Introduction: Turning Old TV Cabinet Into a Bar Cart

A few weeks ago my wife and I picked up this old TV stand from an estate sale. It had been completely gutted and was being sold for $30 dollars.

The person in charge of the estate sale suggested that the person who would buy it could turn it into a bar cart. Little did she know, we did!

This post will go through the general steps we went through to turn this neglected TV stand into a mid-century inspired bar cart.

Materials used:

First of all, there are a few things you might want to have for Health and Safety reasons as well as surface protection. This includes:
- Gloves
- Respirator Mask
- Tarp
- Painter's Tape
- Masking Paper

1) Stand Restoration

- Paint Stripper
- Basic paint brush
- Mineral Spirit
- Putty Knife
- Shop Towels
- Sander
- Sand paper (80, 120, 220 grit)

2) Wood Staining / top coat
- Wood Pre-Stain
- Wood Stain with desired color (I chose American Walnut)
- Spray on Polyurethane with desired finish (I chose Satin)

3) Brass cleaning/ Reinstalling the doors
- Brass cleaner
- Shop Towels

4) Replacing the bottom panel (+ adding walnut veneer (optional))
- Plywood board
- Paper backed Walnut Veneer
- Contact cement
- Paint Roller

5) Repainting the Inside
- Paint brush / or paint roller - Paint (I chose Behr Dark Walnut in Matte)

Step 1: 1a) Stand Restoration (before Pictures)

When I picked up the TV cabinet, I figured I would need to refinish the outside just because there were a lot of scratches on it.

Wooden parts: Fortunately for me none of the scratches were very deep and so I decided to use a paint stripper to remove the bulk of it. I would then use the Mineral Spirit to neutralize the stripper, and finish with my random orbital sander.

Handles & Hinges: Removing the doors was part of my plan in the long term as it would make staining them a lot easier so I decided to remove the hinges all together.

Step 2: Taking Off the Wooden Part of the Handles

Removing the door hinges meant that applying the stripper and then sanding would be made easier so I decided to take the extra step. Labeling each part will make putting them back a lot easier specially as I plan on leaving the nails.

Step 3: 1b) Stand Restoration (stripping)

First of all, make sure to cover all of the areas that you want to protect. Then start applying a generous amount of paint stripper on all of the parts that you want to work on. Follow the instructions of the product that you end up using for best for best results. In my case, (outside on a sunny day) I left it on for about 30 minutes.

Step 4: Surprise Step

I had no idea that the front panels had been painted to look like a veneer. I have refinished multiple mid-century pieces of furniture for my house and that had never happened to me so it definitely came as a surprise but considering that the paint stripper had been on for 30 minutes there was no turning back. Luckily for me, the wood veneer underneath looked pretty nice and was consistent with the rest of the cabinet.

Step 5: 1c) Stand Restoration (Sanding)

With most of the varnish gone, the next step will be to sand down to the bare wood.

Using a sander can seem pretty nerve wrecking on vintage furniture. I think the key is to start with a higher grit sand paper (maybe 120). If you find that you end up having to replace the sandpaper too often because it seem to get clogged up, or just doesn't seem to do much you can move back to a finer sandpaper. I would recommend getting a variety of grits (ex: 60 / 80 / 120-150 / 220 would be a good start)

In my case, I started with 80 but eventually moved down to 60 grit. The key with a random orbital sander is to never stop moving, especially when there might be a dent in the wood/veneer and you might be tempted to stick to one spot. (example in the last photo - one spot didn't get sanded and it will be a lot easier to sand it by hand rather than try to get it with the random orbital sander and risk to leave a mark)

Step 6: 2) Wood Staining / Top Coat

Using a pre-stain before applying the desired stain color not only helps with getting a more consistent finish, I also find that it really helps me with the confidence to apply the stain. You don't have to worry as much about the timing or leaving a mark on your furniture because you might not have applied the stain as evenly with your brush or noticed a drop etc.

The process for applying the pre-stain and the stain is the same. You do not want to leave it to dry on whatever piece of furniture you are working with.

Tip: If the color that you're getting once you wipe the stain off is too light or you preferred the look of it before, you might want to apply a second coat (or as many as necessary) or possibly move to a darker stain overall.

I finished the whole thing with a spray on satin polyurethane. I find it the easiest and overall this cabinet will not get a lot of traffic so I'm not concerned about protecting it heavily from scratches.

Step 7: 3) Brass Cleaning/ Reinstalling the Doors

Brass cleaning takes a lot of elbow grease but the result makes it all worth it.

You can find a lot of tricks online to polish brass using things you might have in your fridge or food cabinet. I looked under my sink and had a container of brass polisher so I guess I will be able to save the ketchup for the my next BBQ :)

Step 8: 4) Replacing the Bottom Panel (+ Adding Walnut Veneer (optional))

The original panel had a hole in it (I'm assuming to help with the original TV ventilation) so I decided to remove it and replace it with a piece of plywood that I had leftover from a separate project. I traced the original panel onto the piece of plywood and cut it to size using my jigsaw.

The extra steps are optional but I thought they would both help with with the overall vibe of the project.

Walnut veneer: the plywood wasn't particularly pretty and although it might have been
fine to stain, I thought the whole thing would look a lot better if I added walnut veneer to it to keep the whole cabinet consistent.

It was my first time messing with veneering and contact cement so i probably didn't take as many pictures as I should have. But the process was pretty straight forward. After applying the contact cement to both the paper backed veneer and the plywood I let it dry and then removed all bubbles with a squeegee.

Gold spray paint: The front edge was something I wondered about. I could have gone with the walnut veneer but I thought it might be good to add a touch of gold to go with the brass hardware. I spray painted a first coat before veneering and then a second coat once the veneer was affixed to the plywood sheet.

Step 9: 5) Repainting the Inside / Final Result

The inside was in pretty good condition because had been hiding behind a TV for years but also because the cabinet had once had a TV in it there were a few holes left by the screws that held it in place. I could have used wood filler but it would have meant going back to the shop to get some. I had some painter's putty at my house and the holes were so small that I decided to use that and it worked great. A quick sanding removed all of the imperfections of the wood and evened out the putty filler.

For paint I tried a color called Dark Walnut from Behr and was really happy with the look of it.

And that was it, once the inside had been repainted the refinishing/conversion part of the project was done

Step 10: 6) Stocking Up the Bar

And it wouldn't be a bar without anything it in, so once I moved it into my house the final step was to stock it up. Cheers!

Trash to Treasure

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Trash to Treasure