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Tiki Central Forums » » Collecting Tiki » » Need advice on restoring a Witco bar
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Need advice on restoring a Witco bar
Matt Helm
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Jan 24, 2008
Posts: 30
Posted: 2012-01-05 07:18 am   Permalink

Hey all, I came across a Witco bar that a local south Florida kid received from his mom. He had no idea what it was and had already began "restoring" it by ripping it apart and replacing the plywood underneath (assembling it with drywall screws and not much else) - discarding all but the carved pieces, one crossbar at the bottom back of the bar, and the screwed on bottle opener

Apparently it's been sitting in an outside bar for the better part of a decade and it shows... very faded, some cracks from drying out in the sun, miscellaneous damage to the bar top in the way of scratches / gouges / and even some initials lightly carved into the top. One of the stools is solid, the other needs help from a large crack. The cushions were removed long ago as was the fabric on the bar.

I felt sorry for it so I gave up some cash and brought it home to do what I can to restore it in the hope that it has potential to live again and serve as a centerpiece for a little home tiki bar of my own.....

I could really use some advice on how to go about restoring this thing. Can anyone provide pictures of the interior or bottom of one of these so I can try to replicate the original construction? Any tips on if I should try to replace the 2-3 chipped / missing pieces? What about refinishing the wood itself? I am guessing that the damage to the top of the bar will be difficult to repair given the raised grain nature of the wood...

Thanks all for your help! I'm looking forward to the project!

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Tiki Lee's
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 23, 2003
Posts: 798
From: Las Vegas
Posted: 2012-01-05 6:54 pm   Permalink

Hi Matt,

The best thing you could do to this bar is burn it...


Well, maybe not the whole thing, but the places where the wood has been broken off and/or gouged out. That's how Witco finished their furniture back in the day. Burn the "raw" areas or the gouges/scratches with a torch just enough so the wood turns black and becomes like alligator skin. Then brush off the char with a semi-stiff plastic bristle brush. After it's all clean, get some Howard's Orange Oil w/Beeswax and rub everything down hard with a thick coat or two. That will bring everything back as good as it will ever get.

As for he crack, you'll have to use your own judgement, but plenty of these stools are cracked like that and they are still sturdy enough to sit on.

Hope that helps!

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Bongo Bungalow
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 20, 2007
Posts: 1295
From: Indiana
Posted: 2012-01-05 7:33 pm   Permalink

Matt, you just got advice from a real pro. Listen to Mr. Tiki Lee.

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Matt Helm
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Jan 24, 2008
Posts: 30
Posted: 2012-01-05 7:53 pm   Permalink

Lee that sounds like a plan! I would really like to rebuild the cabinet / base - so if anyone can track down an image of the back of one of these bars I would be very appreciative! Right now it's just 3 pieces of plywood rigged together with drywall screws. I'd like to replace it with something a bit more "quality" befitting it's heritage

It needs a good cleaning after sitting outside so long (lots of dirt in the recesses, etc) so that's my first step.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 07, 2010
Posts: 437
From: Michigan
Posted: 2012-01-06 12:12 am   Permalink

I can't offer any advice, but I am envious of your find! It looks like a fun project to work on.
"I've been ionized, but I'm okay now." - B. Banzai

“The trouble with jogging is that the ice falls out of your glass.” Martin Mull

"Rum is not drinking, it's surviving" Robert Shaw THE DEEP

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Chuck Tatum is Tiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 12, 2011
Posts: 1674
From: Southern Cailifornia
Posted: 2012-01-06 04:11 am   Permalink

What ever wood you use to replace the front, you can cover in a leopard print fabric
to get the look of original Witco bar.

Like this...

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Matt Helm
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Jan 24, 2008
Posts: 30
Posted: 2012-01-06 06:35 am   Permalink

That's part of the plan

Thanks guys! Between the bar, a blue & brown glazed TF Mai-Kai mug and a set of Kon-tiki lobby cards it's been a good week.

I'll be starting on it this weekend..

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 10, 2011
Posts: 257
From: Denver, CO
Posted: 2012-01-09 3:42 pm   Permalink

Awesome find.

I'm a big fan of the Zebra print as seen in this unrestored example owned by TikiRootsRocka - there are more photos, including a catalog shot, over in the Witco Thread.


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Matt Helm
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Jan 24, 2008
Posts: 30
Posted: 2012-01-11 11:18 am   Permalink

Work has started, it's amazing how well the broken area blends in after the "burn". Once the repair work to the top (more burn and brush to restore the finish) is done I'll just be oiling the finish per Tiki Lee's advice. So far I think it's going to come out nice.

I am going to have to repair one crack on a stool, it's just too loose, but nothing some wood glue and a hefty furniture clamp can't fix.

The one part that I will have the hardest time with are the stool cushions. I'm guessing that I'll need to find a local upholstery shop to help out..

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Site Administrator

Joined: Aug 10, 2004
Posts: 3447
From: Redondo Beach, CA
Posted: 2012-01-11 11:47 am   Permalink

Yeah, the animal print fabrics can look good for the background and if you're trying to go for a historically accurate reproduction then the leopard skin look is the way to go. BUT when I see an animal print like that I don't think of Polynesia, I think of Africa.

If this was my Witco bar restoration project, I'd go for a tapa print background.

my 2cents...

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 25, 2004
Posts: 1129
From: NYC Area
Posted: 2012-01-12 8:32 pm   Permalink

cool stuff
keep up on the progress pics too!

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Sep 24, 2005
Posts: 309
From: Los Angeles
Posted: 2012-01-12 8:55 pm   Permalink

Thought this might help your job a bit. Found pictures of an old brochure on my hard drive... originally from Tiki Central I'm sure.

I've used a "Dark Walnut Stain" myself and then Formby's Tung Oil (High Gloss I believe). Just rub in the tung oil. The stuff is little weird but basically a very nice thin polyurethane type coating. Worked excellent!

[ This Message was edited by: tattoo 2012-01-12 22:36 ]

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Matt Helm
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Jan 24, 2008
Posts: 30
Posted: 2012-01-13 06:34 am   Permalink

Thanks for that! I'll post up a pic this weekend... I had to touch up a few areas on the top that were gouged with initials and therefore had to burn and brush on the bar surface. Even with a great deal of brushing and sanding it's not quite an even tint across the top but then It's going to be used and will probably wear over time anyway.

The Feed-n-wax (Orange oil with beeswax) went on last night over the top and sides and it looks great. I now need to work on the stools / shield and disassemble the bar to add a fabric over the base (after I choose one).

I don't have step by step shots of the bar so far but I will when I work on the stool.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 07, 2004
Posts: 1961
From: North Coast/ DEAD
Posted: 2012-01-13 07:18 am   Permalink

pay closed attention to the difference between,
'tung oil' and 'tung oil finish',and
'teak oil' and 'teak oil finish'.
and the stain you want to use is MINWAX, Special Walnut.
"Pets are welcome,Children 'MUST' be on leash" TD

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Pittsburgh pauly
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 31, 2010
Posts: 450
From: Pittsburgh
Posted: 2012-02-13 08:21 am   Permalink

How's this project coming along?
I ask because I just scored one of these sets myself! But mine is much less of a project, just clean and wax, no construction (I hope).
Here's a pic in situ at the estate sale:

I'm excited to get started with some wax, especially after I saw the difference between wet and dry while cleaning it:

I hope to get everything to the shade of the stool on the left.

I'll take some pics of the back to give you some idea of how to rebuild yours. To start, there's two shelves with a wavy lip, so you'll have a job ahead you to cut that.


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