Rescue and Restoration Of
Seller's Kitchen Cabinet
I have a hard time understanding why people do the things they do. I guess they just don't see things my way. Maybe that's good for a lot of stuff, but not when it comes to furniture. Don't get me wrong, I've screwed up a few pieces myself, and I have a couple of things that my wife and I "antiqued" when we were first married and didn't know better, but I don't think I have ever seen anything quite like this.
My name is Bob Maynard. It was the summer of 2002. I was walking through a local antique mall in my area, and a dealer friend of mine told me that a new dealer had just moved in. He said that the new dealer had a Seller's kitchen cabinet for sale for only $295.00. Whenever a find a Sellers cabinet in decent shape for under $300.00, I snatch it up. Well, I got to his booth and much to my horror and delight, this is what I found.
A 1925, Seller's KlearFront 48 Model "25"
As you can see, this once beautiful piece of furniture had been covered with cheap crackle paint. The top center doors had been removed, and it was being used to display flower pots on it's shelves. I have never been a violent man, and the only time I ever hit anyone was when I was a kid and my big brother would hold me down and tickle me. He got hit a few times. But if I could have met the person that did this, I think I would have hauled off and smacked him just for being stupid. Quoting comedian Bill Engval, "here's your sign".
What I had found was a kitchen cabinet that before being hit with the ugly stick, had been a beautiful gray enameled, top-of-the-line show piece. It was in near perfect condition. It didn't have a nick or ding in either of the porcelain tops, and after tediously razor-scraping the entire piece, found that the original paint had been absolutely perfect until it was repainted with the hideous crackle paint.
So, I bought it and took it home to begin the restoration.
Hoosier, Sellers, Boone, Napanee, McDougall. Some of the names from the past that represent an era of Mom and apple pie; good smells coming from the kitchen; and a couple of manufacturers that just happen to make one the most popular pieces of kitchen furniture from the turn of the century, until the late 1940's. The bakers cabinet, kitchen cabinet, or more commonly known, the Hoosier. My favorite of the entire bunch happens to be the Seller's Kitchen Cabinet. I don't know why. Maybe it has a little to do with their history, or maybe I just like the story of how a time study "expert" came to the Seller's factory one week and began watching all the workers. At that time, factory workers were paid by the piece when building cabinets. This "expert" annoyed one employee so much that he picked up a shovel and threatened to beat him if he didn't leave. That was the end of the time study. Maybe I like Seller's because they more abundant than others. Whatever the reason, they are my choice when restoring.
Working with nothing more that a simple single-edge razor blade in a retractable holder, I set out to discover what lay beneath the "rubble". Sometimes the simple act of finding an unblemished, original decal or artwork, can make the job of paint scraping bearable. So, here I am, late at night, in my shop, with the air temperature hovering around 90 degrees.
As I said, sometimes what you discover while doing a tedious task, can make the job all worthwhile. It's like an archeologist who digs and digs, and finally one day he finds the Holy Grail. Well I didn't find the Holy Grail, but I found perfectly original artwork on a door.
What was this person thinking when they decided to ugly up this cabinet?
A broken rear leg and front corner support needed some attention.
After scraping for three days, I finally completed the task, and began correcting some minor defects.
The tambour (roll up door) was in nice condition, but did require a little tightening of the cloth on the back. A little tambour glue and a heat gun do the trick.
A new coat of oil-based enamel paint, exactly the same color as the original
(thanks to Lowe's computerized paint matching machine), is applied with an HVLP sprayer.
Unfortunately, the original artwork on the upper half was damaged on two of the doors, and I was unable to save it. So with the help of a talented artist at a local screen printing shop in New Windsor, MD, we had silk screens made to reproduce the exact images. After all the painting was complete and dried, the doors were screen printed, and faithfully copied the beautiful design that once graced these cabinet doors.
On old cabinets, the hardware is usually this first thing to go when someone decides to "update" the look of their kitchen, but this old gal still had most of the original stuff. Two pairs of hinges, and a couple of door latches were gone, and a couple of the original hinges needed to be replaced, so in order to keep the uniformity of the appearance, I replaced most of the visible hardware with reproduction hardware. One of my suppliers, has a nice selection of accurately reproduced latches and hinges, and that's the route I decided to go.
Final assembly is now complete, and the finished product is shown below. To see more pictures of this cabinet, please click on the following link:
FOOTNOTE: After the restoration was complete, this cabinet sold for $2000.00.
One of the best books I have found on the history of "Hoosier" cabinets, is
Philip D. Kennedy
This soft-cover book contains 168 pages of history, pictures, old ads, identifying
features, and how-to's that will help you restore your cabinet.
Another good book to get a lot of information from is
Indiana CABINETS by L-W Book Sales
This soft-cover book contains 136 pages of history, pictures (color and black & white), old ads
plus a pricing guide.
Thanks to the following companies for their products, information, and technical assistance in completing this Great Restoration.
Phyllis Kennedy Hardware. Inc.
10655 Andrade Drive
Zionsville, IN 46077
Van Dykes Restorers
P.O. Box 278
Woonsocket, SD 57385
C&H Supply, Inc.
5431 Mountville Road
Adamstown, MD 21710