My Antique Cabinet Layered With Old Oil Paint Easily Refinished

Cait Geddes
by Cait Geddes
2 Materials
3 Hours

This old, antique cupboard once belonged to my great grandfather and has been sitting in my basement for years! I’ve never had a use for it, but couldn’t bear the thought of getting rid of it because of it’s sentimental value. Plus, my Mother would kill me!!

This piece has certainly lived a long life, and is showing it’s age. It has a million layers of paint that are chipped and cracked and it’s covered in dents and scratches. But surprisingly, the bones of the piece are still in really good shape. It’s sturdy and still perfectly put together. The doors work perfect, and the interior shelves are 100% usable. It still has lots of life in it, but definitely needs a refresh.

Considering the sentimental value and the sturdiness of this piece, I decided to give it a face lift and proudly use it in my home.

My original plan for this piece was to expose the natural wood on the top, and paint the doors and base a pop of colour. I’m loving this look lately! Here are some examples:

Before I started the tedious job of removing layers of paint to expose the wood top, I tested to see if the current paint was oil based. Oil based paint is very difficult and time consuming to remove as opposed to latex or water based paints.

How to test if your surface is oil-based paint:

Pour a bit of an acetone-based solvent like nail polish remover on a rag or paper towel and rub it on the surface. If nothing rubs off, it’s oil; if paint rubs off on your rag, it’s latex.

Sure enough, the paint on my cupboard was oil based :(

Removing oil based paint is tedious, dirty work, however there are a few ways you can go about removing it if, you are brave.

1) You can use a heat gun like this variable temperature one which uses high temperatures to soften multiple layers of paint so that the gunk can easily be scraped off. Heat guns minimize dust and can lift years of paint but they are super smelly and you risk burning the wood.

2) You can try a chemical stripper. They come in liquids, gels, or pastes that dissolve paint so they can be scraped off with a scrapper like this one from One plus is that they reach small nooks and crannies a heat gun can't get to, but they can be messy, smelly, and slow.... and most aren't environmentally friendly.

3) You can always try a good ol' electric sander to grind away the paint. Orbital sanders usually come with multiple grit sanding sheets work great on large, flat surfaces. But don't work so well on detail work. You'll have to get a smaller more precise sander for those areas like this one which is not easy to use. Sanders are also super messy and take some heavy duty elbow grease.

Before trying any of these methods, always be aware that lead-based paints were commonly used before the 1940s. This toxic metal is seriously dangerous when exposed, so always be more safe than sorry.

Based on the age of My great-grandfather's cupboard and the multiple layers of paint, there’s a chance it may have been painted with lead based paint so I decided to forgo any paint stripping and just paint it. You can use House&Canvas Furniture Paint right over-top oil paint with zero prep. No sanding or priming is required. Just start painting!! And, there is zero smell, so I was able to paint this whole piece indoors.

I decided to just work with the natural imperfections this piece has gained throughout it’s life, and really celebrate it’s character. I chose to use House&Canvas Furniture Paint in Jameson Blue. Jameson Blue is a rich, deep, blue with a hint of green. I LOVE this colour.

House&Canvas Furniture Paint in Jameson Blue

I did two coats of Jameson Blue and let it dry over night.

The following day, I did one coat of  House&Canvas Wax i n Walnut. As I mentioned before, I decided to bring out the natural character of this piece by enhancing all of t’s imperfections. The walnut wax really highlighted all of the dents and scratches in a good way!

The walnut wax is designed to be layered so you can control the amount of colour you want on your piece. A few hours after I applied the first coat of wax, I went in again and added some in the corners of the door to give it an aged, antique effect.

I am so happy with how this peice turned out. I have it sitting right in my front entrance for everyone to see when they first walk in. I love the history it offers and I know my mom will be so happy when she see’s it in my home 🙂

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