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Amazing Restoration of Vintage Tea Cart

Updated: Mar 20

I purchased this yellow tea cart at an estate sale. It was painted yellow to match the dining room set with a round table, 4 chairs and a small hutch. As a set it actually look bright and cheerful.


There is just no way I would ever strip a table and 4 chairs so that was not an option for me to purchase! I hate refinishing dining room sets.


However, this little tea cart had potential. It had been moved to the covered patio by the owner when the wheels fell off. It was dusty and dirty.


The brass was extremely tarnished but the wood appeared to be in good shape.


I had an idea of what might be under that paint but was not certain.I guess it was out of curiosity more than anything that I purchased this tea cart.


What is under that paint?


The full video is posted on my YouTube Channel. To view it click on the image below or the link is also listed below:


https://youtu.be/bAkJ3QTLGT4



Supplies listed in the video:

oil based polyurethane spray

Brasso

Furniture Wax

Krud Kutter

Mister for water

Ryobi battery orbital sander

Ryobi Miter Saw battery

Respirator with safety glasses

Dust mask

Mineral Spirits

KWIK Strip Paint and Varnish Remover at Home Depot

Steel Wool Pads #3

Steel Wool Pads super fine

Plastic putty knives

Varathane Premium Wood Stain DARK WALNUT

Hot Plate

Pan to hold vinegar

Distilled White vinegar

Spray Laquer semi gloss

Car washing sponge


Additional products I find helpful in flipping furniture:

Zibra grip n glide 2 inch paint brushAssorted Sanding Sponges

Gray wood contact paper (for drawer bottoms)

Beech wood contact paper (for drawer bottoms)Chair Table Leg floor protectors

Respirator with safety glasses

Rub N Buff

Replacement battery for Ryobi power tools

Ryobi 7 1/4 in Battery powered Miter Saw

Ryobi Electric 7 1/4 in Miter Saw

Irwin 24 inch bar clamp (I use at least 2 each time I need them)

Steel Bar Clamps

5in Clear stretch wrap film (to protect furniture for delivery)

18 in clear stretch wrap film

22 in wooden drawer slide (cut to fit)

Tack in Drawer Glides



Please read all labels and follow all manufacturer safety recommendations when working with paints, stains, and other equipment and wear and use appropriate personal protection equipment. Viewers should attempt these projects at their own risk.


I purchased this yellow tea cart at an estate sale of a woman that had passed over a year ago. It had been painted yellow to match the dining room set with a round table, 4 chairs and a small hutch. As a set it actually look bright and cheerful. There is just no way I would ever strip a table and 4 chairs so that was not an option for me to purchase! I hate refinishing dining room sets. However, this little tea cart had potential. It had been moved to the covered patio by the owner when the wheels fell off. It was dusty and dirty. The brass was extremely tarnished but the wood appeared to be in good shape. I had an idea of what might be under that paint but was not certain. I guess it was out of curiosity more than anything that I purchased this tea cart. What is under that yellow paint?


I decided the best way to tackle this tea cart is to disassemble it. I washed it as I went along with Krud Kutter and rinse it with clear water. Latex paint must have been used because as I washed it , the paint just peeled off in some areas. . I am going to just let the video roll so you can see how I disassembled it and prepared it for the next step.


I gathered all my supplies and prepared to strip the paint and finish from the tea cart. I started with the side pieces. It appeared that the back of these side pieces had the original finish on them so that is why I started with them. Of course, to remove the finish, I had to determine what was used on it. I did a test with denatured alcohol and lacquer thinner. As a result of these tests, I knew I did not have a laquer or shellac finish. Therefore, it had to be polyurethane. The sticker on the back indicated that it was made in Italy and I saw a video produced by a family owned furniture company in Italy that discussed how they apply multiple coats of polyurethane on their furniture. The finish on this furniture looked the same as the finish on this tea cart. It was very polished, smooth and glossy. As a result I was fairly certain this furniture was finished with polyurethane. Kwik strip removes polyurethane so that was the reason I chose it.


