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How to Restore Treadle Sewing Machine Cabinets

Treadle sewing machines are a beautiful accent to any home. Many of these sewing machines came in intricately detailed cabinets that can be used as a side table or as entryway furniture. You might also want to restore a treadle sewing machine cabinet if you intend to use and enjoy the sewing machine itself.

Things You'll Need:

  • Clean Cotton Rags
  • Semi-Paste Stripper
  • 100 And 150 Grit Sandpaper
  • Tack Cloth
  • Paintbrush
  • Tung Oil
  • Lacquer Thinner
  • Putty Knife
  • Medium Grade Steel Wool
  • Paste Wax
  • Dish Soap
  • Stain, If Desired

Assess the overall condition of the cabinet. If you are shopping for a treadle sewing machine cabinet, avoid those with significant damage including water damage and chipped or peeling veneer. If the finish is in good condition, simple restoration may be adequate; however, more substantial damage will require refinishing.

Clean the treadle cabinet. Use a mild solution of soapy water and a clean rag. If it is quite dirty, consider using a stronger cleaning agent like tri-sodium phosphate. If the finish is in good condition after cleaning, simply apply paste wax to your treadle sewing machine cabinet. No further restoration is required. Avoid getting any raw areas of the wood wet. If the surface becomes sticky, however, you will need to refinish the piece completely.

Apply a semi-paste stripper with a paintbrush, brushing as minimally as possible. Allow to sit, then scrape off with a putty knife or steel wool. Clean the treadle cabinet with lacquer thinner to remove any residue.

Sand with 100 grit sandpaper, then again with 150 grit before staining. Wipe well with a tack cloth.

Apply stain with a paintbrush and wipe away excess. Allow to dry for 24 hours before applying two to three coats of tung oil according to the manufacturer's directions.


If the treadle cabinet you are working on has a machine head in place, remove it before you start restoring the sewing machine cabinet.

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