Tag Archives: Wood stain

Mid Century Glory

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Around the apartment there are items we date with the letters BD (Before Dan).  I started doing this because I honestly can’t remember when I got an item/project . I can remember when I got it based on my relationship with Dan.  Right around the the time I met Dan, I acquired an amazing mid century teal chair. It was perfect! This sexy little chair had its original teal vinyl upholstery, dark stained legs, and brass feet. The moment I saw it I knew I had to have it! I had no room in the apartment for it, and my Mom who was with me when I fell in love, only encouraged me in to needing it. So the chair came home with me.

As it would be pointed out by Mr. Practical Dan I was wearing rose tinted glasses (seeing a pattern with me?). The chair wasn’t perfect. The upholstery had two giant tears in it, the legs were in desperate need of refinishing and the brass fee…to the untrained eye would have thought them to be rusty steel. But it was “perfect” and found its way into my living room where a blanket would cover the tears. Fast forward 2 plus years to December of 2014 when I discovered a new passion…Reupholstering.

My "dead" chair moments after class began

My “dead” chair moments after class began

This is something I have wanted to do for a while but never got around to.  So as a Birthday/Christmas present to myself I paid for an upholstery class.  I walked into class that first Monday of December with my coffee and chair and was ready to get down to business.

We started by removing all the staples, tacks, and nails in the original upholstery.  For my chair it went quickly (others were not so lucky) and within an hour I was on to the next step, buying fabric!!

I was panicked! I had no idea what fabric I wanted. I was worried the fabric would only look good on a small scale but over a whole chair, it would be tooo much. I was stressing and finally narrowed it down to two fabrics. Good old inny-minny decided the chair’s fate and I began cutting out the pieces needed to put my chair together. I left the first day of class in LOVE!! I was enjoying it soo much that I couldn’t wait for the next class.

The first of the two fabrics I considered for the chair

The first of the two fabrics I considered for the chair

The second and BEST option of fabric

The second and BEST option of fabric

Weeks two and three flew by in a blurr of stapling, laying out fabric, cotton stuffing, and sewing chair welting.

My chair without its teal

My chair without its teal

Here's the chair in the process of being reborn. I mean rebuilt

Here’s the chair in the process of being reborn. I mean rebuilt

My chair was coming together nicely until it came time to repair the chair itself.  Over the years, one of the wood joints had popped out of its socket and needed to be pushed back together. Sounds simple enough..WRONG!!! I bought a bar clamp to squeeze it together and used Dan’s muscles to tighten the clamp to apply even pressure to pop it back into place. Within moments, the bar clamp was bowing and creaking while the chair wasn’t moving at all.  Then, the clamp handle snaps off because we were cranking it too hard. Quickly, we grabbed a wrench added it to what was left of the handle and tightened the clamp and chair together. Add some wood glue and let it sit for several days (neither of us wanted to pull the clamp off) and it was ready to be finished.

 

Almost finished

Almost finished

 

Check out those legs

Check out those legs

As I walked into class for week four I was both sad and excited.  I didn’t want my class to end, yet I couldn’t wait to see my chair finished. Within 3 hours it was complete! It even has a dust cover on the bottom! You know the piece isn’t from Ikea when you have a dust cover! I have to say, I’m pretty proud of myself and my chair! And I can’t wait for spring when I can take another upholstery class!!

oooh lala

oooh lala

Cat tested! and Approved

Cat tested! and Approved

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The Age Old Question…

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When refinishing my chair, I not only had to pad and reupholster it but I had to do something with the wood itself. The chair and wood weren’t too terrible just really worn and dull. Which, if I was a 70 year old chair I would probably be dull too. Since I had everything off the chair and it was just a wood base/legs I figured now would be the time to do something about it.  So I spent two nights hand sanding the frame down to the bare wood.  It is important to note, IF one is staining wood a darker color than what it currently is, it does NOT need to be sanded perfectly down to the wood; just the top coat needs to be sanded off. Since I was unsure of the end wood color, I did a complete sand.

Once it was sanded, I stopped by Home Depot to pick out a stain.  Since it is a mid century chair, and mid century is known for dark, rich woods (especially mahogany) I decided to go with Varathane “Red Mahogany” stain.  I got home and was all ready to stain.

The Stain

The Stain

Do I stain my chair with a brush or with a rag? You ask anybody who has worked with stain and they will both tell you it depends on your comfort and the size of the project. I did my research and found that since my chair was round and had smaller work areas, I went with a rag. I dipped my rag in the stain and started slowly working in a downward motion (so I would always been wiping up drips and the drips wouldn’t ruin my work). I did the first coat alone.

