Antique China Cabinet Restoration | How to make glass cabinet doors | DIY cabinet doors | How to add lights to cabinets | How to use gel stain | How to build glass doors | General Finishes Gel Stain | How to restore antique furniture | Antique furniture restoration | Before & After | #TheNavagePatch #DIY #GelStain #Antiquefurniture #upcycling #restoration #furnituremakeover #glasscabinets #furnituremakeover | TheNavagePatch.com

Antique China Cabinet Restoration

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After installing the outer trim, I filled any small gaps with an easy homemade wood filler. You can find how to make it in this post. I then sanded both sides and prepared the surfaces for staining. We decided to use General Finishes Java Gel Stain. It was our first time using gel stain, so we didn’t really know what to expect. People had been singing its praises online, but we’d also encountered many god-awful, hack-job pieces of furniture at tag sales and vintage shops that had been butchered by incompetent gel stainers. I hoped we wouldn’t join that list!

First things first. Open the can.

Antique China Cabinet Restoration | How to make glass cabinet doors | DIY cabinet doors | How to add lights to cabinets | How to use gel stain | How to build glass doors | General Finishes Gel Stain | How to restore antique furniture | Antique furniture restoration | Before & After | #TheNavagePatch #DIY #GelStain #Antiquefurniture #upcycling #restoration #furnituremakeover #glasscabinets #furnituremakeover | TheNavagePatch.com

Then, a thought. Maybe I should read the directions?

But reading is getting harder these days, especially in the immediate vicinity of my eyeballs. So as I stretched to find a comfortable viewing distance, Handan laughed at me and took pictures. What a woman!

Antique China Cabinet Restoration | How to make glass cabinet doors | DIY cabinet doors | How to add lights to cabinets | How to use gel stain | How to build glass doors | General Finishes Gel Stain | How to restore antique furniture | Antique furniture restoration | Before & After | #TheNavagePatch #DIY #GelStain #Antiquefurniture #upcycling #restoration #furnituremakeover #glasscabinets #furnituremakeover | TheNavagePatch.com

When she’s a wrinkled old bat hobbling around with a cane (which, let’s be honest here, isn’t very far off), I’ll get my revenge by replacing the rubber cane tip with a frictionless ball tip, heheheh.

Once I had deciphered the tiny print, I set to work with a foam brush and then immediately wiped it off with a rag. Java is a dark color, so I wanted to wipe it off right away, just in case it was too dark.

Antique China Cabinet Restoration | How to make glass cabinet doors | DIY cabinet doors | How to add lights to cabinets | How to use gel stain | How to build glass doors | General Finishes Gel Stain | How to restore antique furniture | Antique furniture restoration | Before & After | #TheNavagePatch #DIY #GelStain #Antiquefurniture #upcycling #restoration #furnituremakeover #glasscabinets #furnituremakeover | TheNavagePatch.com
Antique China Cabinet Restoration | How to make glass cabinet doors | DIY cabinet doors | How to add lights to cabinets | How to use gel stain | How to build glass doors | General Finishes Gel Stain | How to restore antique furniture | Antique furniture restoration | Before & After | #TheNavagePatch #DIY #GelStain #Antiquefurniture #upcycling #restoration #furnituremakeover #glasscabinets #furnituremakeover | TheNavagePatch.com

The color we got was pretty good.

Antique China Cabinet Restoration | How to make glass cabinet doors | DIY cabinet doors | How to add lights to cabinets | How to use gel stain | How to build glass doors | General Finishes Gel Stain | How to restore antique furniture | Antique furniture restoration | Before & After | #TheNavagePatch #DIY #GelStain #Antiquefurniture #upcycling #restoration #furnituremakeover #glasscabinets #furnituremakeover | TheNavagePatch.com

But is wasn’t dark enough. So then I got to reading, and I learned how gel stains should be used.

Gel stains, since they are thicker than regular stains, tend to sit on the surface of the wood instead of absorbing into it like thin stains do. To get the deep, rich color, I decided to leave a little on the wood for the second coat. I brushed it on liberally with the foam brush, but instead of wiping away all of the excess with a clean cloth, I started wiping away with the same spot of cloth. Once the cloth was saturated with stain, I kept wiping with the saturated spot. This thinned out the stain on the wood, but still left a thin layer on top. This is where you can run into trouble, if you’re not careful. Improper wiping technique can lead to noticeable streaking, blotches, drips, runs and all sorts of unsightly outcomes. But if you do it just right, you get unparalleled color, as you’ll see in a minute.

I had ordered custom glass for the doors and the shelves.

Antique China Cabinet Restoration | How to make glass cabinet doors | DIY cabinet doors | How to add lights to cabinets | How to use gel stain | How to build glass doors | General Finishes Gel Stain | How to restore antique furniture | Antique furniture restoration | Before & After | #TheNavagePatch #DIY #GelStain #Antiquefurniture #upcycling #restoration #furnituremakeover #glasscabinets #furnituremakeover | TheNavagePatch.com

Once the stain was dry, I installed the glass to check the fit and to start making the inside trim.

