Friday, July 8, 2011

Anatomy of a Heywood Wakefield Kohinoor M148 nightstand refinishing

A funny thing happened the other day, this guy walks into a bar...
Oops...Sorry,that's another story.
This is actually a true documentary with some pics about a recent/ongoing project. A customer of ours was interested in selling a H/W bed and although she decided to keep the bed, she had a couple of things to refinsh. This is a synopsis of the refinishing of the first of two nightstands. It's a Kohinoor M148 which were made from '48-51'. I've been refinishing H/W for about the last 9-10 years and although there are people out there that have been collecting and selling longer, I think I've seen I think almost every condition that it can be seen. At this point I have refinished hundreds of pieces of mine as well as many pieces for other clients. If you have an interest in buying and refinishing H/W you are welcome to follow along...
I have no idea what my client paid for this piece but if I saw it in a yard sale in the condition it's in, I might  go $20 max. It's in realy rough shape. Scale of 1-10 I'd probably give it a 3.
Now let the fun begin....
First we are going to disassemble...

This nightstand does not appear to have been refinished. It was originally champagne but the client would prefer in wheat. Not a problem as this baby is going back down to her birthday suit anyway. The piece has a couple of major flaws. There are divots in the front of the drawer pull that are either factory fills, which I doubt, or are holes that someone has used wood putty to fill, although long ago. There are also heavy stains on the right side facing on the top. I would guess to be either an oil or ink of some kind. These are the kind of flaws to watch out for when considering buying a piece. Not the ideal candidate but I've worked on worse pieces! I've found that a lot of cabinets don't need to be completely dissaembled, however, if there is a back panel that needs to be done or an interior space, it's easier to take it all down as it was in the case of this particular piece.

Not a bunch of fun to take down but will be worth it in the longer term..

Now that we have the patient in pieces and laid out it's time to break out the sander. I don't use chemical strippers. You are going to have to sand these pieces in the long run anyway and it's messy, expensive, and environmentally a non-starter. That said, you need to be careful of what grit paper you use and where it's most efficient. Large flat surfaces are ideal for a 60 grit start. You can cut to the chase, so to speak, and not make any structural changes. The last thing you want to do is take away the beautiful and graceful lines that make this furniture desirable. However major blemishes are more quickly and easily worked out with a lower grit paper. I use 150 in the second stage and work over the same areas and more towards the slightly more delicate spots taking care not to "reshape" the existing lines. I finish with a 220 for the balance also taking great pains not to change the lines in the pieces.
Here's our subject first after the first go round and again ready to start putting down it's new "clothes".

Here's how we look after the first sand.

Dark stain is obvious on top left corner of top piece. This is deep in the wood and will not sand out. Divots in the drawer pull smoothed out and shouldn't look too bad after refinish but will likely show a bit but not enough to detract from the overall job. Trying to rectify is likely to make matters worse than better. Just hoping the toner in the finish will knock down enough it won't be too noticable.
I've determined the top is a good candidate to try some wood bleach as this stain needs to be at least lightened as best as possible and there are enough other questionable areas that could stand some lightening as well. Although the results were less than perfect I did manage to lighten the stain appreciably and it helped with the rest of the dark areas of the top as well.

Looking much better but sometimes you can only do so much!

Have to wrap up this particular post for now. It's time to layout our pieces and get ready to apply our empresses new "clothes". I doubt her owner will recognize this piece as the one they brought to me a couple of weeks ago. Stay tuned if you feel so inclined as I will be continuing the final processes and posting of the work with more pics of our lady totally done.
For those of you who follow this blog and may have tried to post before, I apologize as a friend of mine made me aware that her posts would not take. I've changed my settings and now anyone interested may post any comments, after review, and please feel free to contact me with any questions at  Thanks for taking a look!


  1. Looking forward to following along with this project.

  2. Looking forward to following along and learning from this project.

  3. What happened next. Just curious as I have two of these and the bedroom set.

  4. I have a vanity with mirror and side roll shelf with glass shelves and was wondering what would be the best method to repair the parts where the mirror attaches to the vanity? Also ^ Anonymous with the matching bedside table and bedroom set, what is included in your bedroom set?

  5. I have a question. I was able to purchase the Kohinoor Highboy and matching nightstands. The highboy has the HW logo inside, but neither nightstand does. Can you tell me why that is? The back of the nightstands is marked 148.

    1. Annie, Not every piece of HW is stamped with the logo. I'm sure your nightstands are authentic.

  6. I live in Madison WI. Can you suggest anyone near here that could refinish my champagne Heywood Wakfield buffet? It has darkspots on the front that are pretty nasty looking. The seller says they are due to moisture from being stored in a basement. the top and finish are otherwise in very useable shape.

    1. Anon, Sorry I can't help you out. There is a facebook page that focuses on H/W furniture. Maybe you can get some info from someone on that group.

  7. How do you dissassemble? I see screws in the bottom and legs are easy to remove but the tope and sides? do they just pop apart, no glue?