However, as you can see in this video, it did not remove the finish! I left it on for over 30 minutes and only a small amount of the finish was coming off! I went to the internet to seek additional information and found very few sources. One video showed how he burned it off! I was not willing to give that a try. Most agreed that sanding was the best option for complete removal of polyurethane .


When it came to removing the paint though, I did use the Kwik Strip and it did a great job at removing all the paint. I applied a heavy coat of the kwik strip and allowed it to sit for about 15 minutes. I tried using a plastic putty knife but the metal putty knife did the best job at removing it. I applied additional stipper and after a few minutes used coarse steel wool to remove the last parts of the paint.


I could tell as I was stripping it that there was a very very thick coat of polyurethane coating the wood. It did not appear that I was affecting the poly with the stripper so I felt it was safe to proceed with the Kwik strip. By this time I was able to see what was under all that paint and it blew me away!!!! Look at that genuine inlaid wood! The craftsmanship in creating it with all the detail and color variation was amazing! I was extremely careful as I proceeded because I knew if I actually stripped the finish off to the bare wood, I would have damaged this delicate inlaid beyond repair. The polyurethane was protecting it! So as I proceeded, my goal was to change the finish from a glossy finish to a satin or matt finish. Once all the paint was gone from the top and the shelf which also had beautiful intricate inlaid wood I allowed it to dry overnight.


I next turned my attention to polishing the brass parts of the tea cart. I put full strength distilled white vinegar in a large pan and heated it on my hot plate. I allowed the wheel to sit it in the hot vinegar and then scrubbed it with the vinegar water using a fine steel wool pad. I could see that it had a coating of some kind over the brass to keep it from turning dark. This was easily removed with the hot vinegar. Eventually I got all the tarnish off. This same process was used for the hinges and the handle. I later used brasso to further clean these items. The brasso removed the last traces of the tarnish and brought back the original shine. You can see in these 2 images how much brighter the handle looked after I used the brasso. The last step was to give everything a coating of lacquer to maintain the shine.


I restained the wood on the handle and applied a coat of satin polyurethane to the handle as well as the wood on the wheels. I sanded the metal parts of the wheels and sprayed them gold. A coat of furniture wax on the rubber part of the wheels made it dark black so they too looked new.


I wanted to make the stained parts of the table darker in color. So I sanded all parts of the tea cart that did not have any inlaid wood with 220 grit sandpaper using an orbital sander and then used a dry cloth to remove as much dust as possible. Then I went over it one last time with Mineral spirits so the stain would go on more smoothly. I used an oil base Vara thane stain in the color dark walnut that dries in only one hour. I applied 2 coats of the stain to the side shelves and one coat to the underside of the table. Here is a photo showing the side piece on the left stained dark walnut and the one on the right in the original color.


As I mentioned before, I wanted to get rid of the high gloss shine to the top of the table and I did not think I could just shoot another coat of polyurethane over the top of the original poly. So, I used 220 grit sandpaper on an orbital sander to rough up the surface a little over the top of the inlaid wood. I was holding my breath the whole time because I really was not certain if this was going to work!


Unfortunately, the video I took at the time was corrupted! I just spent that last 3 hours trying to repair it but I finally gave up. Therefore, I am showing you the same process I used to sand the back of the table. Here you can see what the top looked like after I sanded it. It appeared to work because the inlaid wood was intact thanks to the original thick coat of polyurethane . I dusted off all the wood pieces and then used an oil based spray polyurethane in a satin finish to spray 2-3 light coats on top of everything. I was very pleased with this new finish. The satin finish allows the wood grain to stand out more than before. The inlaid wood and not the high reflective glossy finish is now the star of the show.

I let everything dry overnight. The next day, I sanded the top with crumpled up craft paper to get rid of any dust nubs that may have landed on the surface as it dried. I dusted it once again and then applied a coat of furniture wax on everything.


You can see in this close up that there is no trace of the glossy finish. Instead there is a soft satin finish that enhances the wood grain and inlaid wood.


The only thing left was to reassemble this lovely tea cart.



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