Turning an art deco chest of drawers into a record cabinet
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Some time ago I had a customer contact me with an unusual request. She wanted to do something special for her husband. He had his grandfather’s old chest of drawers and wanted to see if I could turn it into something to store his record collection. She had seen my Map Cabinet and wanted to do something along those lines. I had some ideas but needed to get my hands on the actual chest first.
Overall the chest was in good shape. The frame was solid, just a few of the drawers needed glued up. Before deciding on gluing up drawers I needed a plan. After talking to the customer we decided on a barrister style cabinet, a cabinet that would have slide out storage with lifting doors. I immediately got online to look at D. Lawless Hardware. They had the slides I would need to turn this guy into a barrister style storage.
The first thing to do was strip all the old finish off the chest. I use Soy Gel Stripper for any stripping jobs. It’s non-toxic and safe to use indoors, plus it’s just about the best stripper you can find.
I removed all the drawers and started the process of taking apart the chest. I had to build a support rail that would not only hold the weight of the drawers but also allow for the slides to be mounted underneath.
I also had to dismantle the drawers themselves. They needed a higher back and sides with a shorter front panel. I removed the existing drawer fronts to use as the lift up doors, while cutting new drawer fronts out of plywood.
I had to plane the edges of each drawer to get a flat edge before gluing and clamping together to make two doors. I also had to plane down the sides to make sure they were all flush.
After installing the slides, I used soft close hinges for both the top and the bottom drawers.
After making some adjustments to each door and checking for clearance for the drawers I used a few records of my own to test.
The original chest had not been stained, just shellac that had aged over time. It had several years of exposure to UV and age in general that had turned the finish very dark. You would have thought the chest was one solid dark color. After I had stripped it, the natural colors of the walnut, maple and bamboo trim came out. It was pretty cool and reminded me of an old jukebox, which was pretty fitting for this job. The only problem was some of the darker walnut had discolored over time and needed to be evened out. I taped off the lighter areas of the maple and bamboo before mixing stains to match the color.
After touching up any areas that may have bleed through the tape or I missed, I finished with several coats of Old Master’s Polyurethane.
I kept the original wooden hardware to use as the handles for the new doors. One last check of the storage with a few records was made before it was delivered to a happy customer.