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Hey! last time, I wrote about about our little run with restoring everything in sight. It started with a cash register, and then evolved to a beautiful old handcrafted sideboard that was donated by a local family. Also, last time, I said that I would chronicle the process of restoring the piece. So here it is!!!



Ahhhh….the excitement of day one…a little bit nervous, a little bit psyched…this is the first time I have done something to this scale, let alone stripping off an altered paint from an 81 year old piece of furniture while trying to maintain as much of the original finish as humanly possible. Because, apparently, to remove chalk paint in any form of orderly fashion, you need to have superpowers akin to, yet more refined than, Superman himself.

Especially green chalk paint on pine.

The day started not too badly, some of the edges were actually rounded, and the one nice thing I do have to say about chalk paint, is that due to its, well…chalkiness, if it is applied to a smooth surface, it actually scrapes/chips off quite easily while still semi protecting whatever it is on. So if nothing else on this thing can be maintained, at least there will be a couple of edges that are.

First off, I set to work on the drawer; not a bad place to try out my hand in the world of paint stripping!

1st thing learned: Circa 1850 looks like snot. I’m very serious.

 [Note the straight face.]

But it works SO WELL!!!

2nd thing learned: They have a few varieties, and the ones I am using have virtually NO SMELL!!!!

3rd thing learned: You absolutely can NOT be stingy with this stuff. You MUST slather it on like a butter on corncobs at a hillbilly convention.

4th thing I learned: If the paint is relatively new, you do not need to wait a full 5 minutes, I mean it doesn’t hurt; but a solid minute to two minutes (on chalk paint at least) will still work nicely.

The result:


As you can see, there is still a bit of chalk paint remaining. {I was still learning about the not being stingey part there.}


After some time and patients and very awkward positions that could rival the pretzel puzzle of the ‘The Great Extrication Day’ last year doing my course, paint was mostly removed from the legs, and most of the one side using the stripper and a scraper.



Still quite excited, having just slightly more of a game plan to wrangle the snot like goop known as paint stripper, and still motivated to see even more of the beautiful cabinet revealed.

Music turned up?




Gloves & Safety Glasses?

check check.




First order of business: Make the sides even.


Now that that mild OCD has been satisfied, I could get to attempting to remedy these doors…

Pulling them off was not actually as easy as I had hoped. 81 year old screws are not always the most co-operative sort…and then there are the screws that turned out to not be screws…


click on the picture so you can see whats laying in the groove between my index and middle finger…

Thats right. It’s a nail. A nail that is almost 2″ long!! it was one of the pieces holding the door onto the hinge instead of a screw, and holding the hinge to the cabinet is ALL these nails!!

I have absolutely no idea how I am going to get these little toots out without damaging everything, because once I get the paint off I am going to re-use them. So damage is not an option. I repeat…NOT AN OPTION!!!

I suppose its going to take lots of patients, and perhaps a small crowbar with a nail puller… :/ Believe it or not though, that isn’t exactly the most complicated part. The hinges themselves have also been painted, and the paint has gotten into the joint of the hinge, so it is quite stiff.


I do believe there will be some soaking of these parts in the near future…well, as near as I can figure out how the heck to get some of these stubborn nails out and screws to let go without wrecking them so I can soak them and scrub them and oil them back up again.



Lori, our maintenance lady, is quite the handy woman to have around. After two days of scraping and cursing away and trying desperately to not gouge the wood, Lori comes along with a wonderful little trick.

Dish Scrubbies, stiff paintbrushes, and rags!!


To prevent yourself from pulling your hair out, (or whatever it is that you do if you don’t have hair) then this is the most wonderful magic I have ever witnessed.

No, actually, that’s a lie; it’s not, but it is pretty fantastic in it’s own right.

For very thick paint, thanks to Lori’s insight, by Day three I have learned that removing the majority gently with the scraper first, then applying a second coat to the remaining smallish patches with the paintbrush, and scrubbying them off with the dish scrubbies, and then a final thin application & wipedown with a rag to get the last residue off works absolute wonders!

Yes, it does take a bit longer, but as far as being gentle on the wood, wowzers. Definitely a great system as far as I am concerned.


just a little closer look at the finish before the final wipe off


See?! you can kinda see cabinet again!!

Getting these hinges off is proving to be a much more difficult undertaking than I had originally anticipated. The wood fibers have a LOT more give than I had hoped, which means to pry up the hinges enough to get a grip on the nails, it will be too damaging to the wood 🙁 so just lots of thinner and scrubbing and wiping.

