Restoration Ongoing: Antique Abused Tansu

Some time ago, I was hanging around on my usual haunts and then I came across this absolute fucking insanity:

Pictured: You don’t judge my waking hours, and I won’t judge yours.

Yeah. You see that? Some basic bitch out there decided to sHaBbY cHiC oMg UpCyClE with shitty blue-grey craft paint a legit antique Japanese Tansu. And Jesus Christ did they do a terrible job. They even painted over all of the hardware. Even the locks. And with them all the way in Tennessee, myself in Chicagoland, it was out of my reach. I agonized over that shit for days, guys. Like I bitched about it on my own social media, and I also drove my family members insane complaining about it because I definitely have healthy coping mechanisms for things that drive me bonkers. The idea that I couldn’t just grab a friend with a truck and just go get the fucker made me vibrate with dismay. Vibrate I tell you.

And then I did a thing. I actually read the damn description, and when I was done clenching my teeth so hard that my molars became dust, I decided to reach out to the seller. I learned two things. The first being that they didn’t paint this, and had picked it up awhile ago to restore, but couldn’t. And the second, they had the companion. I got to talking with the seller, and you know that thing that happens when two people are really interested in restoring the art? Well…

Pictured: Stage II Hypertension

Worked out the logistics a bit, and here they are. Then after releasing the most happily excited string of hard R expletives, it was time to assess. I will be treating both pieces separately, and so I won’t be going over the unpainted piece in this entry. It needs some love for sure, but that’s going to be a very different ballgame. I’m starting with the complicated one.

I lied. Let’s start with something very simple. I have the key. It’s rusty as fuck. I also have industrial strength vinegar. Yeah that’s a real thing.

So that can hang out in there while I assess the absolute travesty over there. -Deep breath- Heerree we go. Also, I’m typing this out live on my phone, although I probably won’t post this entry for a few days, because hoolly shit.


Okay so it’s also banged the fuck up in pretty rough shape even over the craptastic paint job. We’ve got nicks and a sizeable crack in the topmost drawer there. I can handle that. Let’s see how we–HOLD UP.

Pictured: YOU

Well fuck me gently with a chainsaw, that’s red lacquer! Just like the top of the other one. What’s that mean? It means that whoever did this just basic bitch painted it. As in, that’s all they fucking did. They didn’t prep it at all. They just slathered this blue-grey craft paint all over on top of the lacquer. And when I was done calling this unknown person a few choice names–I’m usually not mean to previous owners, this is my exception, fuck this person–I made my decision. (To be crystal clear, I mean the person who painted it and not the awesome dude that worked with me to get it here.)

I’m going to work away at this with lacquer thinner, a plastic scraper, a toothbrush, 0000 fine steel wool, and a metric fuck ton of towels. Because there’s some color under there, and I want to see it. Maybe I can preserve what’s there, and restore it. So I popped out a drawer and the bottom fell off.

Pictured: LOL fwop

This is the top drawer, and if you look my picture above there with them stacked, you’ll see that this drawer actually has a pretty pronounced warp in the front. That’s why the bottom fell off. I took it off and set it aside. Then I propped this fucker up on a pair of blocks and got some gloves, because it’s time to get fucky with some solvents.

We’ll start with the fucking locks.

Tadaaaaaa. Now to keep going and clear up the hardware. Fuck it smells in here. Worth it.

Pictured: Worth. It.

Typically if I have to go after some shit with solvents, I will take the hardware off. I didn’t in this case because they were literally painted over. I couldn’t get them to move, and I wasn’t about to risk any damage to the wood over it. I mean I was gonna have to soak these bitches in lacquer thinner no matter what, so it’s whatever.

I cleared the drawers, and then it was time to handle the actual dresser piece. You know, I never did learn what the whole thing is called. I’m a computer nerd. Chassis? LOL Lemme just dump some solvent all over my chassis. Everything is fine.

Everything is fucking grey blue. The noises I’m making at this. I have propped the garage door open some, and it is fucking four degrees outside. That’s freedom eagle units Fahrenheit. I can’t do conversions in my head right now because lacquer thinner. Hi, non-respiratory distress Becky checking in here in editing. That’s -15c.

Along the side there where the handles are, they switched paints. They went from shitty grey blue craft paint to what I’m absolutely sure is fucking Rustoleum spray. It even bubbled and had a shell like Rustoleum does. Also there’s THIS SHIT:

My husband bought me a work table that isn’t an old desk or two styrofoam blocks. Isn’t he great. I feel so loved.

Anyway, do you see that shit in there? That spray? You know what I think happened here? The basic bitch that did this ran out of their shitty craft paint and rushed out the nearest fucking 24hr Wal-Mart to get a nearest match paint to finish it off. I haven’t ripped any of my own hair out over this yet, but I am a razor’s edge from advocating violence.

Oh wait! My key is clean!

Pictured: Keeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey

It took thirteen hours to remove the shell. That does not count detail cleaning.

Pictured: -Ugly sobbing-

So we still have some drippings pouring out from behind the hardware in that picture. I did do detail cleaning after a good long break. And then came the whimsical fuckery you’re all here for.


Pictured: Fucking anarchy.

You can steam iron a warp straight. Don’t believe me? The lock lines up with the hardware on the chassis now:

Pictured: That isn’t shit.

It’s still warped. It’s too cold outside right now for me to be too aggressive with it. I’ll do it in steps. I also am not going to be pushing for perfect. As it is right now, it does lock correctly. Which is nice. I want it to be a bit more flush, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to get this one completely straight. If I wanted perfect, I think I’d have to replace the front board, and I’m not willing to do that. It’s hard to tell the depth of the warp from just those two pictures, but it was like…a rocking chair if I put it on the floor.

Also, that isn’t shit running down the front, I swear. I did not go full lacquer thinner fumes induced psycho and shit on it. I did, however, introduce an ass load (huhuhuhu) of lacquer thinner on top of this, and so you can pretty much bet that the original cure of the urushi (lacquer) is toast. That’s what old lacquer looks like when it runs in this context. It’s shit brown, and if you’re allergic to it, you will get rashes. Most people are allergic to it–it’s actually a lot like poison sumac. True story: I am not allergic to poison ivy. GUESS HOW THE FUCK I FIGURED THAT OUT. But I do not get rashes from urushi. I still wear gloves though, because it’s a bitch to get out from under your fingernails.

Right now that’s where I am. Also the locks have all been cleaned out, and all function correctly with my newly cleaned key. Check it:

Video: I won’t judge your garage if you don’t judge mine.

Just after that video, I completed the detail cleaning to get rid of any extra smudges of blue grey anywhere. The next steps are going to be to assess the actual unit for damage and necessary repairs, and there’s quite a bit of it. That’s going to have its own entry, and that will actually be the next entry. So join me next time when I scream at wood more for your entertainment. Fucking hell this was awful.


7 thoughts on “Restoration Ongoing: Antique Abused Tansu

  1. So you never told us how you got them from Tennessee to Chicago???Some idiots like me need to know these things! You have the patience of a fucking saint! janet

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s