My "excited to start" look

My “excited to start” look

Dan was worried that the color in the jar was too dark but after the first coat, he was shocked and impressed.  I ended with three coats of stain, to make it look like mahogany.  I then added a clear coat for protection and to give it that nice finished look.

Working hard

Working hard

 

Getting all the little spaces

Getting all the little spaces

 

I would quickly realize its better to move than to reach over wet stain

I would quickly realize its better to move than to reach over wet stain

I then added the clean brass feet, and took it to class to finish the upholstery.  Everybody kept oooohing and ahhing over it. Now Dan wants to refinish all the wood in the house mahogany……

Ketchup Isn’t Just for Fries

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The brass, vintage feet from a mid century chair, was in desperate need of polishing. Now I’m sure everybody is thinking, ummm she is going to write a whole blog post about how to use brasso?! And my response is simply no. Brasso is great, don’t get me wrong.  It will polish brass quickly and remove the grime, the patina….and the look of 70 year old brass.  So I used my own advise I give customers…polish them with Ketchup.

What I started with

What I started with

Sounds gross I know, but the acid in Ketchup works wonders on cleaning the tarnish off brass (and silver).  Having never used the ketchup method on anything but faceplates (and didnt want to stain my carpet) I went about it a little differently.  Poor Dan watched in both awe and horror.

Step 1: Using warm soapy water, gently clean the brass.  It might be that you like the look of the piece once the dirt layer is removed.

Step 2: Lay the dry brass on a rag (I would use a dark colored one since the ketchup will stain) and goop on the ketchup.

Step 3: Practice the P-word (patience) and let the brass and ketchup sit and “marinate”.  The longer it sits, the more the acid will break down the patina (my feet which probably had never been cleaned/polished/loved took over being soaked over night, but I’ve seen it work in as little as 10 minutes)

Step 4: After the ketchup has sat on the brass and helped break down the dirty, tarnished patina,  rinse it. Grab a clean lint free rag and start polishing.

Polishing took a while; even if i’d used Brasso, polishing would have taken awhile.  They were REALLY bad!! But the end result was great!

Check out those legs

Check out those legs

What once looked like a coffin..

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A  little over a year and a half ago Dan and I had the conversation about him moving in with me.  It just made sense, I had a big enough apartment and he basically already lived with me. While I have never doubted that it was the right decision (after all we did get married) at the time, it scared me.  Having lived with a boyfriend before and it not ending well, I was nervous; scared shitless would be a better way to describe it.  Plus I had been living solo for 5 years, I’m not the easiest person to live with and now Dan was wanting to move into MY SPACE!! Every reason I could think of for keeping him out was debunked until I found the perfect reason: “but where will your clothes live? You don’t have a dresser and I don’t have room for another one. No room for clothes! No room for you!” That worked for a few weeks until “The Coffin” came into my possession.

“The Coffin” is a 1930’s art deco, wood locker that was heavily painted a DARK DARK DARK brownish purple black color.  It has the beautiful straight lines of a vintage locker and really funky deco hardware.  This amazing piece of furniture was brought into my bedroom where there was NO room and smashed against the wall.  That one piece took an open feeling room and made it wall to wall furniture. I was not happy.

check out this amazing hardware

check out this amazing hardware

Before I could begin to strip this piece (or even find a good spot for it) I had a nightmare from watching scary movies and I woke up to this HUGE DARK MASS looming over me, much like a coffin with a vampire in it would. THEN out of nowhere the door creaks opens and out pops one of the cats. Can you say scared?! Needless to say that was the moment it went from being a cool wood locker to the “coffin”.

I took the door off to make it visually lighter. Then I rearranged the bedroom so the “coffin” would fit better. I used bleach to wash the inside because it had a wonderful smell of rotting flesh….I mean mildew…in it. Once it was clean (ish) Dan put his clothes in it and that was that.

