This blog post may contain affiliate links for your convenience.
Sunday, June 12, 2022

Antique Oak Card Catalog Makeover

How to clean and restore an antique oak card catalog without losing its original character!

Who doesn't love authentic antique card catalogs and multi-drawer cabinets?

They are by far my favorite pieces to hunt for, both for myself and my vintage shop

In the past, I've fully refinished card catalogs, but a recent oak card catalog that I just picked up had so much original character that I couldn't bring myself to fully refinish it.

It had some marks and blemishes but was nothing I couldn't take care of without completely sanding, staining and refinishing.

15 drawer oak card catalog


 (without fully refinishing)  

- LA's Totally Awesome (available at Dollar Tree)
- Restore-A-Finish (Walnut)

How to restore a card catalog without refinishing

There's something about original stain and character that you just can't replicate.   I know some may not like marks, knicks and imperfections on their furniture, but I welcome and appreciate the added character when it comes to antique and vintage furniture. 

In an effort to maintain the original character of this 15-drawer solid oak card catalog, I opted to give it a good cleaning over fully refinishing. 

15 drawer card catalog before

oak card catalog before

supplies to clean card catalog

Working in small sections, I sprayed on a generous amount of LA's Totally Awesome to the top, sides and drawers of the cabinet.   On each section, I let the cleaner sit for about 30 seconds before scrubbing and wiping it off. 

On tougher areas where tape residue and yellow marker were left, I let the cleaner soak in for a few minutes before wiping it off.  I kept repeating this process until all the unwanted marks were removed.

cleaning oak card catalog

The hardest part was removing the two black stamp marks that were on the left side of the cabinet.  

I began by very lightly sanding the marks with 400 grit sandpaper, being careful not to sand too hard, removing and damaging the original stain. 

I then sprayed on LA's Totally Awesome Cleaner, let it sit a few seconds then scrubbed off what I could.  I repeated this process two or three times until the ink was completely removed.  

Marks on card catalog

spraying card catalog with LA's Totally Awesome

Once the cabinet was clean and dry, I went over the entire card catalog with Howard's Restore-A-Finish in Walnut.  This product is like a miracle drug for wood.  It completely revives dry and damaged wood in seconds. 

I finished off the card catalog by adding four black triangle furniture feet to give the cabinet a little height and a more finished look.

Cleaned and restored oak card catalog

This beautiful restored antique card catalog (and all the decor and plants in the pictures!) will eventually end up in my new office and I can not wait!

Restored oak 15 drawer card catalog

restored oak card catalog

Restored antique oak 15 drawer card catalog

I love that this antique 15-drawer oak card catalog has an updated vintage-industrial look without losing all its beautiful original character!   

shop our home

Click here to subscribe

Would you like to comment?

  1. Wow! What a difference a little time and elbow grease can make! I love the addition of the feet - they look very modern ( and make it easy to hoover up the dust bunnies)

  2. Looks great! I'm so glad you kept the original finish.

  3. Wow! I never knew you could use Awesome on wood! Totally agree on the Restore-A-Finish it's a miracle product. I finally found my own card catalog last year and I love it so much.

  4. It looks so good now! I just got hold of a small one and have been debating what to do with it. This is the perfect look.

  5. What a lovely makeover. Nothing beats natural wood and great patina. So glad you didn’t paint this beautiful cabinet turquoise or teal!