Restoring An Old Factory Cart into a Conversation Piece

I suppose this week is, officially, my one and only DIY week.

On Tuesday I showed you how to refresh your vintage KitchenAid mixer so it looks brand new. Well, today’s project is one I did at the beginning of the summer. It was pretty involved, and I didn’t photograph the whole process — just the Before and After — so I’ll be referring you to the two blogs I used to create my favorite piece in my home: my coffee table.

My husband and I were perusing some antique malls in Lexington when we came across this beautiful, rustic factory cart for $100. We’d remembered seeing one similar on Restoration Hardware’s website for $995. $995 vs. $100 + some work: SOLD!

After buying it, I did a ton of research on restoring this thing. You’d be surprised how few blogs there are on this subject considering these carts are HOT right now! That’s when I found this post on the blog Make Your Move. It goes through all the nitty-gritty on how to remove the pieces, sand it down, get the rust off, etc.

One of the things I did differently from this guy, though, is that I DID NOT paint the metal black. I removed the rust and used Valspar Max Anti-Rust Clear Sealer to protect the natural metal and give it a finished, glossy sheen. I bought all new nuts and bolts, and since I didn’t paint everything black, the nuts and bolts looked a bit goofy being brand new and shiny. So I cheated. After everything was put back together, I painted the nuts and bolts with my ebony wood stain (which I’ll get to in a minute). This toned down the new metal, but still gave it a slight contrast with the rustic pieces it was up against.

The other thing I did differently from every cart I’ve seen online, and by every cart, I mean every cart, is that I didn’t keep the wood its natural, light color (When you look at the before photos, you’ll notice that the piece already looks like the wood is dark. That was actually tar and grime that had built up over time. Once I sanded that off, the original color was a very light, blonde maple). I wanted a rich, dark piece for the main table in my home, but I didn’t know how to get what I wanted.

Enter Young House Love.

They wrote this blog post about making new wood look old. Well, my wood was already old and didn’t need help in that department. BUT, what I loved was how they stained the wood! Read the full post if you’re wanting to restore your cart this way, but here’s the synopsis: alternate between painting a brown walnut stain and an ebony stain. Don’t mix the two. If you do, you can’t control the color. With this alternating method, I could easily do one coat, let it sit, layer the alternating color, let it soak up the stain, then decide which color I wanted more of on my wood. Beautiful. Once I had the desired color, I sealed the wood with Deft Clear Wood Finish in Satin (as opposed to matte or gloss).

I LOVE THIS FINISHED PRODUCT! Sometimes, I just like to look at my coffee table and admire all the character and detail in it. Is that weird? It has also proven to be a great conversation topic among our friends and families. It looks like it has a story to tell, and people often ask what that story is.

Here are the before and after photos. I hope this inspires you to restore something beautiful in your home and have fun doing it!




One thought on “Restoring An Old Factory Cart into a Conversation Piece

  1. Hi you’re table looks great. I’m thinking of doing exactly the same thing. I was just wondering, is there a need to put the cart in a kiln? Also some of those carts have painted markings/text on them, how would you keep the writing if you are sanding the surface. Do people generally just paint them back in?


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