Aug 27, 2010

How to Restore Your Lineberry Furniture Cart!

My Lineberry Cart restoration adventure. As mentioned in the previous post, this info is from a beginner, for a beginner.

Find a Cart
We just got married in May, and needed a coffee table. We bought one on Craigslist, thanks Ikea. But I ended up not liking it; too cheap looking. I kept looking for more tables on Craigslist, and found a few "Lineberry furniture carts" that people were turning into coffee tables. Seemed easy enough and I really liked the retro look. Then I saw the SAME tables for sale on Restoration Hardware's site for $1300 (now they're around $900). Off to calling random people about their 100 year old carts!

I met a guy in Bunn, NC to look at his cart, and it was way too rusty, and the wood looked like it would have been too much to deal with. Contacted another guy who had one for $195, but the wood was water logged and very brittle, pass. The third try: found a cart at Market Imports in Raleigh. Great people, cool reclaimed stuff (some overhead), but got a really good deal. TIP: Don't give in too quick - there are hundreds of carts out there. Go ahead and haggle too, I mean, it's Craigslist.

Get an SUV or Truck, and lift with your legs
It took 2 dudes to load the cart into my Explorer. The cart has to be over 400lbs. Awesome. It was so heavy that when we returned home, dilemma. I actually took the cart's cast iron pieces off while it was still in the SUV. Saved some time and muscle strain. If you can, get a strong friend to help you move it to your garage, man cave, or back porch of your one bedroom apartment. I worked with the latter. TIP: Get a clean work area ready, equipped with a drop cloth (I chose a piece of old carpet). Another TIP: Take plenty of pictures of the piece before you dismantle it. Trust me. Lots of pics.

Get a belt sander
One of the first mistakes I made was trying to get 100 year old gunk off a table with Kleanstrip. Don't waste your time with chemical stripping.
As I said earlier, I have incredibly limited resources, and I thought stripping it would be easier than sanding. Get a belt sander from a friend. Or buy one from a pawn shop - with the economy like it is, pawn shops are filled with used tools. Buy a 36 grit sand belt. Hammer the nails into the wood to avoid tearing the belt. Go to town, sanding WITH the grain. Took 30 minutes, whereas the stripping and scraping took hours and did NOTHING. Sand it!


Your cart's iron pieces with undoubtedly have some rust on them. You have a couple options. One, get a wire brush and scrub 'em with WD40,and rinse. Two, get Naval Jelly for those tough rust spots (in the wheels especially), and follow the directions carefully. Use a wire brush here too. Get some latex gloves and cover your mouth. This stuff is pungent, but it works quick and cleans deep. TIP: This is the elbow grease part, wear old clothes. Rinse well and dry.

Options for priming, painting, patience
Hey beginners, there is no way you will finish this in a day. Pace yourself and slow down so you won't skip any details. Painting. I had some people suggest that I leave the iron in its natural state, and not paint it. But after looking on RH's website, a dude's Etsy page, and a couple other Google image searches, I opted for the a flat black finish. I just dried the iron pieces, cleaned them with some 0000 steel wool, primed them with a couple coats, and then finished with the flat black. Take a day or two to allow for proper drying. Stupid NC weather; the humidity was around 80-90% which slowed the process up. TIP: You can put car wax on the iron to seal it or something. I didn't. Got tired of looking up techniques and getting lost on unhelpful wikihow pages.

This was one of the hardest things for me. I'm a perfectionist, and I had no furniture staining experience. I had no clue the difference between water and oil based stains, or how to sand the wood in between coats, how much stain I would need, and the list goes on. After literally 6 trips to Lowes Depot, and after 5 different stains (!), I found it.
I wanted the sandy, natural look, without all the shimmer and gloss. So after all that searching, I found a water based stain by Minwax called "desert sand." Stained the whole thing with an old white t-shirt, and went back to have a drop of 109 added to darken it up (made it a cocoa color). Coated the top with the darker stain for subtle contrast. If you like this look, you're very, very welcome for this info. TIP: Don't forget to get the Minwax Polycrylic sealer to finish the job. I did 3 coats, sanding with 220 grit sand paper in between coats. TIP: Kind of a generic tip here, but read the can before you start. You will mess up if you don't (see end of article where I outline mistakes I made).

