I have an antique cabinet that my grandfather built decades ago and I want to preserve it.

I don't think he has done anything to preserve the wood so I should probably do some work on it. I would like to know what species of wood it is made from (if it is easily distinguishable from the picture).

I would also like to know what can be done to take care of it?

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  • 2
    You should be clearer about what your question is. You want to "preserve" it. What does that mean, exactly, as this item already is preserved. I mean, it's lasted decades already, and could easily be cleaned up with soap and water. Assuming you mean you want to refinish this piece in some way. How far do you want to go with a refinish? What is your skill level, and what tools do you have, and how much work are you willing to put into it?
    – user5572
    Jun 7, 2020 at 13:30
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    Also, check out the tour if you have not already. SE sites are a little different than threaded forum sites, in that you want to stick to a single question. So, technically your question about identifying the wood used should be a separate question. This is to encourage good, complete answers. Also, I suspect identifying the wood used will require a totally different set of photos. You are encouraged to edit this question and make sure you ask a single question and provide all the necessary details to attract good answers.
    – user5572
    Jun 7, 2020 at 13:37
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    Note that it was, and is, very common for the inside of solid wood cabinets to not be finished at all. So, if you are specifically asking about the unfinished interior know that this is sort of expected, and the years of aging have given the wood a patina that, again, is a completely reasonable finish in many cases. So, make sure you tell us exactly what you have in mind for this cabinet, and what you mean by "preserve".
    – user5572
    Jun 7, 2020 at 13:41
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    Welcome to WSE. Please note that , in general, species identification is not within the scope accepted for Woodworking Stackexchange since it is so easy to be mislead by a picture..
    – Ashlar
    Jun 7, 2020 at 17:47
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    Yeah, it's pretty clear from the picture that the species of wood used here is known colloquially as "What Ihave Lyingaround" wood. A hard-soft-hard-softwood from west-central-eastern North America. I don't know the Latin name for it. Similarly, that paint colour is definitely the famous "Don't Waste The Left Over Green" found in the bottom 1/6th of paint cans throughout the last century.
    – user5572
    Jun 8, 2020 at 19:59

1 Answer 1


If it was me, I'd dunk it in some paint stripper (or brush the stripper on) to rid it of that green color* then repaint it to match the room I was going to put it in. My Mother-in-Law would hang me for that, though, as she loves green of all shades, so that may not be your course of action.

If you're not going to strip it, a good dish-soap and water scrubbing may be all this needs to make it look as good as the day your gramps finished it. Use a sponge not a scrub pad unless there's a particularly stubborn area - the Scotch-Bright™ type scrub pads are likely to take the paint off, particularly if it's thin in places. Note you're not doing the dishes here - you don't need to soak down the wood, just get some warm, slightly soapy water, dunk the sponge, squeeze most of the water out, and gently rub the cabinet to get the gunk off. When it's clean, repeat with clear water to get rid of the soap, and pat it dry with paper towel or a shop towel, then let it sit out to dry. Soaking the wood is bad, lightly moistening it to lift the accumulated cruft is just fine.

Also, unless the "catch" piece of wood above the right-hand door is the way Grandpa originally built the cabinet, I'd consider replacing that with a magnetic catch on the inside, just to clean up the look a bit.

Once you've refurbished it to your desired state, dust it regularly, give it a gentle soap and water bath as necessary, try not to knock into it with heavy, pointy things, and pass it along to the next generation when the time comes.

*As noted by jdv in the comments, do be aware that there may be lead in that paint if it was applied before 1970 (or so) in the US. It was roughly that time-frame when lead was banned from paint. If you use a chemical paint stripper, you shouldn't have to be particularly concerned about it - the lead will remain in the liquid/gel and be disposed of when you throw it out. If you use a mechanical method (sanding, scraping) to remove the paint, you'll kick some/a lot of it in the air (especially sanding) and make small particles. These are the ones that are dangerous, so some common sense precautions are applicable.

  • 3
    That paint has lead in it for sure. Recommend careful removal, or just paint over it.
    – user5572
    Jun 8, 2020 at 19:55
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    Also, a cabinet like this deserves a good old ball-catch closure that matches the meaty doors. Lots of room there for a nice positive latch on the edge of the outer door.
    – user5572
    Jun 8, 2020 at 20:04
  • @jdv, the lead warning is perhaps appropriate to be fair, but the thing has to be much older than I'm guessing it is for lead paint to be likely, or a certainty. Even at that, stripping makes the lead a non-issue. If sanding it is a worry of course, but modest single exposures to lead-containing dusts aren't of great concern to healthy adults....... if dust containing lead were an imminent health risk everyone old enough to have been around in the era of leaded gasoline would be very sick, or dead.
    – Graphus
    Jun 9, 2020 at 17:56
  • Added a note about possible lead contamination, just to be thorough.
    – FreeMan
    Jun 9, 2020 at 18:07
  • @Graphus, it's about a total lifetime load, and you have no way of knowing who you might be exposing. Hence my use of the word careful. I'm puzzled why you would think this item has to be that much older for it to have to be in the lead-paint era. Lead paint was phased out in the early-to-mid 70s in North America, and was in private use nearly until the early 80s. Remember that the symptoms associated with extreme lead poisoning might be obvious, but it has been proven that lower levels of exposure are not as easily identifiable while still having a detrimental affect.
    – user5572
    Jun 9, 2020 at 19:31

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