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Monday, August 7, 2023

Before and After: Refinished Six Drawer Oak Card Catalog

A damaged antique oak card catalog gets restored and refinished to its original beauty! 

One of my favorite aspects of antique furniture and decor is its undeniable character and history.

The dings, dents, and worn finish add depth, charm, and interest to any space. 

Sometimes, all they need is a good cleaning and wood conditioner to bring them back to life.  Other times,  a little more work and a complete refinish and restoration are required to maintain their charm and beauty. 

Refinished antique oak card catalog

Just the other week, I came across a small six-drawer antique card catalog while checking out local online auctions. 

It was a little worse for wear with a cracked, uneven, and damaged finish.  I could tell right away though that it was an authentic oak antique card catalog that had potential.  

Antique card catalog before

Antique Shaw Walker oak card catalog


- Sanding pads (80/150/320 Grit)
- Wallpaper scraper
- Disposable gloves
- Screwdriver
- Paintbrush
- Paper towels


I was excited to get started on refinishing the card catalog and cranked it out in one incredibly hot afternoon.  I started by removing all the old hardware and setting it aside to clean and reattach later. 

Removing hardware from oak card catalog

I prefer to sand off the majority of old stain rather than use a furniture stripper.  To remove the very dark finish from the card catalog I started sanding with 80-grit sandpaper then worked my way up to 320-grit. 

Sanding oak card catalog

Various sandpaper discs

Sanded oak card catalog

How cool is it that while sanding, I unexpectedly uncovered the original Shaw Walker maker mark?

I knew it needed to be salvaged, so I carefully sanded around the mark making sure not to sand it off.

Shaw Walker oak card catalog

To remove the stain from the corners and detailed trim, I switched to using Citristrip Stripping Gel.  I  don't like dealing with messy strippers, but it can come in handy when removing stain from hard-to-reach places.

Citristrip furniture stripper

I poured Citristrip around the edge and along the curved trim, covered the area with plastic wrap, and let it sit for about 30 mins.  Covering the Citrisrip keeps it from drying out and extends the time it can be left on a surface. 

Stripping card catalog with citristrip

stripping card catalog with citristrip

I repeated the process on the other side of the card catalog and the fluted front detail.  I wiped off as much Citristrip and old stain as I could then cleaned up the rest with Mineral Spirits.  

Cleaning card catalog with mineral spirits

Once the majority of the stain was removed,  I gave the entire card catalog another good sanding then wiped it down again with Mineral Spirits. 

Sanded and cleaned oak card catalog

After the wood was dry, I applied one coat of Special Walnut wood stain and two coats of water-based matte poly. 

Clear waterbased matte poly

I prefer the look of age and patina and hadn't planned on cleaning the original hardware, but it really was pretty cruddy.  A good soak in hot soapy water and a little scrubbing with Bar Keeper's Friend was all it needed to remove the majority of build-up. 

Refinished antique oak card catalog

Refinished antique oak Shaw Walker card catalog

Refinished oak card catalog

Refinished oak card catalog

The refinished antique oak Shaw Walker card catalog still isn't perfect, but it sure does look a lot better with its new brighter finish.  

It's fresh and clean, yet still has some of its original dings, character, and charm!

     Pin it for later

before and after antique oak card catalog


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Would you like to comment?

  1. Wow! What a beautiful restoration to this awesome piece. Enjoy it! Or will you sell it?

    1. Thank you so much! I'll be selling this one at an upcoming market.

  2. Love this! I've been keeping an eye out forever to find one to make over, so thanks for the inspiration (as always)! Now, I'd love to know what the heck do you keep in those drawers!!

  3. What a wonderful find and you did an awesome job bringing it back to life!πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌ

  4. It's gorgeous! You always do such a lovely job on your makeovers!

  5. Is that for sale?

  6. why would anyone in their right mind cover up that beautiful wood with all of that dark stain or was it paint? It looks so beautiful now.