This beauty is currently called the dark cabinet. It was an eBay find last summer. I paid too much for it, but I love it. It’s a Globe Ideal File document cabinet, which used to be used for filing invoices and such. The patent is dated 1892, and several of the larger drawers have log sheets in them with a starting date of November 20, 1900. I’m guessing that not all of the drawers are original to this cabinet, given the slightly different finish some of them have, but that’s fine — it’s charm.
The twelve larger drawers on the left are large enough to hold 8.5 x 11 paper sideways (we’ll talk more about those drawers soon). The drawers on the right are the same size as card catalog drawers and will hold 3 x 5 cards. Those top sets of drawers are a bit shallower than typical card catalog drawers, just a bit under a foot deep. The base that it sits on is a little deeper and contains one giant flat file drawer, which is what made me really drool over this piece in the first place.
Overall it’s in decent shape — just a few drawers needed some shoring up, and there’s a little bit of superficial water damage on the sides in the middle section. After a bit of time with some wood glue and clamps, the structure of the drawers is pretty good. It was desperately dirty, though, and needed a bit of cleanup.
A while back I read on Young House Love (one of my very favorite home blogs) about a wood finish refreshing product they used on an older wooden cabinet in their home, Howard Restor-a-Finish, followed by their Feed-n-Wax. It sounded perfect to try on this piece, so off I went to track it down. I finally found it at Home Depot, back in the stain aisle. Of course, I got the stuff last fall, then finally around Christmastime had a sliver of time to get around to starting on this project.
After the above-mentioned drawer TLC (and some additional steps we’ll talk about when we talk about the drawers specifically) and a scrub-down with Murphy’s Oil Soap, I dove in with the Restor-a-Finish. It’s very liquidy and smelly, and you definitely need gloves and old rags you’re going to throw away when you’re done and preferably a place to work outside. (I just opened a window. In December.) The process is pretty much like working with stain: wipe it on, let it sit for a little while, then wipe off the excess. I used a bit of 0000 steel wool in a few places where the original finish seemed to have gunked up, and that worked nicely. Mostly, though, it was wipe, sit, wipe.
And there it sat for another nearly four months while work and life came flying at me, leaving not much time for anything else I wanted to get done. I have a lot of desire to get this project finished, so it’s the first one I tackled on the 2014 Manini Project list. Yesterday I finally got around to scrubbing out the insides of the drawers (yes, really, I should have done that before finishing the outside, but after I’ve used up all my logic on my day job, I don’t always have much left for other stuff). They were a mess of more than a century’s worth of dirt and more than a few cobwebs from wherever it had been stored while waiting to find a new home.
After the drawers were cleaned up, I tackled the whole piece — including the insides of the drawers — with the Feed-n-Wax. It’s a combo of orange oil, beeswax, and carnauba wax (and probably some other stuff not listed), and despite having a little petroleum undertone when you first put it on, I think it smells pretty good. The old wood was really dry and sucked that stuff up, especially on the unfinished insides of the drawers; I’ll probably give it another treatment with the wax on those places at least before I start filling it up with stuff.
And that was yesterday’s progress, a two-fer. More to come with this piece next.