Saturday, November 20, 2010


We decided that, since this old piece of furniture had so many little cuts and ink stains, we'd stain it a darker color--walnut fit the bill--but before we stained it, there were a couple of places where the wood needed to be patched with wood filler. That's kind of a toss-up, because, not matter how much you buy real wood looking filler, and sand it into shape, it still looks like someone stuck a piece of old gum in the crack and filled it, but we still tried, thinking that from a distance it would look like a knot hole or something. Anyway, here's the sanded product. It's all ready for sealer and polyurethane.

Tomorrow:  The finished product

Friday, November 19, 2010


 These two little friends make sanding much easier. They bump off paint flecks and actually smooth flaws. They reach into corners and nose their way into ridges...sanding, smoothing. They also tend to turn around and bite the unsuspecting wielder who doesn't keep a firm grip.
Next is Staining

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Little by Little

I'm feeling encouraged enough to tackle the sanding now. The paint is off the flat surfaces at least, although there are still some varnish stains. I've wiped it clean with a damp rag soaked in bleached water, and I think the sander will take care of the rest. It looks pretty good if you don't probe into every little corner.
There are a couple of places where wood needs to be repaired, on the feet, the front, and on the top of one drawer. Turtle bought some wood filler that is supposed to hold stain. In my experience, it will stain a different color than the rest, but we are going to try it.
 Next:  Sanding

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Elbow Grease

Ok, so this is not fun. Scraping, re-applying, washing, scrubbing..three coats of zip strip and one layer of orange-citrus smelling stuff in a spray bottle which would have been nifty if it had only worked. It did help take old paint/varnish/stain off, but the spray bottle clogged after the first two squirts and had to be shaken, and twisted after every four or five thereafter. It was runny, messy, oily, and only marginally efficient.

Every time I refinish furniture, I vow that this will be my last piece...and it is always at this stage that I vow it.

  Ah well, I'm sure that by doing a little every evening after work I'll be able to get most of the paint off. I am a little concerned with the stains underneath the paint. It looks like there might be some India ink, and lots of run over from the stripper. Maybe I can use a little bleach water on it, or thinner with a good scrubbing rag...hmm.

Tomorrow:  Little by Little

Monday, November 15, 2010

Off with the Old

The most difficult, tedious, and messy job in refinishing furniture is stripping off the old paint and varnish. For this piece of furniture, that's complicated even further by the old contact paper plastered over everything. First, Claye tried peeling that off. It worked for a little while, but then the pieces began to break, so we used a razor blade scraper. That was risky, because it kept catching on one thing or another and it was easy to make little cuts in the wood. So I just poured on the stripper.

Lo and behold! The contact paper just bubbled up like old paint and could be pushed off with a putty knife. I found an old box in the garage and began to dump in scoops of paint and plastic, being careful not to tug at it too vigorously and splash it into my eye. This stuff is slimy.

Finally, I applied a layer to all the rest of the furniture and let it set for at least twenty minutes, being careful to wear a glove. If a spot of the stuff gets on the skin, it begins to burn right away and burns until you go wash it off. Rubbing it off with a rag helps too, because the stuff works best in a thick puddle and not spread thinly.

Tomorrow: Elbow Grease

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Turning ugly old junk into useful furniture

Now isn't that a bright idea?
Last summer, when my dad needed to clear out a storage building, he asked all of us if we wanted any of the old furniture. I picked out a couple of pieces--one for sentimental value. (It was my daughter's little wardrobe and I thought I might could make a toy cabinet for my grandchildren) and the other because it looked like it would make a good "fly-tying cabinet" for my husband, whose blog name is Turtle, aka Turtle the Fearless.
Anyway, here's the cabinet with its three heavy coats of paint--green, black, and sunshine yellow. There's a kind of contact paper on the top and it's going to be a mess to scrape off, but underneath--ah there you can see real wood.
I hope it's salvageable, but for tying flies it really doesn't have to look like Ethan Allen. I'll have to replace the hardware, of course, although that wire handle does add a little charm of its own.

Here's a record of my daily progress:
Off with the Old
Elbow Grease 
Little by Little 
Finally Finished Furniture