Introduction: Making a Victorian Kitchen Cupboard Useful Again.

About: Technical Editor for two magazines. Software tester for the computer controlled electronic brakes of Locomotives.

This Victorian Kitchen Cupboard sat in our shed all my life filled with junk. The drawers could only be opened with great effort.
At one point we sold it to an antique dealer who never showed up to take it away!
I finally decided to update it and make it look like it did in the 1890's. I don't care for the restoration philosophy of leaving it dirty and banged up. Don't care that some may say I ruined it value wise. Don't intend to sell it!
I wanted to put it back to the condition it was in when it was used daily by my family over 100 yrs ago. If they wanted it all banged up, why did they paint it over 10 times?

Step 1: Stripping Off All the Old Paint

Multiple coats of Citristrip was needed to get thru the 6 layers of paint. Then I hit 4 layers of milk paint. Very little removes that stuff! I did scrape down to see what the original colors were.

Step 2: A New Back.

The original boards comprising the back had dried out and shrunk, leaving gaps. Some even still had bark on them! A sheet of Lauan plywood was attached to the back with 16 gauge nails with a Paslode finish impulse nailer.

Step 3: Sealing the Upper Section

The upper section was caulked with Latex caulk and primed.

Step 4: Lower Section Re-work

When we stripped off the old paint we discovered the drawers were not original to the piece because they had no Milk Paint on them. So, the door was flipped and installed on the right side where the original flour tip out bin resided originally. The shelves on the left would now be the bases for industrial ball bearing wire shelves from Whitney Designs.

Step 5: Refinishing the Cupboard to the Original Finish.

As you can see the interior is painted white and the outside is back to the original color, Barn Red Milk Paint from the "Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company". The finish is satin instead of the standard Milk Paint flat finish. This was accomplished with the addition of their "Milk Paint Bonder" to the Milk Paint.

Step 6: A Tight Fit!

Modern ball bearing sliders were installed to upgrade the shelves. It took an angle adapter to impact drive the mounting screws into the old shelves for the Whitney Designs ball bearing sliders.

Step 7: Creating New Drawer Fronts.

The new drawer fronts were constructed from wide 3/4" thick planks.

Period drawer cast iron pulls were purchased at an antique show and "Japan'd" like the original finish on the rest of the hardware with "Pontypool Japanning Asphaltum" paint from Liberty On The Hudson.

Step 8: Making the New Drawer Fronts Fit the Ball Bearing Wire Rail Shelves.

I used a spacer of wood who's thickness was just the width of the front chrome rails and attached another board to the spacer. This inverted "U" assembly was then slid down over the front rails of the drawer. Then using a longer screw to go thru the inverted "U" piece and into the drawer front, it created a clamp effect when tightened, thus holding the drawer front in place. Then some fiddling to get all three fronts to just clear each other.

Step 9: Bottom Section Is Complete.

With all three drawer fronts in place and the freshly Japan'd cast iron pulls in place, the drawers now only require a single finger to open instead of the previous 2 hands and a lot of wiggling. And they look near original.

Step 10: Finished!

The finishing touch was replacing the period Can-O-Mat can opener back in its original spot between the two upper doors.