Restoring a Midcentury Modern Cedar Chest

Several weeks ago I came across a fantastic mid century Lane cedar chest at my local Salvation Army and I had to have it. The finish was a bit beat up, but I loved the overall look. It reminded me of the Heywood Wakefield bedroom set I inherited from my grandmother.

So I took it home to refinish it. Never mind that I have never so much as painted a table or chair.

A little research told me that this chest was manufactured in 1958 and that Lane called this particular finish “blonde mahogany.” Other than that I couldn’t find any information on exactly how I should go about restoring it. I did notice that areas of the chest seemed to have water damage, and that the finish was bubbled in some places.

Original blonde mahogany Lane Cedar chest.

Original blonde mahogany Lane Cedar chest.

You can figure out when a Lane cedar chest was manufactured by reading the serial number (found on the back or bottom) backwards. This chest was manufactured on 10/09/58

You can figure out when a Lane cedar chest was manufactured by reading the serial number (found on the back or bottom) backwards. This chest was manufactured on 10/09/58

My first step was to carefully sand a small area. Luckily my dad (an expert woodworker) was there to tell me the chest was covered in a thin mahogany veneer.

Mahogany veneer revealed!

Mahogany veneer revealed!

He suggested I sand it with 220 grain paper, then follow up with a gentle stripper. The veneer is very thin, and very easy to sand through, so I carefully took off the top layer of lacquer with the sandpaper. I then followed up with Klean Strip After Wash and rubbed the whole chest down with fine grain steel wool. This was a long process, but it was worth being careful to preserve the veneer. I used a second coat of after wash and an old cloth diaper (I love cloth diapers for rags!) to strip off the remaining finish. Finally, I cleaned the wood with mineral oil. I think it went pretty well for my first time stripping furniture, but seasoned crafters, tell me, what would you have done differently?

The beautiful mahogany grain is slightly damaged from water and has several deep scratches and dents. I need to cover them up somehow in the final product!

The beautiful mahogany grain is slightly damaged from water and has several deep scratches and dents. I need to cover them up somehow in the final product!

Stripped clean!

Stripped clean!

Now comes the fun part- creating a new look for this classic piece!  The problem is, I can’t decide what to do with it. I’d love to try two tones of stain (like this beautiful piece  I found for sale on etsy) but I’m afraid my sanding is not perfect, and the uneven surface may result in a splotchy looking stain. Paint might make it more colorful and unique, but I don’t want the chest to lose its midcentury charm.

I would love to hear your ideas on how I can make this Lane chest beautiful and unique!

 

Never Had One Lesson

Here’s a look back at my very first knitting project completed circa 2002. Did I choose a nice simple scarf? Of course not. I decided to make my boyfriend an afghan.

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Yes, it is a trapezoid. I was yarning over and had utterly no clue what was happening.

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Notice the holes, the confusion of right side and wrong side, and the loose ends I didn’t know how to weave in.

Is this what I have to look forward to as I take on new projects? Perhaps… But I have to admit, that blanket is seriously cozy. And my now husband still keeps it folded in the closet to bring out on “sick days.”

There is something about a handmade gift. No matter what the skill level of the giver.

One Of A Kind

I used to be creative.

No, really. I did!

You can ask my mom.

When I was younger I spent every moment I could painting, sculpting, cross stitching, beading, friendship bracelet making and potholder weaving. Then I discovered this other thing I loved called science, and art sort of went on the back burner. Fast forward through college, a short career as a wetland biologist, marriage, and three kids and that creative artist of my past has been all but buried. Since the birth of my twins in 2011 I’ve hardly even picked up a crayon except to color yet another spongebob portrait.

But a few months ago, I picked up my knitting needles and what they produced amazed me. A sock. A red, black, gray and pink striped sock that felt glorious on my feet. I rubbed them, stared at them and carried them around in my purse to show all my friends. “You’re all getting socks for Christmas,” I said.

Believe it or not, that sock made an impact. One friend said, “I’ve pinned at least 200 sock patterns. I’m going home and I’m going to make a sock!” And another, “I’ve always wanted to learn to knit. I’m going to JoAnn to buy some yarn right now.” We banded together. Formed a craft group. Banished our children to the playroom (except during the occasional snack/sleep/diaperchange/tantrum break) and began to create.

Over the course of a few months that intense desire to make stuff and to master skills slowly came back to me. So far, I’ve been a dabbler in many projects and have mastered exactly zero of the new skills I’ve tried.  But I am having So. Much. Fun. And I want to share my triumphs and embarrassments and maybe inspire a few others to pick up their needles and make a one of a kind sock. Or maybe even a pair. Image