I have been slowly stripping the the paint from the coffin…I mean locker…with the idea we would repaint it, making it look clean and new again. Dan’s request was green (something manly) and I had the idea it needed to be a classic gray. Once it was stripped I realized under all the layers of paint as beautiful clear vertical grain fir.  So we thought about staining it and being done. Sadly the wood had been damaged by the paint and it needed to be repainted.
We decided seahawks green (I do live in Seattle afterall) and a mid level gray. We painted it over a long weekend, added the gray chevron shelf paper while watching a movie. Dan’s clothes went back in about 4 days after we started painting it.  I love that this once dark coffin esk piece is now a bright happy (but still kind of adultish) piece.  I guess Dan can now move in 🙂
The finished Piece....I lost the "Before" pics when the computer died

The finished Piece….I lost the “Before” pics when the computer died

look how nice his clothes look NOT on the floor

look how nice his clothes look NOT on the floor

Partially Complete, Totally Happy

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When it comes to projects, I like to only brag about the finished ones. This is because if I bragged about EVERY partially finished project, I would spend my years bragging and not finishing. There is nothing like the rush I get when that project is complete and I get to cross it off my list. But every now and then a project is so massive, that, well bragging rights are deserved at the mid point.

The point I realized it was the cabinet or my sanity

The point I realized it was the cabinet or my sanity

The Craftsman Cabinet  has been a massive undertaking. I have stripped and stripped and stripped some more! I removed literally a 1/2 inch of paint from some places! It was fun to see all the colors my 100 year old cabinet had been. I then needed new hinges because I may have broken the not so original ones.

This WAS what it looked like for several months

This WAS what it looked like for several months

This was an epic adventure all of its own because I couldn’t replace the hinges with matching ones because I could not find them! So Dan had the great idea of doing different hinges. The ones I fell in love with were high end reproductions and were perfect…but not for $125. So I went to my work, grabbed a handful of the same style hinges and stripped the paint off, only to discover I had half brass and have steel hinges. I swapped out the brass and repeated the process. Because the hinges were different than the original Dan had to make the hinge grooves larger. I reattached the hardware (and added a few extra knobs).

Then replaced the top with premium old growth lumber from work. I sanded the whole thing several times and its partially complete!! In my mind, its no longer the eye sore of the corner (because I can close the doors and it’s clean again), paint will come eventually (I have the colors picked out in my mind). But for once, I’m trying to be happy with partially complete.

A rare view of the cabinet without the cat on it

A rare view of the cabinet without the cat on it

Sometimes even the Easter Bunny needs help

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My Mom is the BEST grandma (and mom) EVER!! She is always going above and beyond Grandma duties and spoils my niece and nephew something fierce.  When my nephew was learning to talk he decided that my mom was NOT going to be Grandma instead she would be Ma Mauk. Much to her annoyance the name stuck and now my niece (his younger sister) also refers to her as such.  Ma Mauk had plans for an Easter Bunny surprise for the kids at her house: She wanted a sandbox for the kids to play in.  It was funny she said this because that same morning I had been randomly looking at home made sandboxes (oh the power of getting sidetracked). So I quickly said I would BUILD her a sandbox and we (Dan and I) would bring it home Saturday before Easter in pre-made chunks and finish assembling it Easter morning.

She agreed and approved to the sandbox plan.  Having once been a kid with a sandbox (and cats) I knew it needed a lid! And knowing Ma Mauk it needed to be adult friendly (ie a bench) because she would be in the sandbox digging tunnels, scooping dirt, building castles and so on. So I found an image (and a blog with directions) and we set out to the Lumber Store. Now I’m going to be honest, I have never purchased NEW lumber without my Dad but I had done it several times with him; I had it covered.  Dan and I spent a date night at the hardware store (my FAV) and just as we had finished gathering all the materials needed Dan noticed something.  I had picked out very nice wood, cedar to be exact, for weather resistance. But Dan (full cart of lumber) says to me, “Babe, do you realize you have almost $200 worth of sandbox wood on the cart”. WHAT?!?! It was only going to cost me $70! How did I get a $200 sandbox?!?! I quickly realize I was buying premium lumber (at $20 a stick). Panicking, I call for help!

“So Dad, I’m building a sandbox……”. Thankfully my Dad (200 miles away) set me straight on what I was supposed to be buying and I made it out of the store with all the hardware and lumber for $70! MUCH better than $200!

The cut lumber waiting to be loaded into my car

The cut lumber waiting to be loaded into my car

Help! I have half a sandbox for a coffee table

Help! I have half a sandbox for a coffee table

Dan met me at work the following day to help me cut the lumber with the work saws and then the cut lumber traveled in my car for almost a week. We both tend to procrastinate. But we finally brought the lumber in; I pre-drilled and counter sunk the holes. tThen while I made Easter cookies, Dan attached everything and loaded it back into my car.  The rest can be said in pictures:

Easter Morning Prep

Easter Morning Prep

Waiting for the fun to start

Waiting for the fun to start

The finished product, MaMauk and all

The finished product, MaMauk and all

Let’s face it I like to strip…

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Let’s face it I like to strip…Paint that is! Nothing brings me more satisfaction than to strip pain from a salvaged item.  I get sick pleasure for several reasons.  One, I like to see the history of the piece and its different lives with different owners.  Nothing says well loved like several layers of paint! The second is that I LOVE to pick and peal and scrub. Its an instant gratification, if I scrape or pick hard enough or long enough you can SEE what I’ve accomplished. There are several methods to my madness and since I’m hiding from my next project, I thought I would share my stripping methods.

