Monday, 22 April 2013

Sewing machine cabinet quick restore

My Singer 319K came in a cute little 1960s cabinet. However, the cabinet had seen better days. It looked like this:
I decided during the holidays that this little cutie deserved a new lease on life.
Sanding it down seemed like a lot of work, and a scraper usually achieves the same result only much quicker. I used a scraper (I call it a wallpaper scraper), in fact this one:
You can clearly see the state of the cabinet lid. The top of the lid copped the worst of the sun, being on top of course. It was so bad that a lot of the varnish was gone completely, leaving large patches of exposed wood. The remaining varnish must have felt a bit lonely or even suicidal, since it barely held to the wood at all. I scraped it all onto the floor, vacuumed the floor, then unscrewed the lid to take it outside (it was obvious even to me that doing this inside was just unnecessarily messy).

Bare wood, before filling
A quick trip to the hardware shop and I came back with a brilliant Aussie varnish, Cabot's Cabothane Clear. Bit expensive as were all the urethane finishes. When the varnish was off, it was sanded using a machine, filled with liquid wood then manually sanded all over with some fine steel wool (00).
Steel wool, about to rub down the filler and bare wood
The urethane requires three coats, and here's how it goes:
First coat goes on the bare wood. You have to do this inside in a non-dusty environment, unfortunately (it smells pretty strong). If not you'll have dust, insects, pollen etc. under your beautiful polish. After six hours, rub it lightly with some 300 emery (dry), put the second coat on, wait another six hours, rub lightly, third coat, leave for 24 hours, rub lightly (I used steel wool grade 0000) and use car or furniture wax to leave a deep gloss.
Here is how it ended up:
Top of the lid is now as beautiful as the machine it contains
I put two coats on the underside of the lid, and three on the top of the cabinet:

Top of the cabinet
Only two coats for the lid's underside

Didn't really want that deep gloss for the underside. Seemed like a bit of a waste of effort and it didn't really get much sun exposure.
I still have to do the rest of it, but that was probably the larger amount of work. The legs are only just holding the varnish, too, so it shouldn't take much to get them looking like new (albeit somewhat rustic) again. It will possibly have to wait until the end of term 2.
Most of the time went into waiting for the stuff to dry, so this was what I'd class as an easy job, or "low hanging fruit".
The lid's underside took a lot more work to remove the original stuff that the top (it wasn't as damaged). Also, be careful with your scraper: It's not that difficult to scrape the wood off if it's soft.


  1. Holy mothballs Batman!! That looks fantastic - well done Mike

    1. Thanks Aimie. Finished it yesterday (did the legs). Quite an easy job, and not at all difficult to get it looking good. Are you going to do yours?