Picture3   Picture5


Picture6 This is the view I came out of the workshop to. The one thing about being up on a bench overlooking the flats is we get to watch the very dramatic storms roll in <3



Got a solid 30 minutes worth of wiping the cabinet down before visitors started coming in. Not exactly how I had planned for my afternoon to go, but hey! That’s life in a museum when you have an involved project! haha…on the plus side though, I did discover coconut milk peppermint fogs…

(they are delightful.)




Day 5…not terribly much in regards to excitement. Had to buy some more paint stripper, but the store didn’t have the same type of Circa 1850 that I had been using. So, in order to stick with the low odor formula, it ended up having to be an environmentally friendly (since it works a bit better when it can stay semi-warm, I can’t always open the garage door to vent the workspace).

Now, don’t get me wrong! A bio-degradable, environmentally friendly paint stripper is great! But, I can’t say I am as thrilled with it’s performance as the other one. Partly because for some of this project, if you have read anything about ‘shabby-chic’ chalk painting, you do the chalk paint, and then you ‘antique’ it with a darker wax type paint. This stuff has a really hard time getting through that coat, it basically beads off; which, well, kinda defeats the purpose. But, if you are using it for that final clean up layer, I can’t say it’s too shabby! works not too bad with the scrubbies, but you REALLY have to let this one sit.


which, well, I’m a big girl, I can own up to it.

Patience is not historically my strong point.

Patience and self control when it comes to eating the chocolate sitting in front of me.

{i’m not sorry about that though.}



I took a little longer this day, and actually documented what I was doing a little more. And also really started working on that whole patience thing…mostly by distracting myself by any means possible! But it certainly helped that it was a HOT day and I could open up the workshop door and work out in the sunshine a little bit.



Here we go, little more detail of the goings on.

Started in on the doors a little more, they are quite attached to this paint, which doesn’t make me entirely giddy. But one side actually scraped off quite nicely without stripper.


My impromptu-workbench


Look at the colour hiding underneath all that paint!!! Once again, the nice thing about the finished sides is that the paint doesn’t have a terrible lot to hang onto. The other side is a whole ‘nother story all together! Remember how I was talking about having to remove layers at a time? Apply, let sit, scrape, apply, wait, scrubby, wipe……

ya…a lot of those steps, and it will still have to be sanded to get the green out.

So while the backside of the doors were soaking, I went and worked on some of the sides and the smaller detail spaces. I’m waiting to do the ‘counter’ space on this one because I want the paint to protect it as much as possible.

So after a very heavy application of stripper & allowing to sit for some time, here is what the first layer of scraping looks like.


One thing I learned to keep in mind, is no matter the size, ALWAYS go with the grain of the wood. Always.

Re-apply, let sit, and scrubby. (see the scrubby below). Little bit of compare and contrast between the scrubbied on the left, and just scraped on the right.


The scrubby does have it’s restrictions, it can’t really get into the corners suuuuper well, but more or less it gets the job done! You can always go in with a scraper or a blade later and take out the corner stuff.


Looking much cleaner I think!



WOO-HOO!!! So, great big giant brow sweat wipe here… I have been procrastinating on taking the paint off the inside of the shelves at the top, because there are some crazy awkward spaces. So, last Saturday before I left for the weekend, I thought I would slather it with the paint thinner and let it sit over the three days off, just so that it had ample time to break it down.  When I came back and tried scraping on Wednesday, it super didn’t work. at all. I was mortified. And as much as I wanted to get SOOO mad!, figured what the heck, maybe it just dried out a little bit. So re-slathered to deal with it the next day.

What do you know…that was just the ticket!

Long curls of paint just scraped off like nothin! It was GLORIOUS!!!! Because if anything was going to complicate this project, it was going to be this step, which I was not looking forward to in the least. Granted, it did work in chunks, there were still spots quite difficult to tackle, but you get off what will come off, then you re-apply, let sit for a while, then take off what has loosened…and repeat.


THING I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT ENVIRO-FRIENDLY CIRCA 1850: If you are looking for something that works in a time-efficient manner, this is NOT your product. If you are willing to work in a cumulative fashion, and wait overnight, this stuff works surprisingly well!!

So this makes me incredibly super happy because there is another shelf almost identical just below it! I am also hoping to introduce a small dremmel tool later to clean out all the nooks and crannies that are driving me so nuts, because multiple attempts with the stripper and scraper have failed miserably.  Like, think of the most hyped up battle in history that actually turned out to be complete and utter gong-show and flopped completely. That is what it is like trying to clean out these nooks with snot like paint stripper.




Later that day…


Well, after that fabulous morning of playing in cement, it was time to head into the workshop and resume working away at the lower shelf and the doors.

After learning about the whole overnight deal, yesterday I gave it a good solid coat to start it eating away at the chalkpaint, so that I could layer some more on today and let it re-establish itself while I worked on cleaning up the rest of the top shelf.