A fun look at paint history

A fun look at paint history

Heat Gun: I want to love this method of paint stripping; I really do! But sadly its not my favorite.  A Heat Gun is an over sized hair dryer that with heat, patience, and scrapping tools literally peals the paint off in strips. You must be careful not to burn your wood under the paint.   Dan is much better at this method than I am, which i find ironic since I use a blow dryer daily and he, well, has no hair. But none the less using the heat gun= lots of patience which sadly I lack.

Chemicals (Methylene-chloride): works GREAT…if you have a well ventilated area and thick gloves to protect your skin from the harsh chemicals.  Chemicals like paint removers or strippers work wonders but I prefer to not kill brain cells or my cats since I am doing everything in my apartment. Its important to always wipe the chemicals off the clean product with either a paint stripper or mineral spirits.  This helps to remove all the chemicals you can’t see.

Safe Strippers (all natural strippers): This is my preferred method.  “The Orange Crap” as Dan so lovingly calls CitruStrip and Natures Strip are my favorite. It’s expensive but works great and doesn’t kill my brain cells while working in the apartment.  Apply fairly thick layer of stripper on your project and just wait.  Depending on the thickness of the old paint it will quickly start to resemble crackle paint and within hours, using a scraper, your paint comes off in giant globs. I have also found if you put the item in a plastic bag or put wax paper on your project after you apply the stripper, the moisture stays in and works faster and better. AMAZING!

High Phosphate Detergent (ie SUPER cheap laundry soap): This is a trick I learned from Earthwise. Mix the cheap Dollar Store Laundry soap with very hot water . Place your metals and glass hardware in it and wait until you can comfortably place your hands in the water. The paint comes right off. This works great for cleaning my hinges, pulls, knobs, screws, and even  art deco floor grates.

Sanding: Let’s first start by saying I HATE sanding.  This is Dan’s job, well when I convince him to help, it’s his job.  I love using the orbital hand sander and I love the instant smoothness but I hate the mess it causes. So when it comes to sanding as a form of stripping paint, this would be my least favorite.  BUT if you have patience, and lots of sand paper it works  well, just a tad slow going.

When the going gets tough…

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This has been a less than perfect week! I have been sick, my kitchen sink is all backed up because of my neighbor yet I’m being blamed for it, it’s been slow at work. And to top it all off its COLD! We are talking the highest temp all week was 35 degrees! When you work in a salvage store with no heat that sucks! To say I feel powerless about my life is an understatement! So in order to gain some control I started a project. Not just any project but a BIG one!

My front counter at work is a beautiful quarter sawn oak bar front that was made in the late 1800s. It is very beat up and kind of embarrassing. I took a single sheet of sandpaper and started to sand the front of it. I don’t know what I was looking to get out of this besides maybe to release a small amount of aggression but next thing I know my coworker Matt has a piece of sandpaper and is next to me working hard. Neither of us are talking about why we are doing this it’s just what we are doing.

A mash up of the befores (why waste a lot of space on ugly photos)

A mash up of the befores (why waste a lot of space on ugly photos)

Before I know it we had the front sanded down from the painted, dirt stained patina to this really pretty white oak.  It was at this point, a little more than 4 hours after that first piece of sandpaper, that we just stood back and admired what we had done.

The Oh shit moment when we realized what we had started

The Oh shit moment when we realized what we had started

But why stop there?! Now the top (and the sides, and the drawers) looked 100x worse! After two days of sanding, and staining we had completely refinished the bar front to a very beautiful (while still maintaining its age) look.

The front! Sanded, stained and sealed

The front! Sanded, stained and sealed

The owner came in today and said "Where did this beauty come from?!)

The owner came in today and said “Where did this beauty come from?!)

I have to admit I was being selfish when I started this impromptu project.  I needed something to do to keep my mind off my shitty week.  And I was being selfish in the out come when I stood back and was admiring our hard work. But then a customer who happened to be in the store both days comes up to me and said “You are an inspiration to home projects. After watching you refinish this beautiful piece of furniture I now have the confidence to go home and do my own projects.”  This is what I needed.