Thursday, December 03, 2015

The Dish cabinet.

One of the things that I like to do is to restore furniture.  Specifically furniture that I will use and that has belonged to someone else in the family.  I've done a dresser, a library table, the Hoosier, and others that aren't coming to mind right now.  This most recent project is exactly like all the rest, it was a piece of furniture that belonged to the family.  I really thought I'd taken a picture of it "before", but I can't find it now.  Maybe I never did take that picture, but always thought I should take it.  That would be completely in character!

Sitting in the garage, ready for its new home!
 This cabinet belonged to Grandma and Grandad Woodruff.  Before the tornado, it sat in the kitchen, right inside the kitchen door, to the right hand side.  It's a solid black walnut cabinet, probably homemade.  There aren't any shippers marks or makers marks anywhere on the piece.  Grandma didn't have a "modern" kitchen, she had this cabinet and the Hoosier and I think the sink had a few cabinets under it.  This cabinet was the home of her dishes.  Silverware went in the drawers.  Under the drawers, she kept those dishes she didn't need as often. Boxes of cereal were kept on top. On the south end of the cabinet (or left side as you look at it), they kept a wire hanger that had been un-twisted.  Then they'd stick all their receipts on that wire.  Sometimes, it was behind the cabinet, but later in the year, it would stick out to the side.

After the tornado, Grandma and Grandad moved to town and left this cabinet in the basement. (Which was covered by a metal roof to protect everything they left at the farm.)  About 3 years ago, I finally convinced Kevin to bring this cabinet home for us to restore.  It sat in the garage until this October when we finally decided to get it restored and to give it to Andy.   So, we washed it and assessed its condition.

We knew there was some termite damage.  Everything stored in the basement suffered in varying degrees with terminate damage.  (The termites were discovered and eradicated during the 80's, after Grandad died.)  So, Kevin looked at the cabinet to decide what he would have to do.  I thought all the termite tracks could simply be filled in with wood putty, but Kev disagreed.  He took the back off, which was a walnut tongue and groove.  It was so brittle that it splintered when he tried to remove it.

One of the shelves was too far gone, so Kev pulled it out and replaced it.  Fortunately, he had an old piece of wood that was exactly the right dimensions.  One other shelf he could simply fill in the few tracks with putty.  One front edge, we just sanded the remaining tracks down until they were stable and left it.  One of the lower cabinet shelves had a knot hole about 3 inches in diameter.  The knot had long ago disappeared.  We left the hole.  We also left the spot where mice had chewed into the bottom corner.  There were huge gouges in the top.  Several deep dings in the sides  One of the sides still showed the saw marks. We left it all for character, and because, well, it is an old, beat up cabinet. It had survived at least 7 children and 20 some grandchildren and a tornado.  It's old and it's a survivor.  We wanted those scars to be a part of its story.

We bought some new tongue and groove car siding and replaced the back with new wood.  The top of the cabinet wasn't centered.  One edge was flush with the side of the cabinet, so we pulled it off and centered it.  We had to replace one of the pieces of glass.  All the hardware was sanded to remove rust, but we didn't remove it from the piece because we were afraid of losing screws or stripping them out and we wanted to retain the original as much as possible.

We wanted to keep the character, but we just didn't think staining and refinishing was the answer.  So, I convinced Kev to let me paint it with chalk paint.
 I'd been wanting to use chalk paint on something, and this became my first project.  Andy wanted it to be black.  I chose Rustoleum new line of chalk paint. The inside is painted in Aged Grey and the outside is called Charcoal.  I wasn't sure how we were going to like it once I had it painted, but then I sanded it and distressed it a bit.  And once we got the top coat on, I really quite liked it.  It looks old and rustic, and yet the paint gives it new life.
We took it over to Andy on Thanksgiving day.  My folks helped us deliver and set it up.  Dad thinks his grandad, (Harvey Woodruff) made it for his Grandma.  I wouldn't be surprised.  It had been built using square nails, finish nails,  and 16 penny nails--in other words, whatever was handy and available.  It had been varnished, or waxed, and stained, but not touched in a very long time, so not much of the original finish was left.  I'm not sure if the latch on the bottom doors is original, as there were tiny nail holes right above this latch that looked like it was for a latch.  But, then again, maybe he started to put the latch there and realized it wasn't centered, so moved it down.

I sure wish someone was around who knew the origins of this piece just so I would know and could pass that history on down with it.  It doesn't really matter though.  I'm  very happy we could save it.  I'm even more happy that one of my kids wanted it.  That Andy wanted this part of his roots means a great deal to me.  He never knew my grandparents.  He never knew the farm as it was when they lived there, and yet he wanted a piece of them.  Hopefully, this piece of them will live on for a very long time.