1920’s Library Card Catalog

Worth the wait, wouldn’t you agree!? My first piece to the new year! Meeep!!! I want to start off by saying, I believe that every furniture refinisher out there wants to be able to say they refinished or restored an antique library card catalog storage cabinet, at least once. Secondly, I think it’s safe to assume that everybody wishes they owned one! I can check off one of those things! I completely swooned when I got my hands on this old fellow. He belonged to my great-grandfather and it was used to store his nick knacks and small tools in his garage. I am not sure how he encountered such a piece but let me just say- he used it for all its possibilities. After his passing in 2011 my mother held on to this lovely old gem, stored away in her garage, waiting for a Second Chance.

Before pictures:

The first thing I do when receiving a piece underway in the makeover process is take all the hardware off. Of course, this piece was an emotional experience for me. All the tags had my great grandfather’s hand writing on them. A little part of him was still here.

I giggled at my self a few times when I was stripping the paint away that he applied by hand and I would bet with some old paint he had stashed somewhere wanting a change, thinking to myself, I bet if he were here he would have said to me “Geez great grand-daughter, if I knew you would be knee-deep in toxic liquid, breathing in fumes, and scrubbing until your fingers were numb I wouldn’t have painted that darn thing”. But I know now that he would be so proud of how this piece looks today.

Stripping away all the old paint, my mother and I agreed to restore the base. The wood grain was in beautiful shape, apart from some cracks and missing pieces. I didn’t want to fill in certain flaws as it’s part of his charm and character. I stained the body and drawer faces using Minwax Early American.


Using four colors we enhanced only 20 of the 45 drawers for an artistic pop of color touch. My mom chose to use Sherwin-Williams Butternut, Rookwood Terra Cotta, Haven and Riverway.


I distressed the drawers that had color on them for the final vintage worn look. I am so proud of how this 1920’s Yawman & Erbe MFG. CO. Rochester N.Y. 45 drawer Library, Apothecary, Antique Industrial Card File turned out!! The card file has four sections: Top section with a brass plate identifying the manufacture (hidden behind paint in the before photo). Three sections with 15 card files each. Three boxes were built to replace the missing ones, two broken faces were repaired and four new catalog hardware was added to complete this restoration project!

Before and After:



2 thoughts on “1920’s Library Card Catalog

  1. Becca!!!! – WOW- this came out truly amazing! I absolutely love it! Your Great-Grandpa Red is definitely smiling down on you again today 😉

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