This buffet was a real find at a local thrift store for $40! I had in mind that if I could not find a buffet, I would keep my eyes open for a dresser which would nicely double as one. Just think of all the storage space! What luck when I actually found the real deal! It’s exactly what I had been looking for to replace the one I had which was made of a composite material (and cost me a small fortune!). I had longed for a substantial buffet made of real wood – something with unique qualities and good bones. Boy, did I luck out! This piece was as well made on the inside as it was on the outside. It’s original finish was cherry though it was quite scratched up. After all, what did I expect for $40, I told myself as I struggled with the decision about whether or not I should buy it.
I wasn’t sure if I was up for the task of sprucing it up and I certainly had never challenged myself to restore a piece of furniture this large. The mere size of it was intimidating and no, I didn’t have the time! My better judgment influenced me and I actually talked myself out of this big, $40, plus 10% off for Senior Day, purchase and I left the store!
Well, that night I couldn’t get my mind off of the buffet. I stood in my dining room staring at the spot where it would sit. A nagging part of me wondered what my husband, Manuel, would say if I asked him, once again, to take his truck, to pick up this monstrous piece from the thrift store and to bring it home. There it would sit in our garage (the garage that we haven’t been able to park in for two years!) along with the other “projects” on my “to-do” list.
My mind’s eye could not erase the vision of how this buffet might look in that perfect spot! I imagined the order to my life having this big box would bring. A place to put all of my entertaining dishes and accessories. I saw visions of myself, perfectly coiffed and impeccably dressed sitting at the dining room table, an artful display of delectable food lain across the buffet like a Better Homes and Gardens magazine picture. Friends and loved ones would surround me admiring what they might perceive as a life of perfect order. All this for $40, how could I go wrong! With that buffet, I had convinced myself, there was a real possibility for world peace!
I suppose by now it’s fairly obvious which part of my mind won this battle! So here it is, the new project. I promised myself that it would precede all the other projects and well, it almost did. But finally, I can present it to you as proof that any of us can accomplish anything (within reason) that we set our minds to. So here goes – my tutorial about restoring this buffet, and the sense of accomplishment that grew within me during the process. After all is said and done, it’s not really (just) about the buffet!
Using a belt sander, once I began the process of sanding the cherry stain off the top to remove the scratches I decided to sand the entire buffet to remove all the finish. I wanted a more natural color and decided to leave a splotch of roughed up cherry finish here and there to create a distressed look. When sanding off old finish you will want to be careful not to sand the veneer layer off. Another way to do this without sanding is to use a paint or stain remover. There are several methods of stripping furniture.
After completely sanding the old finish off I wiped the buffet with odorless mineral spirits. This alone brought out the beautiful grain of the veneer. Once dry, I used a 220 grit finishing sand paper, wiped with a soft cloth and finished with a tack cloth to remove all dust. I learned that this is a very important step.
Miniwax Wipe On Poly in a clear satin finish was the first step I used to finish the piece and although it was clear satin, it still enriched the grain of the wood. Multiple applications will deepen the color but it’s necessary to allow each coat to dry fully according to the directions and to sand between each coat and wipe thoroughly before applying the next making sure to remove the dust. I didn’t want the color to be as dark as the cherry and I really liked the natural color of the wood veneer.
The buffet looked beautiful with the warm natural grain showing through but it still had a rough, porous wood, feel. I wanted the final result to have the smooth luster of a cabinet finish.
Back to Google!
After researching several sites and learning methods to help me achieve the results I desired I was finally able to get that beautiful, lustrous finish by using Miniwax Polycrylic Protective Finish in clear satin. This is a latex finish and cleans easily with water. Use according to the directions on the label. I used three coats, sanding between each. (This was time-consuming. It took a couple of weekends.) The more coats I used the more durable and glass-like the finish became. It’s Important to let each coat dry completely (at least two hours) and to lightly sand between each coat with 220 grit or something comparable for finishing. Oh, and don’t forget to wipe thoroughly with a tack cloth to avoid dust and debris from being sealed into the finish. Follow the directions on the can to avoid air bubbles in the finish. I found that a synthetic brush and a sponge tip applicator worked best. At one point I could not get rid of the bubbles, but soon realized that I wasn’t sanding well enough between each coat. Once I corrected that, I was able to get a smooth finish without the bubbles. Sanding between each coat is important.
So that’s it! I hope you like the finished product and that my experience might inspire you to face your own similar challenge. The gratification is inexplicable!
Ahhh, so happy! Life is good.
Now, for that dinner party!
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The Finished Product!
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