Cedar Chest Restoration

Cedar chest restoration before and after

Here’s a cedar chest restoration project that required repair and reconditioning of the existing finish. The chest is mounted on Queen Anne style cabriole legs and is constructed of solid cedar wood.

One of the back legs was loose and missing a section. The other was broken off years ago, but saved by the owner. A wise decision which paid off by avoiding the cost of fabricating a new leg. The finish was pretty beat up, yet still in tact. Despite its faded and worn look, it was not peeling or flaking off.

I was able to repair both back legs and securely re-attach them as original. The existing finish was then reconditioned. This process involved cleaning and scuffing the finish. Then two coats of varnish was applied. Once dry, it was rubbed with fine steel wool and waxed. As seen below, the original aligated finish in some areas of the top was maintained through this process of reconditioning. If the chest had been refinished, this old look would had been lost.

Reconditioned finish on a cedar chest

The cabriole legs add a nice look to this cedar chest, and the restored finish shows them off well.

Cedar chest cabriole feet

As for the interior, it was obvious that moth balls had been used. The odor was rather overwhelming as soon as the lid was opened. To help remove that moth ball odor, I sanded the unfinished interior. This revived the smell of fresh cut cedar. Leaving the lid open for a few days helped as well.

Restored cedar chest

This last photo shows the restored cedar chest from a top view. The reconditioned finish looks great and the grain of the wood is clearly seen.

Cedar chest top

Red Hook NY
This cedar chest restoration project was completed for a Red Hook NY client.


  1. Randy DeHate says

    How do you refinish the cedar inside to bring back the smell? I bought one for my wife, it’s 5yrs old but there’s no cedar smell inside. Any idea’s? Thanks Randy

    • says

      Hi Randy,
      If your trying to revive the natural cedar wood smell inside your cedar chest, try sanding the interior with 220 grit garnet sandpaper.
      Sanding with 120 grit or heavier will be more effective but may leave some unsightly scratches. You’ll have to judge.
      After sanding just vacuum out the dust.

      If that doesn’t work try a Google search for cedar wood moth balls. These should give you the cedar wood aroma you’re looking for.

      Let me know how it works out.

  2. Drew says

    i have a old cedar chest it needs some help, comes to find out the lid was not cedar only a cheep fix maybe. it needs a solid cedar lid where can i find a nice piece of solid cedar board 18 5/8”wide by 43 1/4” long maybe 1/4 ” thick. it lookes like it was coverd up then laminated wood finish. maybe

    • says

      If the rest of your cedar chest is made from narrow boards glued together, I would recommend doing the same for your top. This is typically the way cedar chests are constructed. If you look closely at the images in this post, you should be able to see what I mean.

      Wide boards like your asking for, are more likely to have a lot of movement. Supply is also limited, and they can be expensive. If you really want a solid cedar board with a 19″ width, try contacting Berkshire Products in Sheffield MA. They specialize in wide plank lumber. If they have one, it will most likely need to be milled to the thickness you want.

  3. Katie says

    I was wondering if you possibly know of any cedar chest repair stores close to Southwest Missouri?

  4. sharona says

    Hi scott have you ever heard of Sunbury Table Works, I have a cedar chest that has this label attached to it …says…….. THIS IS ONE OF THE FAMOUS SUNBURY CHESTS Made of Genuine Tennessee Cedar by the SUNBURY TABLE WORKS
    Sunbury, PA..USA STYLE NO. 324 (the number is written in blue ink pen)
    would you know any thing of this company or chest? thank you Sharona

  5. Chris says

    Do you think it’s possible to fix a cedar chest that got wet during hurricane sandy and basically fell apart. I live in NYC

    • says

      When restoring furniture the goal is to re-use original parts. With water damage, sometimes parts can be so badly warped they need to be replaced.

      The short answer – yes. Although restoration costs will most likely exceed any retail value. It may have to be restoration for personal or sentimental reason. Take a look at this mahogany dresser I restored that was damaged from hurricane Irene. As you can see, just about anything can be restored.

      If your looking for NYC restoration service, I recommend calling John at Rosini Furniture Service. Also, emailing him some pictures will help in assessing your project.

  6. Pam says

    My mom has an old cedar chest that is broken in back about 1 1/2 inches below the lid hinges. Would it be possible to use glue to fix it?

    • says

      Yes glue should hold as long as you use clamps to hold tight until the glue is dry. If you think added strength is needed, you could glue in a couple dowels from the top of the back. You’d need a long drill bit for that. Possibly the break occurred by the top being pushed too far open. A chain, rope or lid support is a good solution.