believe this is the Motgomery Ward cabinet.
The cabinet was seriously abused by all the former owners and was heavily coated with nine coats of badly applied paint of various colors. I gather the first finish was a thinly applied, colored varnish over the maple/poplar wood used to make it. The joinery was decently done but no glue or screws were used, not even where dowels were used and the joints at the corners and dado joints were NAILED! Seriously!
Much of the wood was worn out, especially the drawer sides where they slid against the cabinetry. Some parts had to be replaced with carefully copied woodwork.
The original work top was gone. In its place was poplar planks nailed onto the casework and covered with old, oil based linoleum.
Since my wife wanted a French Country theme in the kitchen, and since the woodwork in the cabinet was so dinged and dented, we painted it a buttery yellow with an antique looking blue trim. I added some scrollwork fancies on the sides of the topper because I felt it was too plain.
The ugly work top replacement was tossed out and a beautiful, custom made piece of granite was used instead.
One of the legs was unusable and a new one was made and then new ends were made for all four of them. They were designed to fit plastic low friction slider pads and made wider to spread the, now heavier, weight of the unit.
New die cast, nickle plated hinges were installed on the doors.
Low profile electrical receptacles were installed in the back panel.
It took most of a Summer and Autumn to do the work.
I’m happy with it and, most importantly, She Who Buys Me Tools is pleased.

-- Will trade wife's yarn for wood.

26 comments so far

View jeh412's profile


129 posts in 2379 days

#1 posted 03-02-2009 05:54 PM

Beautiful cabinet! I’ll bet that looks fantastic in your kitchen.

There was a similar cabinet in my parent’s basement when I was growing up, and it hadn’t been terribly abused. Unfortunately, the basement got five feet of water from Hurricane Agnes in the early 1970s and the cabinet just crumbled. The only thing that we salvaged from the basement was a six-foot-long wood chest that had been in my grandparent’s kitchen when my father was growing up. The lids show the wear of children’s butts since dad and his brothers used it as their seats at the table. That chest is now in my dining room.

-- John, co-owner Sawdust 'n Stitches

View BigFoot Products Canada's profile

BigFoot Products Canada

655 posts in 2397 days

#2 posted 03-02-2009 07:14 PM

That my friend is STUNNING! My wife also likes that type of thing. I’m no letting her see this.:)

View WoodSpanker's profile


519 posts in 2396 days

#3 posted 03-02-2009 08:36 PM

wow, heck of a restoration! :)

-- Adventure? Heh! Excitement? Heh! A Woodworker craves not these things!

View prez's profile


375 posts in 2415 days

#4 posted 03-03-2009 12:09 AM

if she’s happy….all LJ’s are happy! :)

-- George..." I love the smell of a workshop in the morning!"

View CodyC's profile


39 posts in 2433 days

#5 posted 03-03-2009 12:25 AM

Wow, I bet it’s worth more than the $8.95 price in the catalog! Do you have any pictures from before the restoration?

-- Cody Crisp

View clieb91's profile


3396 posts in 2939 days

#6 posted 03-03-2009 03:03 AM

Very nice restoration.

Welcome to LJs.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View Don "Dances with Wood" Butler's profile

Don "Dances with Wood" Butler

1051 posts in 2399 days

#7 posted 03-03-2009 04:11 PM

I’m embarassed to admit, I didn’t take any “before” photos.

Boy, do I feel stupid!


-- Will trade wife's yarn for wood.

View Woodchuck1957's profile


944 posts in 2768 days

#8 posted 03-03-2009 05:05 PM

From the advertisement ad it looks like it was quartersawn oak.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 3165 days

#9 posted 03-03-2009 05:20 PM

oh to have this in my kitchen!!!!!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Woodchuck1957's profile


944 posts in 2768 days

#10 posted 03-03-2009 05:34 PM

Ms Deb, I’ve got a oak kitchen Hoosier with flour sifter and frosted pattern glass doors. It needs to be refinished, but the good part is that it was never painted. Someday I need to either refinish it or sell it, it’s been sitting in the basement for 20 years. I have another one that is oak and was painted and not quite as nice that I refinished back down to the bare wood, stained, and finished about 15 years ago, that sits in the kitchen now. I guess the reason I never got around to refinishing the other one is I want to do it when I feel comfortable enough to do it without damageing the frosted glass. I have refinished alot of old furniture over the years, so it’s not that refinishing is the problem.

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5780 posts in 2589 days

#11 posted 03-03-2009 05:34 PM

you have a kitchen Ms Debbie well I wish I had a kitchen my wife cooks out of an old cardboard box.Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View tinnman65's profile


1235 posts in 2418 days

#12 posted 03-03-2009 05:56 PM

Beautiful work Don, I like the old toaster on the top it fits nicely. Exactly how many tools is a restoration like that worth to the wife?

-- Paul--- Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. — Scott Adams

View Don "Dances with Wood" Butler's profile

Don "Dances with Wood" Butler

1051 posts in 2399 days

#13 posted 03-03-2009 06:08 PM

I know the illustration in the catalog looks like oak, but the actual unit is maple where it shows and poplar inside and underneath.
Refinishing furniture with glass parts shouldn’t be any different from other refinishing projects. Just remove the glass first. Look carefully in the back of the glass where it’s fastened. Variously you may find clips, moldings or whatever that can be gently removed. In the rare case where the glass was glued in with caulk, it needs to be cautiously sliced with a sharp carton knife. Work slowly and be careful. In the event that the glass breaks, a good glass shop will be able to match it with new stuff.
If you can, take a close up photo of the glass where its fastened in and post it here. I think many of us would be able to give some good advice about removing it.
Marge buys me tools all the time. If she bought me another major tool I’d have to sell something to make room for it.
Remember, the Outback has to be garaged EVERY night! ;-)


-- Will trade wife's yarn for wood.

View Woodchuck1957's profile


944 posts in 2768 days

#14 posted 03-03-2009 06:20 PM

The glass is held in with 1/4” oak molding, nailed. I know it’s probably going to be a slow process, but then again maybe not, I don’t know yet. But I do know that the glass would be fairly expensive to replace, there is a pattern that is etched into the glass, and if I can’t get one panel of glass to match perfectly, color also, then I’m pretty much committed to replaceing all 4 panels.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 3165 days

#15 posted 03-03-2009 06:35 PM

Woodchuck.. be still my heart!
I saw a cabinet at an antique store. The wanted $1200 for it.

Scotsman: I count my blessings every day.

This is a cabinet that I do have. It was my parents (when they had only boxes for a kitchen). It’s really “cheap” but it’s family history. It was cut in half at one point and has been in my basement for years. When I started gathering antique items for my kitchen I brought it up from the basement and cleaned it up as best as I could.

If only I had donbee’s skills to rejuvenate it.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

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