This blog post may contain affiliate links for your convenience.
Sunday, November 11, 2018

How to Repair and Restore A Vintage Card Catalog

A beautiful nine drawer vintage card catalog gets repaired, stained and painted for a fresh new look.

I've always had a love for vintage card catalogs, but could never find one that was within my tight budget.  Well, apparently I wasn't looking in the right places because I've been lucky enough to come across some amazing ones lately.  I recently restored an 18 drawer card catalog, scored a 60 drawer one from a local auction and just the other day I found a nine drawer card catalog on Facebook Marketplace.

Unfortunately, the recent nine drawer card catalog had a bit too much veneer damage to refinish back to its original state, but I was able to give it a much needed facelift.                

Painted and restored vintage card catalog
Don't mind the missing screws.  I totally forgot to screw them back on before taking photos, whoops. 

(Affiliate links have been used)
- Respirator
- Dewalt sander
- 100 grit sanding pads
- Tac cloths
- Minwax Provincial stain
- Minwax wood filler
- Straight edge
- Minwax waterbased polycrylic
- Purdy paint brush
- Screwdriver
- Sherwin-Williams Iron Ore (Emerald line)
- Brasso
- Old rag


PSA: Before I get started on the makeover, I wanna take a minute and talk about a new item I added to my supply list.  My husband has been bugging me for a while now to wear a respirator when sanding and I kept putting it off.  It wasn't until he came home with one that I took wearing one seriously.   Please, if you are doing any sort of sanding, please wear a mask or respirator.  Dust, mold and other irritants that are released when sanding can cause major health issues down the road.

Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's take a look at my latest card catalog find.

Damaged 9 drawer vintage card catalog before
It's a nine drawer Gaylord Bros. Inc card catalog that had seen better days.  The stain and veneer were literally flaking off and there were major chunks of veneer missing altogether.
Damage to vintage card catalog

I started by prepping the piece for sanding, which meant removing all the hardware.
Removing hardware from vintage card catalog
I then sanded the entire card catalog (shell and drawer fronts) with my Dewalt orbital sander and 100 grit sandpaper.   This part went pretty quick since there was already a fair amount of damage to the original stain.
Sanding vintage card catalog
I went back and forth on whether or not to stain over the missing veneer and keep it as original as possible or repair the damage and paint the shell.  In the end, I decided to make the repairs and give the card catalog more of a two-tone makeover.

I used my favorite wood filler to fill in the missing veneer and smooth out the top.   I simply mixed the two products, applied it with a putty knife and within 30 minutes it was rock hard and ready to sand.
Repairing damage to card catalog with Minwax wood filler
This is about the time when the sun started to set (dang daylight savings time!) and I stopped taking pictures.  Basically, once the wood filler was dry I sanded it smooth then added two coats of Minwax Provincial stain.   I sealed the stain with Minwax waterbased matte poly, cleaned up the hardware with brass cleaner then reattached it to the card catalog (minus a few missing screws).
Repaired, painted and stained nine drawer card catalog makeover

Painted and restored vintage card catalog makeover

detail of stained drawers of a vintage card catalog

Painted and stained 9 drawer vintage card catalog
I'm a little bummed I wasn't able to stain the entire card catalog, but I'm happy with the two-tone paint and stain makeover.

     Pin it for later
Before and after of a repaired vintage card catalog

    You will also love
Ikea Moppe card catalog hack

How to refinish a vintage card catalog

Don't forget to follow along
Click here to subscribe

Would you like to comment?

  1. love the color you used on it- looks fabulous!

  2. Great result! Can the drawers go in any position? If so the only change I would make would be to put the three that have missing 'buttons' and therefore read black on the same row to even up the effect.

    1. Yes they can and that's a good idea. Thanks for the suggestion :)

  3. Beautiful! I love how you were able to save them- even if you couldn't stain the entire piece!
    So what's the hint to find them at a reasonable price? I have searched high and low and still can't find any that's reasonable. Any tips for finding them is greatly appreciated! :)

  4. I, too, would love to know how you found these at a reasonable price. I LOVE and am obsessed with card catalogs. A goal of mine is to find (an affordable) one that needs some love and attention and give it just that. I absolutely love what you did with the ones you found.