Antique buffet restoration

When we moved into our 100-year-old home, we realized that much of our modern, minimalist, dark furniture wouldn’t really work. We resolved that we would gradually replace our furniture over time with pieces that were a little bit more timeless and better quality. So, when I found a gorgeous solid wood antique buffet at my local Goodwill for only $20, it was almost a no-brainer. There was even a secret drawer full of beautifully tarnished silver serving ware. 

Buffet at the Goodwill
Buffet at the Goodwill

The problem was that the piece was in rough shape. There were some pretty significant scratches and stains. Additionally, one of the doors was no longer attached and there was a significant chip in the veneer. We decided that for $20 we would take it home and do our best to restore it to its original glory. We figured it was a minimal investment and that if our antique buffet restoration didn’t work out to our standards we could just donate it back to the store.

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The restoration process

We knew that we didn’t want to paint the buffet and our goal was to keep it as close to the original finish color as possible. We considered stripping the piece completely, but were concerned that because of the intricate designs on the legs it wouldn’t be possible to do evenly. Ultimately we found a product (after watching countless YouTube videos) that we thought would work.

Some of the damage on the buffet
Some of the damage and aging on the buffet

First, we spent a good deal of time cleaning the piece (inside and out) with naptha solution. I then used my Simichrome polish to clean up the original brass hardware. I followed the same process I used when restoring the antique brass sconces for the same room.  Once the piece was clean and the hardware was polished, we filled the stripped screw holes in the detached door so that we could reattach it. This is a fairly simple process. Essentially, you insert toothpicks and wood glue into the stripped holes. Once dry, you can simply drill new holes that are the correct size.

The next step was the most daunting. We needed to fix the chipped veneer on one of the buffet doors. It was a large chip that went into the wood foundation of the door. First we used wood epoxy putty to level out the chip. It then needed to be fitted with veneer. We initially attempted to use some veneer that we had on hand, but found that the grain was too different and we couldn’t match the color closely enough. Ultimately, we took the door with us to our local wood craft store so that we could choose a veneer that was as close a possible to the door. We determined that the buffet was likely mahogany and chose a mahogany veneer with a similar grain pattern.

Once we had the veneer, we traced the chip in the door and used it as a template to cut out a piece of veneer to fit. Although the fix isn’t perfect, it is barely visible unless you are looking for it.

Finally, it was necessary to work on removing or at least minimizing the many scratches and stains on the buffet. There was an especially bad scratch on the top of the buffet and across the front of the drawers. After doing extensive research we decided to use a product called Restor-A-Finish by Howard. 

Essentially, this is a product that helps to minimize minor scratches and abrasions on antique (or just very worn) furniture. It is simple to use and makes a huge difference. You simply wipe the product onto your furniture piece, wait a few minutes, and then wipe off the excess. It works by penetrating the wood finish without removing any of the existing finish.

Once it has dried, you then apply their Feed-N-Wax product as a protective layer. This not only smells nice, but adds a bit of luster to your finished piece. I would highly recommend these products to anyone looking to restore antique or vintage furniture. It is inexpensive but incredibly effective. 

The finished buffet in the dining room
The finished buffet in the dining room

We were very impressed with the results and will definitely use it for future projects. 

Products and tools used:

  1. Naptha for cleaning the piece
  2. Simichrome polish to clean brass hardware
  3. Dremel rotary tool to apply Simichrome polish
  4. Microfiber cloth to clean hardware
  5. Dish soap
  6. Shallow tub
  7. Wood glue
  8. Tooth picks (used with wood glue to fix any stripped screw holes)
  9. Wood epoxy putty
  10. Veneer appropriate to the finish of the project
  11. Restor-A-Finish
  12. Feed-N-Wax

The piece came out better than expected. There are still a few places where some of the scratches or water marks are still visible, but they are much less noticeable. In the end, I loved the style and quality of the piece and felt that it was perfect for our formal dining room.

We have refinished several other vintage and antique furniture pieces. You might want to read our posts about our vintage kitchen buffet update and our vintage cedar chest update.

What do you think? Would you ever attempt to refinish an antique furniture piece? Have you ever used the Restor-A-Finish product before? Let us know in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “Antique buffet restoration”

  1. While I’m sure there are plenty of differences & variations of these buffets, in general do you know if the legs on these styles of vintage buffets be removed? We are interested in buying one for sale nearby but don’t have a way to transport it. If the legs could come off then it would be much easier to move. Thanks!

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