Nuts and Bolts
This will vary from cart to cart, but I found that replacing all the hardware was the best way to go. The bolts were stripped and badly dinged up, and the nuts were rusted. And they were 3/8 x 2.25 carriage bolts! The hardware available today only comes in 2 or 2.5 in, not 2.25 in. Kind of a small detail, but I wanted the bolts to be flush with the nuts. So I swapped out bolt after bolt and tried many options before discovering that a 3/8 x 2 carriage bolt with no spacers or lock nuts worked perfectly.
TIP: Take your bolts to the hardware store. Do your measurements, it will save you many return trips to the store and many headaches. Also, I went with square bolts. Check the "specialty bolts" drawer at your hardware store.

Black out the bolts
Dilemma. There are no black bolts. You can get them powder coated, or paint them yourself, screw them on, and they touch them up. I patiently primed and painted the bolts (much like the iron pieces), and let them sit for at least 24 hrs before I touched them. This strengthens the bond. Clean and sand your bolts for a better bond. TIP: Get a spare piece of card board and arrange the bolts on it for painting. They'll stick to the cardboard and break off easily when you start to use them.

Put it together
Now the fun part! Hopefully you have been patient. I flipped my cart upside down on my make shift sawhorses, and attached the corner pieces and wheels. The new nuts and bolts came in handy here, as screwing them together was incredibly easy on the hands and their new paint job. To tighten the bolts I put an old t-shirt over my wrench to protect the finish. Remember when I said take pictures? The middle wheels were a bit of a challenge to install, but I was able to look at my old pics to figure out where the washers went, which way the wheels faced, etc. Then the cart was ceremonially flipped over and rolled into the house! TIP: Even after the meticulous prepping for the paint job, there was still some debris from the black paint that I needed to lightly rub off. I caught this before rolling it onto our white carpet, whew. You can steel wool it or just wipe it with that old t-shirt you used to tighten the bolts.

Touch Ups and Consequences
Once flipped over, there were some spots I missed with the spray paint. I crafted a piece of cardboard to protect the wood, and touched up as necessary. Take your time. I missed one piece and sprayed about 2 inches of the wood. Bah. Sanded it off. Now that the cart is inside, you will probably notice a few things you would have done differently. Another coat here, a quick sand here, more attention there, etc. I just had to realize that the cart has character. The blemishes are part of its 100 year existence. Cool. Also, your cart may rock, or teeter a little. Mine wasn't bad enough to spend time on it. We're fine with it!

You're Welcome
I know that someone will find this beginners' DIY helpful. As stated before, I contacted at least 5 people on some useful tips on how to restore these carts, with no help at all. Below is a list of what you may need. If you have any other tips or comments, please feel free to post your thoughts! For those following the steps, please post your progress! Let's see some before and after shots!

My $60 Store List
Belt Sander with 36 grit belt (borrowed)
Drop cloth
2 Combo packs of sand paper
0000 Steel Wool
2 paint brushes
1 wire brush
WD40 and/or Naval Jelly
Latex gloves (painter's mask/goggles if you're extra-careful)
Metal pans (used old pie pans)
2 cans Rustoleum Flat Black
1 can Rustoleum Primer
Minwax water based wood stain: Desert Sand/Cocoa
Minwax water based polycrylic
28 3/8 square specialty bolts
28 3/8x2 carriage bolts

My Mistakes
Applied a polyurethane right after sanding before deciding on a stain
When testing stains, I opted to paint the whole table. Once it absorbed, and I didn't like it, I had to sand the whole table again to re-stain. Stain small sections first.
Made my list too late (too many return trips to hardware store)
Ripped a sanding belt because I didn't hammer down the nails enough
Went with a chemical stripper over sanding at first
Lost a couple receipts

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Stepper the Mighty said...

that is amazing.

Sean Kennedy said...

I actually have a bunch of these to clean up but they were outside in a demolition yard. They are gray and stained.

Ideas on how to clean this? I am thinking pressure washer...

Jon said...

Thanks for the comments guys. @Sean: I would def try pressure washing them first, then hit em with a sander. Depends on the quality of the wood, and what kind of look you're going for. There were some pics I found of gray carts that looked pretty cool.
Any pics to share?

Janneke St. John said...

