Welcome to my first blog post that doesn’t have a before picture. Yes, that’s right, I started this project without taking a before picture of the briefcase. What DIY blogger does that? Me.
There is still plenty to see with this project though, and what a cool find this was! My friend and businessman Joshua Rene of the Spill Teem found this gem at an antique shop in Charlottesville for a good price, but it had some scratches on the surface and needed a little face lift. Nothing too dramatic like a new stain color, just something to cover the scratches and shine it up.
Joshua and I have been following each other on Instagram for a while now. He is the CEO and Insight Strategist at the Spill Teem, who handles business visioning and consulting in the Charlottesville area. I was honored that he asked me to see what I could do to bring his briefcase back to life. I can’t wait to see some pictures of him on Instagram with his briefcase! His insight and encouragement are enough to get the attention of his clients, but I’m hoping this sharp-looking briefcase will make a nice impression when he walks into the room!
I read different articles about repairing scratches and how to polish surfaces like this one. The pieces I usually find need a complete makeover but this briefcase was not in awful shape and the wood was just gorgeous. During my research for repairing scratches I also saw that these briefcases were worth anywhere from $150-$200 and I didn’t want to devalue the piece by giving it a different look altogether by using wood filler and a new stain color.
I read several articles about different types of oils to wipe on the surface to cover scratches. One article recommended Olive Oil, so I gave it a try, and while it did darken the scratch, it was still very obvious. I decided to just do what I thought would work best- steel wool and wipe-on polyurethane!
Here’s a picture of the scratches if you want another look. This was taken under my workshop light, which is why it looks different than the first picture…
Isn’t the wood pretty?
I am not an expert, just a DIYer, and I have heard that steel wool is good for buffing out scratches and lightly removes the finish. I didn’t want to use the sandpaper I had because I worried it would take too much off the surface. I tried removing some of the old finish and leveling out the scratches with the steel wool and I was very pleased with how it turned out to prepare the surface for the polyurethane.
There was another part to this briefcase that needed polishing…the little stands on the bottom. They were really tarnished!
I went to my go-to for metal polishing, Brasso, as always! Brasso got most of it off but they still weren’t as shiny as I knew they could be.
This was the most exciting part of the project for me! I got to use my Grandaddy’s old Dremel that I just got last week. It was purchased in 1996 and he passed away in 2009, so it had been a while since this thing was used. My Grandaddy was a skilled woodworker and took excellent care of his tools so it was still in great shape and turned right on without any problems!
I figured the wire brush attachment would get the rest of that tarnish off, and sure enough that did the trick!
Whoa! What a difference, right? I still had a little more work to do on the part closest to the wood surface but had to do it very carefully because I didn’t want to damage the wood around it. Joshua was really happy with how these pieces turned out!
I had already coated the briefcase with the first coat of polyurethane with a soft cloth and I could see such a difference immediately! I decided to use Minwax’s Wipe-On Polyurethane because I wanted something I could easily wipe around the attached metal pieces instead of using a brush.
I could see that the one coat was already bringing this beauty back to life. Thumbs up once again for wipe-on polyurethane!
I ended up doing two coats of poly but before the second coat was applied, I dipped a toothpick in the wipe-on polyurethane and went around the edges of the latches and other metal attachments. There were also places underneath the handles that were hard to reach and the toothpick got the job done!
And the after pictures? I got plenty of those!
I have to say this briefcase had one of the most beautiful finishes of any piece I’ve refinished.
Joshua’s reaction when he saw it was PRICELESS!! His lovely fiance’ (and my friend) Erinn was with him for the reveal in our local Home Depot parking lot and she loved it, too! We have the hottest meeting spots in this small town. Maybe a cafe or coffee shop next time, Erinn and Joshua!
This thing looks sharp and very unique. Here’s a peek inside…perfect for his business materials and his iPad should fit perfectly in the pocket at the top.
I’m looking forward to seeing Joshua’s pictures of the briefcase…and my ‘before’ pictures in my future blog posts!