Cabinets, Furniture, Woodworks/"Re-new" Hoosier


Hello Ellen:

I've seen that you've advised others on the ways to make an old Hoosier look better.  Mine is a three generation 'in the family' piece and I'd like to have it look nicer.  My question is whether I should strip it or just wash it as I've seen others advise?  The finish that's on it now is 'cracked' along some of the framework.  I'd suppose it was originally shellac?  Would I be better off using alcohol or a chemical stripper?  My finish is quite dark, in contrast to the medium oak ones that I've seen.  I'm not sure if that means it was stained post construction or if that was an original color.  It's a good solid piece and I'd like to do it justice!  Thank you for your help  :))

Hi Richard
Nice to hear from you.
The answer to your question depends on the look you want.
You say the finish is very dark and you seem to like the medium oak finishes.
Understand that as the years go by the wood darkens and also the finish itself darkens, in some cases quite  a lot.
If you want it lighter, you must strip the piece completely of its finish.
But certainly try the wash first to see if that improves the look. It could very well be that a lot of the darkness is simply dirt.
I would use mineral spirits and a fine steel wool pad as a gentle scrubber.
Simply dip the steel wool pad in the spirits and working with the grain gently scrub the surface.
Keep lots of clean rags to dry as you go. You may be amazed at the dirt that comes off.
If this lightens the piece to your satisfaction, follow the wash with a nice waxing.
Here is a site I know you will find interesting

You can actually purchase any missing parts for your Hoosier.
Get back if needed

Cabinets, Furniture, Woodworks

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Eileen Cronk


Hi..I can answer most questions about the repairing,stripping and refinishing of all your old furniture and wood items(the things we call antiques)I can give advice about what to buy/avoid at auctions/flea markets. I do not give appraisals on antiques.


I have been refinishing antiques for the past 30yrs. While I have taken several courses over the years,I have found that "hands on" learning is the best teacher. Perhaps I can help you avoid some of the mistakes I made while learning.

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