So a couple of weeks ago, my husband takes the dog out for a walk. He sends me a text saying there is a bookshelf on the street and should he grab it? (We need new furniture desperately, but are on a really tight budget). He sends this picture:
It looks sort of interesting, but hard to tell from the photo. So I text him back to bring it home. (Does this sound like I’m a diva for not going out to look at it? At the time I was stenciling our living room wall, my hands were covered in paint and I had a white tank top on with no bra. I wasn’t going outside).
He brings it home, puts the pieces together, and it looks pretty cool, even though it’s dirty and beat up. It has four shelves that stack on each other, plus bottom legs and a top piece. There are glass doors on the front of each shelf, that slide up and back. Amazingly, none of these are broken and they all work. Inside the shelves are these tags:
So I jump on google, type in the name and wow! These are globe wernicke shelves, also called barrister bookcases. About 100 years old and very high quality. They come in sections so you can move them easily. You don’t even have to take the books out since they have doors! Plus you can configure them however you want. This is the best street find ever. We are definitely keeping these! But they need some love before we can put them to use. I liked that they were a little beat up looking. Since they’re that old, I thought it was ok if they showed their age a little bit. More importantly, I did not feel like sanding and stripping them down. So I decided to just restore and recondition them. Here is what I used:
- Howard restor-a-finish
- Howard feed-n-wax
- grad #0000 steel wool
- clean rags
- soft cloths (I used an old t-shirt)
- rubber gloves
- drop cloth
- masking tape
(Now, in case you’re wondering, nobody from the Howard company is paying me to say this. When I searched the internet for tips on how to do this, this stuff kept popping up over and over again. And their furniture looked great).
When I went to buy the supplies, I had a few different choices for wood color. I picked the mahogany color since it seemed the closest to the original finish. When I got home, I did a little more research on my bookcases by typing in the grade on the label. Turns out my bookcases are the economy model and probably made of oak. Also, according to their website, the globe wernicke people really hate it when you stain their bookcases to a different color wood. Sorry guys.
Anyway…So I cleaned up all the dust and paint off the shelves to get them ready. I taped the glass off so it wouldn’t get mucky from the stain. I spread out my drop cloth and laid all the pieces out. Now the instructions say it will cover water stains and glass marks without sanding. So I did the top piece first. Not so much, restor-a-finish. In retrospect, I would have sanded this top piece down a little to get it cleaner looking. But since it is above eye level when assembled, I kept it as is.
This stuff doesn’t smell too bad, but I would still pick a day to do it when you can open the windows. To apply the finish, I used the steel wool and poured the restor-a-finish into it. Don’t pour so much in that it drips or gets saturated. Apply in long strokes following the grain of the wood. I let mine soak for about 5 minutes, then I used a clean rag to wipe off the residue. For spots that didn’t cover enough the first time, I dabbed the finish back onto those spots and let sit again for 5-10 minutes. With the water drips in the below picture, I did this four times to get it to fill in.
Once I finished staining all the pieces and had wiped them off, I applied the feed-n-wax. I could have skipped this step, since they already looked nice. It gave them a good glow, though. Use a clean rag to apply the wax thickly onto the wood. The bottle said to leave it at least 20 minutes. I left mine on for an hour. Once your time is up, grab another clean rag and wipe them down. Now grab your soft cloth and buff them in the direction of the wood grain.
The knobs were made of brass and pretty tarnished. I put them in a small plastic bowl added a tablespoon of salt, then added vinegar until they were submerged. I left them in there for about 10 minutes, then scrubbed them with a plastic scrubbing sponge. Easy.