Diy Restoring An Antique Sewing Cabinet: Ideas And Help

Ideas and suggestions on cleaning, repairing, and restoring an antique sewing cabinet.

Whether you stumbled across it at an antique or an estate sale, or if you were fortunate enough to inherit one from a family member, chances are your sewing cabinet will be in need of both a cleaning and repair. Sewing was once as basic a chore as running to the local mall is for the average person today, so the cabinets that are out there are often well used and in need of a bit of care.


Assessing the cabinet's condition should be the first thing you do. Are any hinges missing or broken? Do the latches or closures catch correctly? How is the finish? Are there any watermarks or other blemishes on the surface? If there is carving or other decorative embellishments, are they intact? Is the sewing machine itself still inside the cabinet? If it is, do you intend to use it, display it, or remove it?


Cleaning will be your first step towards repairing any cabinet and actually falls between assessing and repairing. Make sure and clean on an area that can itself be cleaned, such as a garage area, or at the least on linoleum. If the cabinet contains any decorative work, include a small, very soft brush in your cleaning materials, to get at the years of built up grime accumulated on the fine wood designs. Purchase any wood safe cleaner, such as Murphy's Oil soap, and follow the directions on the container. Finish with a good wood oil to help preserve the newly cleaned wood and to make future cleaning easier.


On the first cabinet I acquired, the decorative front panel, which doubled as the main door, did not latch tightly and actually hung at an odd angle. I am sure that is why many people passed it by without a second glance in the second-hand shop where I discovered it, even though it had a very beautifully carved rosette design. It also had the most primitive latch, consisting of nothing more than a recessed brass dip, with a corresponding brass nipple. Time and use had worn both down so the original snug fit was gone. This was repaired quite easily, by simply placing a small amount of putty into the dip. This worked for me, as I had no intention of opening the door on a regular basis. If I had, I would have delved a bit deeper into the repair and looked for a replacement.

A broken hinge can usually be replaced, but matching it can be tough. Ideally, look for a second cabinet that is beyond repair, but has salvageable parts such as hinges. Oftentimes, it will take two cabinets combined to make one.


Refinishing a cabinet is often the only way to repair sun damage, watermarks, ink stains from dress markers, etc. Refinishing is also an option not for everyone. Some people prefer to keep a cabinet's finish as original as possible. If you should choose to sand and stain, take care to keep the integrity of the original finish, especially with any decorative areas. Sanding the areas with fine details, will take time and should not be rushed. Refinishing with a quality stain and oil will keep your now new cabinet beautiful for generations to come.

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