Antique China Cabinet Restoration | How to make glass cabinet doors | DIY cabinet doors | How to add lights to cabinets | How to use gel stain | How to build glass doors | General Finishes Gel Stain | How to restore antique furniture | Antique furniture restoration | Before & After | #TheNavagePatch #DIY #GelStain #Antiquefurniture #upcycling #restoration #furnituremakeover #glasscabinets #furnituremakeover | TheNavagePatch.com

Look at the color of those doors now! The General Finishes Java Gel Stain is awesome! Also pictured is the trim that I used for the inside of the doors. I followed the same procedure as the outer trim. When the pieces were cut, I didn’t glue them just yet, as we first wanted to hang the doors without the glass, as it was heavy, and it would make the door-hanging more difficult.

Antique China Cabinet Restoration | How to make glass cabinet doors | DIY cabinet doors | How to add lights to cabinets | How to use gel stain | How to build glass doors | General Finishes Gel Stain | How to restore antique furniture | Antique furniture restoration | Before & After | #TheNavagePatch #DIY #GelStain #Antiquefurniture #upcycling #restoration #furnituremakeover #glasscabinets #furnituremakeover | TheNavagePatch.com

We ordered hinges from House of Antique Hardware. While we waited for them to arrive, we stained the cabinet with the java gel stain.

Antique China Cabinet Restoration | How to make glass cabinet doors | DIY cabinet doors | How to add lights to cabinets | How to use gel stain | How to build glass doors | General Finishes Gel Stain | How to restore antique furniture | Antique furniture restoration | Before & After | #TheNavagePatch #DIY #GelStain #Antiquefurniture #upcycling #restoration #furnituremakeover #glasscabinets #furnituremakeover | TheNavagePatch.com

The picture below shows unstained wood on the left, wet stain in the middle and wiped stain on the right.

Antique China Cabinet Restoration | How to make glass cabinet doors | DIY cabinet doors | How to add lights to cabinets | How to use gel stain | How to build glass doors | General Finishes Gel Stain | How to restore antique furniture | Antique furniture restoration | Before & After | #TheNavagePatch #DIY #GelStain #Antiquefurniture #upcycling #restoration #furnituremakeover #glasscabinets #furnituremakeover | TheNavagePatch.com

Unstained:

Antique China Cabinet Restoration | How to make glass cabinet doors | DIY cabinet doors | How to add lights to cabinets | How to use gel stain | How to build glass doors | General Finishes Gel Stain | How to restore antique furniture | Antique furniture restoration | Before & After | #TheNavagePatch #DIY #GelStain #Antiquefurniture #upcycling #restoration #furnituremakeover #glasscabinets #furnituremakeover | TheNavagePatch.com

Stained:

Antique China Cabinet Restoration | How to make glass cabinet doors | DIY cabinet doors | How to add lights to cabinets | How to use gel stain | How to build glass doors | General Finishes Gel Stain | How to restore antique furniture | Antique furniture restoration | Before & After | #TheNavagePatch #DIY #GelStain #Antiquefurniture #upcycling #restoration #furnituremakeover #glasscabinets #furnituremakeover | TheNavagePatch.com

I highly recommend General Finishes Java Gel Stain for all of your wooden boob staining needs. What a decorative dΓ©colletage she has! Now that’s a bust you can trust!

After we stained the cabinet, I went to Parkerville Wood Products to buy a new backing. I chose 1/4 inch red oak plywood, as it had a cool grain pattern that was similar to the rest of the piece. I checked the fit. Perfect.

Antique China Cabinet Restoration | How to make glass cabinet doors | DIY cabinet doors | How to add lights to cabinets | How to use gel stain | How to build glass doors | General Finishes Gel Stain | How to restore antique furniture | Antique furniture restoration | Before & After | #TheNavagePatch #DIY #GelStain #Antiquefurniture #upcycling #restoration #furnituremakeover #glasscabinets #furnituremakeover | TheNavagePatch.com

I brought the plywood into the basement and stained it.

Antique China Cabinet Restoration | How to make glass cabinet doors | DIY cabinet doors | How to add lights to cabinets | How to use gel stain | How to build glass doors | General Finishes Gel Stain | How to restore antique furniture | Antique furniture restoration | Before & After | #TheNavagePatch #DIY #GelStain #Antiquefurniture #upcycling #restoration #furnituremakeover #glasscabinets #furnituremakeover | TheNavagePatch.com

Before nailing the backing into place, we first wanted to install the lights and the doors. It’s much easier to work on an open cabinet!

To install the lights, I drilled a hole into the top part of the back. I was pretty sure it was hollow, and if so, we’d be able to run the wires up and out the back, so they wouldn’t be seen.

