The Furniture Refurbisher: Willett Table

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Refurbished mid-century modern console table from Willett Furniture

If you’re in the habit of writing off every piece of furniture you see at a garage sale, auction, estate sale or at your local second-hand store, then this post is going to make you think again. Just the other day I was out deal-hunting at an estate-sale for something that I could put in my entryway for holding keys and such, when I stumbled upon this beauty tucked beneath a pile of worn-in children’s clothes and a blender:

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Experience the thrill of the FIND!

OK, maybe it doesn’t look that beautiful in the picture, but this is a classic piece from the Willett Furniture Company which, until it went defunct in 1962, made and sold some truly amazing furniture. Back when this solid-cherry rarity was made in 1957, it cost $105 and would take weeks for it to be delivered because of the company’s special seven-step finishing process. Today though, original Willett pieces can be worth over $1,000 to collectors. And now, right there before me, was an original Willett.

When I recognized the piece for what it is, I broke into a sweat and tried to subtly inquire the nearest seller about the price. I hid my excitement by casually commenting about the weather and verbally noting how high gas prices are getting. THEN I asked about the table. Even though I’m not planning on flipping the piece, if the seller caught onto my excitement then that could spell trouble. After all, there’s a lot of money at stake!

The price I ended up paying for it was far below $250 and I happily took it home. I remake of this same piece would cost around $2,000, so I was reasonably happy. I didn’t want to flip it because I love the look of it and am probably going to hold onto it for a while. However, the piece did need to be refurbished, which quite frankly, I dreaded. I had never done so before, but after spending an hour or so researching and then a weekend doing the actual project itself, I was ready to go. Turns out it was easier than I thought it would be!

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The ubiquitous before shot. You may want to put down a tarp before setting to work.

  1. First, I removed the hardware, and then I had to get all that dust off of there. I cleaned every inch of it with Murphy’s oil soap which gives the piece a natural shine and most importantly cleans it without damaging it.
  2. Then I sanded the tops of the shelves with very light sandpaper (100, 150, and then 220 grit) to get it ready for refinishing. The rest of it I sanded with the 220 grit sand paper.
  3. After cleaning off the dust, I sanded it once more over with 400 grit sandpaper and 0000 steel wool. It’s very important to use light grit sandpapers to avoid scratching the wood.

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  1. We’re almost there – I then used a rag to apply one generous coat of boiled linseed oil. After letting it dry for an hour, I wiped off the excess with a clean rag.10953203_10152843603883589_1605594965250306073_o
  2. Finally, two days later, I repeated step 4 and then let it dry for two more days. Now it lives here:

Looks pretty nice, right? Not bad for $250 from an estate sale. If you’re looking to do this for yourself, it’s very easy. Everything_But_The_House_Online_Estate_Sales_in_Cincinnati,_OH,_Columbus,_OH,_Lexington,_KY,_Louisville,_KY,_Indianapolis,_IN,_Nashville,_TN,_Atlanta,_GA,_and_Fort_Myers,_FL_EBTH_-_2015-05-20_11.26.39Take an afternoon and shop around garage sales, auctions, Grandma’s attic or other places where you might stumble upon something with potential. There are even websites such as eBay and Everything but the House which sell great furniture. Then you have to figure out what needs to be fixed or how to refinish it. Google is pretty good for that, but if you’re internet averse there are always plenty of people willing to help out over at your local hardware store.

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-Jack

As devilishly handsome as he is clever, Jack is the excellent copyeditor for the Smart Perks team. A passionate music-listener, writer, and all-around great guy, Jack is going to help keep you in the know on fun trends and interesting ideas. 

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