February 25, 2018
I’m so pleased with the way our home office turned out, and a large part of the reason is this window. Sure, it would be nice if it was a little taller but this is a 1950s North Jersey home- built back when smart insulation included such space-age technology like asbestos and single pane windows! So we need to be reasonable…
Anyway, what I am really here to talk about is the next project I was daydreaming about completing and then suddenly decided to complete:
Quite a few years ago, Pop pop left Matil and I this cedar chest. It has sentimental value to me because it was actually my Mom’s when she was young. It is a beautiful chest, so it does come with a little wear and tear. But the bones are perfect!
It has been sitting in my basement, mostly because I have always wanted to refurbish it but… you know… “Just didn’t get around to it” or something. Well, it is raining today… going to rain tomorrow, too… so, why not.
I brought it in to the surgery ward and put some lights on it to see what we have to work with. The lower drawer is removed here, and I can see a lot of damage on the outer laminate layer on the top of the trunk lid. However, since this is an older American-made chest- the quality of the laminate is quite good and can simply be reworked into something nice.
The top has some very old water damage caused by my Mom laying bathing suits on it to dry when she was young. Who knew her son, decades later, would be up to the challenge of making it right again? : )
I think furniture is amazing. Even the things we buy that are supposed to be “just for the time being” items tend to remain with us. They might move from the living room to a spare bedroom, or family room, or garage even… but many of the things stay with us. This chest went from Mount Holly, New Jersey to the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia for a number of years just to return back to New Jersey again where it will spend the foreseeable future. A lot of people have sat on it, used it to store things, and who knows what else. (As it turns out it just so happens one of my Aunt’s had been locked in it by my Mother during a game of hide and seek!) It has survived generations. Who knows where it will end up, but I expect it to last longer than most of the more modern furniture we have around here!
I so wish the date was filled out on the warranty card!
Dillingham Manufacturing Company was located in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Never heard of it? Neither have I. But do you have Kohler faucets? Well… they originated in Sheboygan!
This large American factory, staffed by American workers living the American dream built the chest that this American guy is now refurbishing. ‘Merica! : )
This is an advertisement that was included in the Sheboygan Centennial Celebration magazine. You can see all the different pages by clicking here, if you wish to take a short stroll through history.
Ok, so back to work…
It is a beautiful cedar chest with very nice details. The hinge in the top photograph is very sturdy. There is one on each side and even after, well I am guessing this chest is about 60 years old or so… but even after half a century plus they hold the heavy lid properly with no squeaking or side to side shifting.
The second and third photo shows a spring-loaded wood “gasket” that was installed to help seal the contents inside. I imagine this was part of the mosquito prevention guaranty, but I am not sure. Maybe it was just there to help keep the cedar aroma inside. In either case, if this was a rubber or almost any other material it would have been gone long ago- but how brilliant is using a strip of wood with springs beneath it? The last photo shows me depressing the piece down so you can get an idea of the action.
So while the water damage is a sentimental memory, it will have to live within our minds and photographs. The physical evidence remains only as a small pile of sawdust on the floor now.
Sanding and sanding, with the final course at 220 grit. Smooth enough. Because the outer shell is laminate over cedar boards, I had to be careful not to sand completely through it. I decided some small imperfections here and there will look just fine.
After vacuuming the excess, I scrubbed it down a few times with mineral spirits and a cheesecloth to pull out all of the sawdust powder.
Then I gave the chest a couple coats of the trusted English Oak stain to conceal and renew its exterior. I let this set overnight before adding the honey glaze:
It can be a little hard to tell in this photo, but if you run your finger along a pane of wet glass, that should more or less describe the feeling of this very old Cedar chest today!
The polyurathane process took he longest, partly due to weather and mostly due to the process. After each coat dried overnight, I sanded it down to remove any bubbles or any possible imperfections and then wiped it clean with the cheese cloth and mineral spirits.
The first couple coats were sanded almost completely off, as those layers merely fill any voids and dips in the wood. After that, it is nice to watch it come along as the sand paper removed less and less of the finish and made the applications go on faster and easier.
Originally I was going to use a semi gloss polyurathane so as to closely resemble the original finish. When I was applying the original couple of coats of the semi gloss, I loved the appearance when it was wet more than once it dried. So several more coats of the high gloss polyurathane later, we now have this permanent “wet” appearance that truly shows the depth of the grains on its shell.
All in all, from beginning to end, we went from an heirloom that had an appearance worthy of only the basement to a piece that now upgrades any room that contains it.
Completion was near the end of March, 2018.
Make Furniture Great Again. Buy American.