Restoring furniture pieces like this cabinet is my thing. Not only do you get to give new life to a piece, you can also make it unique and help the planet by recycling. Just like this.

This early 1950’s Montgomery Ward Airline radio/phonograph cabinet found a new home with a couple from Chicago as a new home bar. They searched for about a week until they found this very rare beauty on Facebook Marketplace. They traveled from Chicago to Galesburg, Illinois to pick up the cabinet from a lady who had a store front full of antiques in various stages of decay.  And I believe it was really worth it.

restoring the cabinet

radio cabinet before sanding

First of all, he cleaned the piece of all the grime and dirt buildup, which revealed that somebody tried to sand the finish off before, but gave up. There were multiple types of finishes on it. Somebody replaced the original stain and shellac with some sort of varnish and other areas had a poly type finish.

Luckily, most of the scratches were only on the surface and didn’t go below the finish. This radio cabinet definitely had seen better days.

cabinet before sanding

Second, he sanded the flat surfaces with 80 grit sandpaper to remove all the finishes down to the wood veneer. As with most old school finishes, they’re really tough to remove, so in order to not damage the wood, you should try a few numbers on a small scale before doing the whole piece. This will save you a lot of time and effort, not to mention sandpaper.

mineral spirits on cabinet

After sanding it all down, the cabinet needs a mineral spirit wipe to brighten up the wood a bit. This really brings out the beauty in the veneer. As a result, you can see it’s so deep and rich with texture.

mineral coating and brass pulls

As a side project, the pulls need some love too. With that level of oxidation, you couldn’t tell what they’re made from. After a few tests with magnets and other metals, they turned out to be real brass! How awesome is that? Some lemon juice and a bit of baking soda did the trick. Alternatively, you can leave it to soak in a ¾ part vinegar, ¼ part warm water bath for a few minutes and then clean it under warm water with some #0000 steel wool.

phonograph drawer

Furthermore, he moves on to the inside of the cabinet after the outside is done. It had a pull out phonograph that was perfect as a drawer for the glasses. After he pulled the turntable out, he removed the cutout piece on the top. This way he lowered the depth of the drawer. He had the bottom custom made at a local hardware store, and, after fixing it into place, they lined the whole inside of the drawer with a blue velvet material. Awesome!

phonograph drawer turned into a glasses drawer

The result

painting on the back

As if the cabinet wasn’t awesome enough, she painted this bad-ass graphics on the back of the cabinet. I think this really adds an authentic and unique touch to the piece. The couple added some motion sensor lights from Ikea, stocked up on happy juice, and it’s done! It turned out really, really well. You can see the love and care put in this project and I really wish more people would do this.

painting on the back of the cabinet

restored cabinet

By the way, if you have done something like this, we would love to see it. Let us know in the comments.


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