Introduction: Making a Victorian Kitchen Cupboard Useful Again.

Picture of Making a Victorian Kitchen Cupboard Useful Again.

This Victorian Kitchen Cupboard sat in our shed all my life filled with junk. The drawers could only be opened with great effort.
At one point we sold it to an antique dealer who never showed up to take it away!
I finally decided to update it and make it look like it did in the 1890's. I don't care for the restoration philosophy of leaving it dirty and banged up. Don't care that some may say I ruined it value wise. Don't intend to sell it!
I wanted to put it back to the condition it was in when it was used daily by my family over 100 yrs ago. If they wanted it all banged up, why did they paint it over 10 times?

Step 1: Stripping Off All the Old Paint

Picture of Stripping Off All the Old Paint

Multiple coats of Citristrip was needed to get thru the 6 layers of paint. Then I hit 4 layers of milk paint. Very little removes that stuff! I did scrape down to see what the original colors were.

Step 2: A New Back.

Picture of A New Back.

The original boards comprising the back had dried out and shrunk, leaving gaps. Some even still had bark on them! A sheet of Lauan plywood was attached to the back with 16 gauge nails with a Paslode finish impulse nailer.

Step 3: Sealing the Upper Section

Picture of Sealing the Upper Section

The upper section was caulked with Latex caulk and primed.

Step 4: Lower Section Re-work

Picture of Lower Section Re-work

When we stripped off the old paint we discovered the drawers were not original to the piece because they had no Milk Paint on them. So, the door was flipped and installed on the right side where the original flour tip out bin resided originally. The shelves on the left would now be the bases for industrial ball bearing wire shelves from Whitney Designs.

Step 5: Constructing New Drawer Fronts to Look Like Originals.

Picture of Constructing New Drawer Fronts to Look Like Originals.

As you can see the interior is painted white and the outside is back to the original color, Barn Red Milk Paint from the "Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company". The finish is satin instead of the standard Milk Paint flat finish. This was accomplished with the addition of their "Milk Paint Bonder" to the Milk Paint.
Period drawer cast iron pulls were purchased at an antique show and "Japan'd" like the original finish on the rest of the hardware with "Pontypool Japanning Asphaltum" paint from Liberty On The Hudson.

Step 6: A Tight Fit!

Picture of A Tight Fit!

It took an angle adapter to impact drive the mounting screws into the old shelves for the Whitney Designs ball bearing sliders.

Step 7: Creating New Drawer Fronts.

Picture of Creating New Drawer Fronts.

The new drawer fronts were constructed from wide 3/4" thick planks.

Step 8: Making the New Drawer Fronts Fit the Wire Rails.

Picture of Making the New Drawer Fronts Fit the Wire Rails.

I used a spacer of wood who's thickness was just the width of the front chrome rails and attached another board to the spacer. This inverted "U" assembly was then slid down over the front rails of the drawer. Then using a longer screw to go thru the inverted "U" piece and into the front, it created a clamp effect when tightened, thus holding the drawer front in place.

Step 9: Bottom Section Is Complete.

Picture of Bottom Section Is Complete.

With all three drawer fronts in place and the freshly Japan'd cast iron pulls in place, the drawers now only require a single finger to open instead of the previous 2 hands and a lot of wiggling. And they look near original.

Step 10: Finished!

Picture of Finished!

All the rest of the original latching hardware is in place and after 3 yrs of searching I located three sets of original cast iron door hinges. (The hinges as found were steel replacements)
I left the plank unpainted and just gave it three coats of Old Masters Clear Poly. (2 coats of satin and 1 coat of gloss). It was left unpainted because I wanted to show the wear and cut marks from it being used as a cutting board and it may well have been replaced at some point because it is attached with iron screws instead of cut nails.
I even found and replaced the original "Can-O-Mat" can opener in its place between the doors (per the shadow line of the mounting bracket)

This piece has been in the family for about 130 yrs and it has a new lease on life now.


OutofPatience (author)2018-01-01

Nice looking piece and very helpful 'ible...thanks! And congrats on restoring and reusing a family treasure!

tomatoskins (author)2017-12-29

Beautiful restoration! Thanks for sharing!

About This Instructable




Bio: Technical Editor for two magazines. Software tester for the computer controlled electronic brakes of Locomotives.
More by TechEditor:Convert Bathroom Gas Heater to ElectricConstruct a Sideboard From Kitchen Wall CabinetsMaking a Victorian Kitchen Cupboard Useful Again.
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