Picture2 Picture1

(you can see where it was a little trickier, had to do lots of applying, let sit, scrape, scrubby, apply, etc. But you can see the actual wood that was under the paint on one shelf now!!!)

So after my acquired foresight… wha’dya know…


(k, the chalk paint on the back and sides, the top stuff curled off like something out of a dream…)

I don’t know what it was; whether it was just the ratio of chalk to paint, or what, but even after a soak approaching a solid 24 hrs, it still barely budged!!

Talk about flabbergasted! I mean, jeez…

So unfortunately that put most of a days work on the back burner, I re-applied and let it sit for another couple hours. This still did not work wonderfully, so more paint and wait for the next day at the risk of scraping and gouging the wood.



PROGRESS WAS MADE!!! Not like, moving mountains or anything, but I guess contextually it was a pretty decent victory!


Larger chunks of paint began to come off with discernibly less effort on my behalf, making me very happy! especially after all that back and forth. There was still a bit left after DAY 8, so I re-applied and let it soak over my 3 days off, and coming back today the remainder of the paint came off B-E-A-U-TIFULLY!!!

There was barely any fighting at all. Which, you know, is a pretty new thing for this project. Because this chalk paint has had absolutely no intention of giving up easily. But then, honestly, it wouldn’t be a challenge, and well…that’s no fun! Haha!

Actually, this last little bit though, took practically no time at all!

A little scraping, a little scrubbying…and VOILA!!


I can’t even begin to tell you how good it feels to have the thick paint off the body and {most} of the doors of this thing…

As you can see, there are still stains, like on the inside where the doors rest, and if you look in the joints and pits there is still paint that has yet to be removed, but that is where the sandpaper and little Dremmel tool are going to come in, especially on the doors. This paint stripper seems to have a moisturizing/conditioning property to it, so you can see roughly the colour it is going to end up after it is sanded and oiled, remember the colour it was first?

IMG_2719 (1) Just a little darker from age.

I love the rich colour it is turning out to be though, it almost has an auburn tinge to it.




Oh how I love that little darling…what a life saver! It felt rather unfortunate that I had to resort to this power tool in order to get the paint out of a lot of the cracks and crevasses, I would of much rather been able to scrape them or use an exacto knife or something to remove it, but alas; as in many projects flexibility is key! This was actually an extremely lucky break for me, because I was having a bit of a time scrounging one up, but my Grandpa kept one in his shop for working on his model train before he died, and it had a ton of bits and attachments, INCLUDING some very wonderful precision bits with wonderful burrs on the end to do just exactly the corner cleaning duties I needed them to do! (did I tell you that he used to be a board member and volunteered here a lot and coming with him is actually what started my path here? so in a funny round-about way I suppose he is helping me with this project!)


Its a good thing he won’t be needing it anymore though, because for as much as I took off before with the stripper, it still destroyed a couple sanding bits… good mercy that paint is ruthless!!…and I still have those ridiculous doors that JUST WON’T GIVE UP!!! The paint has completely stained the pine, so I think I am going to have to break down again and use the mouse sander to get that green gone!! It worked on the inside edges of the lower part of the cabinet where the doors rest, so I’m thinking it should work for them too.



Man I feel absolutely horrible because I haven’t had an opportunity to touch that poor cabinet in weeks!! What with getting this years students all in place, school groups requesting custom activities…AHHH!!

But, before all this occurred, I did make some significant headway on that little beauty. Got as much as was going to be got with the dremmel tool, aaaaannnndddd even got THE FIRST COAT OF OIL ON IT!!! YES!!! AND IT LOOKS GORGEOUS!! (so far, still some sanding and another application, then sealing with beeswax) to go, and if I can get away with it, I would like to sand it and apply the next coat this week since things have settled in. The homestead is just waiting on that and one of the cupboards in the old homestead. Then we are rolling! WOOHOO!!


Ok. I admit it.

I am completely inadequate at blogging. 

but I am definitely adequate at refinishing furniture.

I have now been working on this post for the entire summer. THE. ENTIRE. SUMMER.

And it is now…the first week in August.

But guess what?

The cabinet is sitting comfortably in in it’s new home, beautifully oiled. And let me tell you, it breathes life into that entire space.

It had a life, with it’s family. It told a story, and it held memories to them. And then life happened, and it was no longer with it’s family. It was bought, and painted, and to some, it simply became an object with a cold, monetary value. But no longer. No longer is it a piece of wood with a monetary value. It is a representation of that very family it came from. It stands in a building that tells the story about the life of those who came, and struggled, and worked, and failed, and then succeeded. Those who were industrious. Those who were self taught. Those who thrived.

It now stands to tell this story.



I would like to extend an extremely special thanks to the Arrowsmith family for bringing this fabulous piece to us to share their families story with the public.