How to Repurpose an Antique Cabinet Into a Vanity
Learn how to retrofit an antique cabinet with a porcelain sink and fixtures to create a stylish vanity.
Aside from replacing the wood on the antique doors, this project will involve building the body of the cabinet. Here are the basic steps:
Working backwards — i.e., working around the size of our antique doors — first measure the existing cabinet door size. (Image 1) Add space for rails at the top, bottom and sides to give the overall dimensions of the cabinet.
Based on the plans, determine the rail size and add the lower and upper cabinet frame for the total cabinet height.
Rip the boards for the sides, top, bottom, and shelves to the length and depth you'll need. In cases like ours where the boards aren't wide enough to achieve the proper depth, biscuit joints can be used to join two boards together and achieve the necessary width.
Use a power planer to plane the edges to a smooth surface (Image 2).
Using a biscuit joiner, cut biscuit-slots in the center of the board's edges where biscuits can be added to connect the boards (Image 1). We cut biscuit slots 8 inches on-center.
Run a bead of glue along the edge of the board and inside the biscuit joint, place the biscuits inside and connect both pieces of wood.
With the boards joined together, clamp the wood, flip and add more clamps to the other side (Image 2).
Allow four hours for the glue to dry.
Remove the clamps and scrape off any glue that squeezed through the boards with a carbide scraper.
Rip down the board to fit in the thickness planer (Image 3) and plane each side of the boards to a thickness of 3/4" (Image 4).
Rip each board down again to the actual cabinet depth.
Cut dados in the sides and bottom panel to support the shelves and backing.
For the backing, we used boxcar siding, which fits together in a tongue-and-groove configuration. Cut each piece of boxcar siding to length. Sand down any rough edges on the wood.
Now you can begin assembling the cabinet body according to the plans (Image 1).
Insert each shelf into a dado with wood glue and secure with finishing nails (Image 2).
The boxcar siding is placed inside the dado on the bottom panel, and then the entire cabinet is secured with a ratchet strap (Image 3).
Allow the glue to cure fully.
Nail a top cap to the cabinet (Image 4).
Finish the cabinet as desired. We applied a coat of lacquer with a pneumatic sprayer.
Using the selected wood, rip the boards down to the measurements needed using a table saw.
Run the front of each piece through a router table with a raised panel bit, adding a beaded detail.
Cut interlocking joints on the end of each frame piece so that the pieces fit together (Image 1).
With the elements all cut and routed, glue and assemble the frames.
To ensure that they are square, measure the assembled frames diagonally from corner to corner, across both diagonals, to ensure that both measurements the same length.
Once you're certain that the assembly is square, clamp securely (Image 2), measure one more time and allow the glue to dry.
Remove the leaded glass panels from the existing frames. In our case, we used a pry-bar and chisel to carefully remove the glass-stop trim pieces (Image 3).
Carefully place antique glass panel into the new frames (Image 4).
Carefully nail on the glass stop to secure the glass in the frames (Image 5).
Repeat the process for all of the doors.
Finish to match the body of the cabinet.
To mount the cabinet to the wall, we installed a ledger strip to the wall, securing it to the studs. The cabinet rests on the wood strip and is screwed into the wall studs.
Cut mortises into the edges of the door frame using a sharp chisel.
Drill pilot-holes for the hinges.
Install hinges (as in image) and hang the newly framed doors in the cabinet body.
Saving the mounting of the glass doors to the last step in the process helps minimize the risk of the fragile doors being damaged.