the globe wernicke bookcase

restore wood bookcase

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:

bookcase 7

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:

bookcase 4So 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).

restore wood furniture  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.

restore wood bookcase

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.

restore wood bookcaseOnce 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.

restore wood bookcase

restore wood bookcaseThe 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.

cleaning brass knobsIt took me about 3 hours total to do the whole bookcase and the knobs. It was really easy.

22 comments… add one
  • 论文代写代发 Sep 11, 2016, 9:27 am

    Normally I do not read post on blogs, however I wish to
    say that this write-up very pressured me to take a look at and do it!
    Your writing taste has been surprised me.
    Thank you, quite nice article.

  • Tom Miller Jun 16, 2016, 10:09 am

    I am looking for the “old” style of bookcase hinge for Globe-Wernicke barrister bookcase. I can find the newer ones, but I am missing the right hand hinge. The roller is there but hinge missing.

    Can anyone help?????

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  • Dennis May 5, 2016, 10:43 pm

    I bought a Globe Barrister bookcase, but it has been painted brown. What is the best way to restore it? Do I just remove the paint down to the wood, or would I need to restain or varnish? Any suggestions?
    Is this something I could do, or should a professional do it?
    I love the bookcase, but I’m not sure how to restore it.
    Are most of the Globe barrister bookcases made of oak?
    Thanks for any suggestions!

  • Tleav Jul 28, 2015, 7:06 pm

    Very good info. I just found one, too. I brought it home yesterday, and plan to follow your steps. Love the look of it. Great job!!!

  • Vicki Jun 15, 2015, 3:47 pm

    I have a globe weinike bookcase that as been in storage since my grandmother passed can anyone tell me what’s its worth

    • Lyn Jan 20, 2016, 9:35 pm

      Check out eBay. There’s quite a selection.

  • James Hartline Mar 15, 2015, 1:27 pm

    You and your husband were accidental geniuses with this bookcase find. The exact model of your bookcase is selling for $1,100 – $3,500 on various auction sites. That is incredibly impressive since it appears from your story that you got the bookcase for free on the street where someone was just abandoning it or giving it away in its previous state of disrepair. Beautifully done! Great job! You never know what you might find that someone is discarding because they think it is junk or no longer worth keeping. With a little inventiveness and creativity you can turn a “destined for the dumpster” item into a profitable gem for re-sell. With so many major retailers selling absolute junk made in slave labor factories in foreign countries that doesn’t last more than a year or two, there is large and growing American consumer market for enduring, beautiful, homemade furniture, crafts, textiles and more. If you find just one item each week that somebody has thrown out into the trash and you invest $20 to refinish it and repair it, you could re-sell it online or find yourself a few retailers in your city who will buy your items for cash or on consignment – or create a few online sites of your own like eBay, etc. you can make $100-$200 each week profit for the one rescued and refurbished item that had been sentenced to the trash dump by its previous owner. Imagine that $100-$200 per week x 52 weeks = $5,200-$10,400 in cash for a year and in ten years = $52,000-$104,000 – all extra cash from turning one piece of trashed junk into a new treasured gem with almost no financial cost on your part, just a little bit of hard work.

  • kay williams Nov 30, 2014, 7:09 pm


    • krista Jan 7, 2015, 11:23 am

      Oh that is tragic. I would try a chemical stripper, don’t sand! Try the gentler one you can find first and do a test patch someplace that wont be visible. Good luck!

    • Lyn Jan 20, 2016, 9:39 pm

      Forby’s makes great products for refinishing and they tend to be gentle. Or look for a paint remover by Howard–the refinisher Krista used looked great, too. Lowe’s carries Forby’s products.

  • Jeanine Jul 24, 2014, 10:33 pm

    This is remarkable! The difference is unbelievable…I am just in shock that those were the only products you used. Absolutely beautiful! I am bookmarking and pinning for my next curbside curio find 😀 thanks for sharing your tips here!

  • Brecka Jul 15, 2014, 10:58 am

    Hi Krista, I a am ever so grateful for the tips on restoring the globe wernicke bookcases. I havealso aquired a set from the street. Well in all honesty I aquired 16# pieces not counting two different styled tops and three bases, it seems that I have more doors than shelves and some no longer have the glass . I am really looking forward project.
    Thank you again for the info

  • katy o Feb 14, 2014, 12:32 am

    My family has these same book shelves. They were my great grandparents. We love them. Great job on the restore.

  • Matthew Davis Feb 12, 2014, 1:08 am

    You will be glad you didn’t strip them if you ever sell those. They are worth quite a lot of money with the labels and original finish

  • Lisa Jan 15, 2014, 6:19 pm

    What a find! I just purchased one that someone has put paneling on and modified it. I can’t wait to restore it back to what it should be! Being a Cincinnatian it made my heart sink to see what they had done! Glad you rescued and kept it as is!

    • krista Jan 31, 2014, 12:56 pm

      Lisa, I would gasp at seeing wood paneling on a Globe Wernicke bookcase as well! Good luck with your restoration!

  • Pete Dec 11, 2013, 12:47 am

    excellent work. Love restoration work (hobby) 🙂

  • Amy Apr 25, 2013, 7:20 pm

    Oh my goodness, what a fabulous find! It looks great!

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