Scott and I love antiques. Well, to be more specific, Scott likes antiques and I loooooooove antiques. So if you do the math, we love them. Not the fancy, expensive, heavy, ornate numbers. We like the well loved and used primitive looking simple antiques. Sometimes the things I bring home are a little too well used and rickety for Scott’s taste. Mostly because when I bring them home, I bat my eyes at him and ask him to fix them. He works his magic and then I find a place for my treasure in our house. This process makes me so happy! A few years ago he went so far as to ask me to please stop buying pieces of junk. I can’t remember exactly how I replied, but I’m sure it was something like, “Oh silly, you know I can’t do that.” One of my favorite pieces of junk joined us on a snowy day in November a couple of years ago. Here are a couple of random pictures from that day (aren’t cell phone cameras neat?):

the find

I found it on Craigslist and somehow talked the seller into delivering it. He and his son plopped it right into my garage. When Scott got home, he smiled at me and said that if I wasn’t finished transforming it and moving it into the house soon, he was just going to use it as garage storage. Um, no.

It had a plywood top and thick gray paint with various other colors peaking through the dings and scrapes. The labels read pliers, screwdrivers, batteries, etc. The seller said he had gotten it from the garage at an estate sale and had just never gotten around to fixing it up.

The fix

I got right to work, much to Scott’s amazement. I’m a procrastinator, so this was a departure. I pried off and unscrewed most of the hardware. Some of the label frame brads were so stubborn that I was afraid I’d damage the drawer fronts with my efforts, so I enlisted Scott’s help. He made a custom tool to remove them without damage. That is how awesome he is. My sister-in-law, who also loves projects and pieces like this, told me she’d seen an article about using a crockpot to remove paint from hardware, so it all went in.

I lined a little crockpot with foil (not strictly necessary, but I use that thing for food!), threw in the hardware, added enough water to cover it, and left it on low over night. The paint and grime still took some elbow grease to remove, but it worked like a charm!

Next, I removed all of the drawers and plastered every surface, nook, and cranny with Citristrip Stripping Gel.

This stuff is great because it is non toxic (you still have to ventilate and wear gloves) and works really fast but keeps working for up to 24 hours. I put a plastic drop cloth under the chest to catch the falling goop. I painted on the gel like mayonnaise. I waited an hour and then had to start scraping. I wish I had a picture of the colorful mess that came off of this thing. I think at some point the drawers were all different colors, but each had at least six layers of paint. It is so satisfying to scrape off old paint. Did you ever put Elmer’s glue on your hand in school, let it dry, and then peel it off? It’s like that, only productive. So fun! I think I removed eighteen pounds of paint. I did have to take a couple of passes with the gel. I used about a gallon all told. I tried not to sand it much because I love the look and patina of old wood and didn’t want to wear off the character. Some of the drawers seemed to be stained, so I sanded sparingly. One drawer front was just a makeshift plywood replacement, so Scott made a new one out of some old scraps. I can’t even tell which one it is! Next, I put on a couple of coats of Howard’s Restor-A-Finish

Howard restor a finish used on antique apothecaryin golden oak. Then I slapped on a couple of coats of Howard’s Citrus Shield Wax,

Howard paste wax used on antique apothecary and a beautiful, rich, deep patina came through.

I love how each drawer is a little different. The hardware was tough to replace. Those label frames just nail in, and the nails are tiny and stubborn, so Scott did that for me. He also surprised me by making a top out of leftover floor boards while I was out of town!

antique apothecary after with new top

I stained the top with a mix of old stain we had on hand until the color seemed right, and then it was ready to take it’s place. I bought it November 2nd and it was in the house for Thanksgiving. I’m sure this is a Jarrett family record never to be duplicated.

the finished product

antique apothecary after in house

We use it for all of that random stuff you never know where to keep. Tape refills, bandaids, flashlights, dog leashes, sunscreen, phone chargers and ear buds, sunglasses (you’d be amazed how many pair we have; if you ever come over and forget yours, we’ve got you covered), baby wipes (still buy them by the case), batteries, and on and on. I left it like this for over a year, but I thought my kids might finally lose their minds opening thirty-five different drawers every time they needed the tape measure, so I broke down and labeled the drawers.

That is Fish the cat.

So, here is the side by side transformation.

What do you think? I love a good before and after. For another Jarrett before and after, check this out! And for a really amazing collection of apothecary photos, check out this Pinterest board.

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7 thoughts on “Apothecary Chest Before and After

    1. My silly 11 year old daughter does. She says he’s a cat named Fish that looks like a cow, acts like a dog and eats like a pig.😂

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