Have you ever ran across a structurally interesting wood piece but layers and layers of ingrained dust or the chalky dry wood left behind made it seem a little too grungy or industrial looking for your home? I was given this vintage tool caddy recently by a friend cleaning out an abandoned barn, but no amount of wiping or even hosing it off could get the wood clean- so I took drastic measures:

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Old tool caddy with deeply engrained dirt and a chalky dull finish
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Obviously handmade from quality wood, this felt like a piece worth cleaning up

 

Before I could even begin to work on this piece, I knew it needed cleaned Like super duper cleaned. Like the kind of clean a machine does best! So in it went to the dishwasher with just a little borax and lots and lots of water. (Yes! lots of natural “not washable” materials do fine in the dishwasher as long as oils are replaced after the piece is totally dry)
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After the dishwasher, I let it dry fully on the porch. Still with a dull and chalky finish, the dishwasher did do a great job of removing both surface dirt and the dust embedded in the grain of the wood.

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My vintage wood tool caddy rescue-project, before oiling

 

My secret ingredient for restoring pieces like this is a product called Feed N Wax. It’s a mix of beeswax and orange oil and, I don’t know, some kind of magical fairy dust that transforms old wood.

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feed n wax on a dry vintage toolbox
I like to apply the thick waxy goo directly to the wood
 the color of the wood changes dramatically as the oil replaces the natural oils in the wood
From the first smear, the color of the wood changes dramatically as the oil replaces the natural oils in the wood that were stripped out by time and dust.

 

 

 

Wood darkens and a beautiful grain emerges as it's applied
Once evenly applied, I use a rag and friction to slightly warm the surface of the wood- melting the tiny beads of beeswax and helping seal the oil in the grain of the wood.

 

In less that five minutes of applying and buffing, my rough old toolbox was rejuvenated into a really nice, richly patinaed  piece that looks great in my studio holding paint:

 

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This was a fun and FAST wood restoration project, made even faster by using a dishwasher to clean the wood and using a one-coat oil based treatment instead of coats of stains and sealers. The piece may need waxed and oiled again in a few years, but for now I’m loving it’s new look!

 

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