I am currently refinishing my cart that I picked up on craigslist as well for $150. I am currently working on the hardware and the wire brush attachment on my drill works well, but the wire brush and steel wool are still a must to work on the corners. I like that the iron started to shine as the grime came off and just sealed it with matte sealant. I had glass cut for the top and did a coat of clear satin finish to protect the wood and Lineberry logo on the sides. It was a great surprise to find the word Lineberry stamped on one of the wheels. Will post pics as my progress continues! Thanks

Larissa said...

Thanks for the tips! We did ours, and I blogged it!

Jody said...

Awesome thank you I bought two yesterday and look forward to getting started on them!

Jon said...

Glad it helped! Take lots of photos, and let me know if you have any questions!

Anonymous said...

Can't thank you enough for all the great incite. I do a lot of cabinet work, but your tips for this project were the best. Thanks for taking the time to let everybody know.

Jon said...

You're welcome! Glad so many people are finding this useful.

jody said...

I am in the home stretch on my first cart, it was in BAD shape, all the hardware is painted and ready to go the second coat of stain (I went dark) is dry and I just need to do the two or three coats of poly, but in our normally drought ridden Dallas it has been raining for two weeks and is forecast to continue through this week....arg! Thanks again for your tips they did save me allot of grief, oh and I am now the proud new owner of a new Craftsman belt sander and shop vac thanks to this project:-)

Jeremy said...

Hey, your blog helps alot. I'm about to buy two carts myself to restore but they're not level. Was your's level to start with or did you level it? If you did can you tell me how? I can't seem to find that info anywhere.

Jon said...

Jody: Glad I could help. Any pics to share? Are you blogging your progress somewhere?

Jeremy: My cart did not wobble enough for me to consider a fix. I got lucky. When I checked out Restoration Hardware's models, they had stabilized the wheels with some kind of drilling method. I've also heard of people making specially cut wood bases for the wheels. If this sounds like too much of a chore, I'd wait on buying those carts. There are tons of
Lineberry carts out there! Good luck.

Rinse said...

Has anyone restored an old railroad cart? My carts are very similar to the furniture carts on this site. But they are larger: mine are roughly 6'x3'; and they have front rotating wheels with ball bearings, removable walls on the front and back ends, and metal strips between some of the wooden slats on the bed. It's always helpful to hear how this type of job has gone for someone else.

Jon said...

Rinse: Any pics to share and are you blogging any progress? What is the model of railroad cart you are working with?

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your tips. I have 7 to complete. They are from one of the oldest plywood factory in the South. Your information is great to work with, especially fro a beginner.

Jon said...

Anon: Always glad to help. And 7 carts?! Have fun!

Anonymous said...

Jon- What are your wood dimensions? I just got the hardware and have to run to Lowes to get the wood?

Thyme for Tea said...

I have an old factory cart table as well in need of some sanding, staining and rust-removal! Thing is, I was able to get the nuts, bolts and washers off the front of the table where the wheels connect, but then couldn't get the wheel actually separated from the wood! The pieces are so darn tight, I'm not sure they'll come off.

Why do you sand in between the sealer coats?

sebrown said...

This is PERFECT! Justbought a cart yesterday, knowing they're hot right now, but I had no idea how to restore it!!

I have 1 question for you, though- did yours tip from side to side? If so, how did you stabilize it?

Anonymous said...

I am restoring a jutting cart and have some white water stains on side. It is wear the writing is so do I sand the sides? Any advice on what to do on sides help needed ASAP,,,,,

Shannon said...

I just completed my restoration. Pressure Washer removed 98 percent of the paint and made the gray wood brown again.


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Joel H said...

Good info. One thing is you can practice on the bottom side with stains or finishes

Georgia DPS 101 said...

I have about 25-30 Railroad Carts (original) from an old factory here in Georgia. E-Mail me @, if you might be interested in one of them.

Doub leup said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doub leup said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doub leup said...

Power washing will destroy the old wood, do not do that. It just takes a lot of elbow work. Use sand paper, steel wool, etc. A belt sander will rip right through the old stains just fine. Use a lower grit to start then finish with some 220 by hand.

Unknown said...

The problem I am hoping you can trouble shoot for me is how to stablize the wheels of the cart so it doesn't rock. I want to have it stationary as a coffee table