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Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Northern furniture company dresser


Front of dresser
Front of dresser  
I bought a dresser at an estate sale this weekend and would like to know a little about it.  It says its Northern Furniture Company. It has a frame and brackets for a mirror but the mirror is missing. I know I'm not supposed to ask "how much is it worth" but I am thinking about refinishing it and selling it if it would be worth my time. I paid $55 dollars for it. Would I get any more out of it if I sold it? What color should I stain it? What do I need to know before refinishing it? Thanks in advance.

Hi Nickie
Heres what I found for you about the Northern Furniture Company.

Northern Furniture Company
Furniture with the Northern Furniture Company brand name was manufactured in Sheboygan between the years 1904 and 1949. The company was originally founded by George B. Mattoon in 1881. The plant grew from a modest start until by 1900 it covered twelve acres and employed some 800 workers. This enterprise was known as the Mattoon Manufacturing Company until the founder's death in 1904. The name was then changed to the Northern Furniture Company. In 1916 the firm was bought by the Reiss interests (of the C. Reiss Coal Company, a prominent name in Wisconsin). The company continued to manufacture tables, desks, bookcases and buffets apparently through 1949. At that time the name was changed to R-Way Furniture. Unfortunately, Mead Library does not own any catalogs or other records from the Northern Furniture Company.
Your dresser was made in the companys later years.
From the picture, it looks like someone has stripped the original finish off.
Did you get the handles and key plates?
Looks like a bit of damage on the front drawers but otherwise not bad condition.
If you are thinking of selling, just leave it as is. Thats the best way as with a piece like this, folks want to restore themselves. I would ask $100.00 as is.
If you refinish it nicely, it could get 175 to 200
Here is the finishing info and even though I said it looks like the finish has been removed, you must still go through the following process. You will not need multiple coats of stripper. Only one.

The first thing you must do is assemble the material to do the job.
The stripper is the most important item.  
I am hoping you can get "CIRCA 1850" brand paint and varnish remover in your area. Its an MC stripper.
Here is a link
If this brand is not availble, ask for an MC stripper of another brand.

MATERIAL LIST For the stripping stage.
1 quart stripper
1 box of Bull Dog steel wool in medium grade.
One 3 inch oil based paint brush.
Rubber gloves (like you do dishes with), and a pair of cotton gloves inside the rubber ones.
People react differently to stripper. A lot of people feel heat through the rubber gloves, but I feel cold. Have no idea why.
An empty large coffee can. (for the stripper)
A couple of old tooth brushes.
Lots of old rags (I like t-shirts or cotton but for this first stage whatever you have)
Lots of newspaper to protect the garage floor
That's all you need to get started.
Work in sections.
Brush on the stripper with the brush. Stripper will quit working if it dries, so keep it wet till the finish softens.
Then take a rag and wipe this mess off. Then while the wood is still wet, take the steel wool and rub with the grain till the wood is nice and clean.
Depending on the material you are removing, another coat of stripper is often needed but you will know this as you progress into the job.
Use the toothbrush in crevices.
Thats all there is to it ...move to another section and continue.
No other prep is necessary...and DO NOT SAND
When the stripping is complete, stain with Minwax stain applied with a rag, then 3 or 4 coats of low lustre tung oil also applied with a rag. I suggest Minwax oil stain in "Special Walnut color"
Please let me know if anything is not 100% clear.  

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Eileen Cronk


I can answer most questions about the repairing and refinishing of all your old furniture items (the things we call antiques). I can also give you advice on what wood items to choose and what wood items to avoid at auctions, flea markets etc. I DO NOT give appraisals on antiques as this is not my field of expertise.


I have been repairing, refinishing and of course buying old furniture for the past 30 years. On any given weekend I can be found at auction sales or flea markets searching out a good buy. I have taken several courses in this area over the years, but I find "Hands On" learning to be the best teacher. I can help you avoid the pitfalls and problems of this wonderful rewarding craft.

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