Antique China Cabinet Restoration | How to make glass cabinet doors | DIY cabinet doors | How to add lights to cabinets | How to use gel stain | How to build glass doors | General Finishes Gel Stain | How to restore antique furniture | Antique furniture restoration | Before & After | #TheNavagePatch #DIY #GelStain #Antiquefurniture #upcycling #restoration #furnituremakeover #glasscabinets #furnituremakeover | TheNavagePatch.com

Sure enough, it was hollow, so we measured and marked where the lights would go and where to drill the hole in the inside ceiling for the wire.

We would be using some old round LED lights we got at IKEA a few years before. Here is Handan showing the light placement.

Antique China Cabinet Restoration | How to make glass cabinet doors | DIY cabinet doors | How to add lights to cabinets | How to use gel stain | How to build glass doors | General Finishes Gel Stain | How to restore antique furniture | Antique furniture restoration | Before & After | #DIY #GelStain #Antiquefurniture #upcycling #restoration #furnituremakeover #glasscabinets | TheNavagePatch.com

We’d take care of that ugly cord in a minute.

But first, as is always the case when working with Handan, I had to be assaulted by the camera.

Antique China Cabinet Restoration | How to make glass cabinet doors | DIY cabinet doors | How to add lights to cabinets | How to use gel stain | How to build glass doors | General Finishes Gel Stain | How to restore antique furniture | Antique furniture restoration | Before & After | #TheNavagePatch #DIY #GelStain #Antiquefurniture #upcycling #restoration #furnituremakeover #glasscabinets #furnituremakeover | TheNavagePatch.com

She thought the pencils sticking out of my hat were “cute,” so she wanted to take pictures of me. BAH! I’m not cute! I’m a galumphing troll! By the way, that Budweiser sign on the wall behind me is the last remaining thing that belonged to the previous owners. It has hung there on the garage wall, crooked, for nearly 5 years. This summer it will come down, as we will be doing…(what for it)…A GARAGE MAKEOVER! [insert wild cheering here]

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57 Comments

  1. You’re a great writer. Thanks for the entertainment. And welcome to the “Monkey Do, Monkey See” Club, one I originated. The piece looks great by the way.

  2. I absolutely LOVE it! Great job!
    I cannot believe you work in the garage however – it has been soooo cold in CT lately! Hope you have a heat source! I have to work on the porch so not one project has been done yet this year. Hopefully we won’t go right from winter into summer. πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you, Laura! Oh no, I don’t work in the garage usually. My workshop is in the basement, but this piece was too big and clunky to carry down, so some work had to be done outside or in the garage. πŸ™‚

  3. Well…IF I can stop laughing (tears) from Page three to type this…it turned out FABULOUS!!! Send a photo to that antiques place and address it to the wife…nah. franki

  4. Wow. Just Wow. That looks absolutely amazing, and all of your souvenirs are fantastic! (Handan, I am a little disappointed in you, after all, you weren’t wearing pajamas in any of the pictures! As a happy, pajama-wearing woman, I thought I’d found a partner! LOL!) Good job, both of you! I can’t wait to hear the story of the garage renovation. (That should prove to have lots to keep us entertained!)

  5. Greg, what a story! Well, it turned out fantastic! You are an awesome carpenter. Congrats on a job well done!

  6. this is freaking awesome and i do not even like antiques very much lol, these are great posts, a story inside a diy,you guys are the best xx

  7. Wow! That cabinet looks fabulous!!! When can I hire you two to come to my house? LOL! Love all your posts! πŸ™‚

  8. Wow. That looks absolutely amazing, and all of your souvenirs are fantastic. Great job bringing an old piece back to life. You two do such great work and this is no exception. Hope so your experience will helpful for all and thanks for the sharing with all of us.

  9. Stunning!! You all did an amazing restoration job. What a unique piece that deserved nothing by the best, and that’s what it received. Haven’t used the GF gel stain, but thanks for the user tips. I’d like to try it sometime.

  10. That china cabinet is a treasure which is housing treasures. Beautifully and lovingly restored. And Greg we all make mistakes. So many measurements and so many numbers to remember. What matters is that it turned out brilliant in the end.

    1. Thank you, Mary! You know, as it turned out – I was correct in my measurements! The glass shop made the error. They made the new glass for no charge. I never bothered to update the post with the new info, lol.

  11. Have to say, that’s one best way to restore old cabinet. Thanks for sharing the tips….

  12. Wow, what beautiful piece of furniture. I understand why you wanted it so badly. Gorgeous fine! Your work also, gorgeous. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Wowza! Wowza!! Wowza!! I love gel stain. I used it to refinish an old dresser and I think that java is so warm and the perfect shade for your project! It’s a gorgeous addition to your home. Keep the fun projects and the amusing blogs coming! You and Handan are inspiring all of us do-it-yourselfers.