Senior Contributor
Posts: 285
Registered: ‎10-25-2009

Cedar Chest Refinish Success

A couple of months ago you guys gave me advice on how to restore a shellac finished old cedar hope chest.  It turns out to have been an old Caswell-Runyan from Indiana made sometime between 1907 and 1957.  The advice I received allowed me to restore the old shellac to an almost original gloss (or maybe better).  It had plenty of shellac to use as most of it was caked up in alligatoring.  Dissolving it was very fun.  But some garnet shellac flakes were still needed to help match the  new board in the middle of the lid.  I applied with a brush and several coats of spray.  I didn't like how the brushed went on, so I went with the sprayer.  It turned out OK, but I wish I could have removed the hardware.  It was tacked on and I didn't think I could remove it without tearing it all up.  We donated it to our Lutheran school's auction, and it went for $580.  I felt pretty good about that and learned quite a bit too. Thanks to Steve M and the guys who responded, for your help.



























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Posts: 482
Registered: ‎10-23-2009

Re: Cedar Chest Refinish Success

Fantastic work!  There's something glorious about bringing new life into an old piece.  I don't care what they say on antiques roadshow!

Honored Advisor
Posts: 2,679
Registered: ‎10-22-2009

Re: Cedar Chest Refinish Success

Wow! That chest looks great.


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Apprentice Visitor
Posts: 1
Registered: ‎03-24-2012

Re: Cedar Chest Refinish Success

wow the chest looks great!  I was just given a chest very similar however made in lancaster pa.. and believe it or not, it came from my Lutheran pastor...  Smiley Happy  However, the top does have the alligator problem you mentioned. I would like to know what advise you were given to refinish the top. Thanks for your help.

Honored Advisor
Posts: 12,549
Registered: ‎10-23-2009

Re: Cedar Chest Refinish Success

Very nicely done and sure is a beauty to look at.



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Frequent Visitor
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎02-16-2013

Re: Cedar Chest Refinish Success


The cedar chest you did looks amazing.  I have similar old cedar chest and would like improve how it looks.  Some of the finish has alligatored.  Could you share you you refinished yours?

Would appreciate it.



Esteemed Advisor
Posts: 2,128
Registered: ‎11-07-2010

Re: Cedar Chest Refinish Success

Welcome to the forums of, Gail. I'd also like to invite you to explore the video channels as well.

WOOD Online has a very respectable library of free videos for your education and enjoyment in the pursuit of learning more about the craft of woodworking.

There are two channels you can look at for specific subjects:

The first is WOODCuts.
This is the site to go for “house” videos that WOOD magazine has produced for its site visitors. Although these may have commercials in them, and thus have a bit of a loading wait, they are still solid blocks of good to know information professionally shot and edited, with clear and concise demonstrations.

The second resource for videos is WOODTube.
These are user submitted videos usually shot by woodworkers who wish to visually share tips, tricks, and techniques they feel are worth passing on. This site has a search engine so you can get more specific in your need to know area.

And finally, don't forget you can use the site search function, located at the top of the forum pages to bring up past articles of interest too!

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Honored Advisor
Posts: 15,023
Registered: ‎01-15-2010

Re: Cedar Chest Refinish Success

Since Hank has stopped in already may I extend a hearty welcome also???...

Welcome to the forums Gail… Glad you're here... Pull up a seat and make yourself to home...

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Feel like some socializing??? By all means, jump right in to the Off Topic forum...


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So explore to your heart's content...

Here are even more links for answers and geared to inspire...



Need still even more ideas ya say??? Have a look see right here at the PHOTO GALLERY pages...


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Honored Advisor
Posts: 1,567
Registered: ‎10-21-2009

The author of this thread ...

[ Edited ]



... has not visited the forum since March of 2012 so there is a good possibility that he will not see your request.  I do recall the project; but, before we begin, a bit more information will help.  First, I assume your chest is also made of cedar though you did not make that clear.  If it is cedar, is it solid cedar or is the chest veneered.  Also, is the finish the original shellac or have previous attempts at refinishing been made?  This article will help you determine the finish currently on your chest.  Please note the instructions on cleaning before making the tests.  Finally, photos would certainly help...




Finishing & Refinishing Forum Host
Frequent Visitor
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎02-16-2013

Cedar Chest

Thanks for the warm welcome.  The chest is very similar to the one in the picture.  It is solid cedar with metal (copper?) bands.  I have had it for almost 40 years and it has never been refinished in that time period.  It was bought at an antique auction and I believe it is fairly old.  I do not think it has ever been refinished.  I followed the link to see what the finish was.

I had rubbing alcohol and used that to try to test for type of finish.  I cleaned it with warm water and a soft cloth and then I used a few drops of alcohol on a q-tip and the cotton end turned brown and the surface became sticky.  So, I am assuming that it is shellac.  I like original finishes but this one has several white marks on it and worn marks in other areas and definitely needs a tune up.  Not very experienced with refinishing furniture except with a power sander and don't want to do that with this piece. 

Any help would be appreciated.