Monday, October 27, 2014

Empire Buffet Sideboard *how to remove old felt lining from antique drawers*

This antique was in pretty bad shape when I found it. The original owners had it in their basement for forever and was planning on sending it to the dump. So yes, I came to its rescue.

The worst part of this buffet was not the outside (and it was bad), but the inside. 
The top drawers were lined with felt, but this felt was suuuppperrr yucky so it had to come out. 

So I've refurbished a lot of antiques and I've pulled out felt before. They are usually glued with animal glue which is a good adhesive because it doesn't hurt your silverware. Other types of glues can tarnish or rust your ware; others can crack or dry out the wood, so animal glue is the favorite when dealing with buffets. 
HOWEVER, this particular maker used about a gallon too much and this stuff was NOT coming off! You can see where I started to pull it near the back. Ya, all the loose-ish felt came up, but none of it came off the wood. 

What normally happens is kind of like peeling wallpaper. Once you get a loose piece you can pull a large part off until you reach the really stuck part, right? Then you just keep pulling what you can and deal with the super stuck pieces later. Well... every part of these top drawers were my super stuck pieces.
So here is where I share my least favorite part of refurbishing with you... 
To get that felt and animal glue off...

1. Wet the felt.

2. Rub it in so it goes through to the wood. 
3. Let it soak for about 10 minutes (time depends on the thickness of felt and age of glue, so it may vary)

4. Peel it off.
You can see in this photo below that I didn't let the water sit long enough or not enough water got through to the wood. In this case, wet it again and repeat until it comes off.

Here is more of my process... Keep in mind that you can only do small parts at a time because you don't want the water to sit on the wood so long that it actually ruins the wood!

Oh, and also, it can be an icky sticky kind of  mess...

The top middle drawer treated me a bit kinder...

Ok... so when you have all/most of the felt out you'll notice that the wood will be sticky, especially when all the water dries out. At this point you can use a wet cloth with a touch of liquid dish soap to clean it. And tah-dahhhh... Clean, felt-free, sticky-free drawers.

Now... on to the main body. 

After years of just sitting around in a basement the wood where the middle drawer is had warped a bit.  Meaning the middle drawer would not sit all the way in. So Mr. handyman husband sanded that section so it would fit. 

The bottom edge was clearly beat up by a vacuum or something. So it got some sanding love too.

Then, the beautiful empire foot on the right side was not so beautiful. Half was missing so I built the other half with wood putty, let it sit overnight to harden, and sanded it smooth. Notice I even etched in the rest of the scroll line. That's right, I'm feeling crafty now!

This buffet had a dark stain on it so I knew I would need to cover that with some shellac to prevent bleed through when I painted it. I used Zinsser's shellac-based primer.

Then fiiiiiiiiinalllllyyyyy... paint. First coat done with Skinny supervising.

I wanted to keep the wood unpainted inside the doors so I added clear shellac to the mahogany to really make it shiny and bright.

Look how the wood grain pops with clear shellac!

That's is it for today. Next post will be my Sophisticated stenciling technique on this buffet!
Stay tuned...


  1. Hi have tryed everyrhing I can think of to get rid of my felt in a draw any ideas thanks lisa

    1. Hi Lisa, if you have already tried letting the felt soak in water and that didn't work, you can also try ironing it to get it hot. The heat should also melt the adhesive. You just don't want to burn the felt, or the wood. What else have you tried? -Jennifer @SophisticatedJunkPile

  2. Hi. My sideboard's cutlery drawer is lined with what feels like a velvet fabric. Would this technique work on removing that as well?

    1. I would think yes, as long as it's glued with the same kind of animal glue (which most true antique pieces used).

  3. Hi. I recently bought an old sideboard with an amazing cutlery drawer BUT the drawer is lined in a velvet-like fabric. Would your technique work on removing this from the drawer as well?

    1. Hi Heather, I would guess yes. If your sideboard maker used animal glue then it should work. The idea is to either melt or wet the glue so it's not dry and hard. When it becomes wet (or hot) again it will be sticky but pliable so you can, in theory, peel it off. Good luck!

  4. Maybe hairdryer on hot would melt the glue ?

    1. yes, I've heard that will work too, but this fabric was so bad, like dry and brittle, that a heat gun probably would've burnt it and a hairdryer may not get hot enough. But worth a try I suppose.


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