The Wedding Gift

I cannot believe how long it has been since I posted.  Five months!  I guess that’s what happens when you get a job–you have less time for your hobbies.

One of the reasons I took so long to post this project is that I was giving it to a dear friend of mine as a wedding present and I only was able to send it off the other day.  Only two pics (a before and after) but it was a fun project.  

Because it was a wine rack.

Which is just awesome.



I wanted it to turn out as dark as I could, so I used a mahogany stain and a polyurethane finish to spruce it up a bit:



Technically, it was not the most perfect job I’ve done, but it was probably the most exciting because of who it was going to.  Now I’m searching avidly for the next project…  I’ll keep you posted!  Hopefully…

The Best Project

I find it somewhat fitting that my first commissioned job would involve a gun–my business really is starting off with a bang.

Now that you’ve finishing groaning at my pun, I’ll tell you all about it.

My brother owns a 1929 Mosin-Nagant rifle that was a bit shabby.  It wasn’t too bad–just a little messy looking.  I had him take off all the metal parts so I could just work with the wood.



A better picture of the defects

A better picture of the defects

I won’t bore you with the details–it was the usual sanding, staining, and polyurethaning.  Though I will say this–I have never come across a piece that responded to sanding as well as this did.  The finish came off as easily as dust from a mantle.


The whole project was very satisfying and rather easy.  It’s quite nice being able to maneuver the piece in my hands rather than have to move around and under it to get it all finished.

In the end, it looked very good, if I do say so myself.

All done! Some assembly still needed...

All done! Some assembly still needed…

Once my bro-ski put it all back together, the final result was very gratifying

Voila! Eet is feenished

Voila! Eet is feenished

I think I’m going to add the title “Gunsmith” to my resumé…

Tabula Rasa

Whoever coined the term “blank slate” must have been a genius.  The term is used to describe exactly that–something untarnished by the stains of knowledge, opinion, sensory perception, the elements, the world.

I was hoping to return this table to that precise state.

In much need of rasa-ing

In much need of rasa-ing




Yes this table was in bad shape, but it was all purely cosmetic.  For example, those white marks came off super easily using a simple scraper.













The look was much improved even after just some simple scrubbing.

This portion of our blog is brought to you by Murphy’s Oil Soap and steel wool.







No, you may not have my watch.

No, you may not have my watch.




Then the sanding commenced.  A friend of mine was watching me (shout out to Emi) and she shneakily and shurreptitiously took pictures of me while I sanded away.  This picture is brought to you by Target Brand Watches,  All Rights Reserved.






All sanded!

All sanded!




This table was rather a pain in the neck since it insisted on keeping this ugly deformity upon its surface.  As much as I sanded, I couldn’t make it flush with the rest of the tabletop.  I decided to make the best of the situation and stain it along with the rest of the piece.




Not too shabby...

Not too shabby…



I would have preferred to have the whole thing one shade of brown, but since I was just doing this project as a favor to my sister, I didn’t want to put too much time and effort into it.  This is the same stain I’ve used for all my other projects.  I finished the can so I guess I’ll have to branch out and pick another shade…









After it was polyurethaned and sanded a few times, it looked great.  The table was never fully restored to a “tabula rasa” state, but I think it got close enough.

Now it’s ready for more experiences and uses to make it a Tabula Plena.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I am truly sorry for the long absence.  As I’m sure most other people have experienced, I had a very busy holiday season filled with food, drink, and good company.  And I want to wish each and every one of you a joyous new year!

Unemployment is accompanied by many other perks and disadvantages, two of which being 1) extra time on one’s hands and 2) a lack of sustainable income.  These two factors propitiated my resolve to make as many Christmas presents as I could this year.  And since I come from a family of nine kids, this is a tall order.  Especially for someone only recently in touch with her crafty side (i.e. me).

The subject of today’s post is one such present.  My 19 year old sister recently acquired a record player and has taken to purchasing music in that format.  While records are fun to collect, they are rather bulky and can take up a lot of space.  So I decided to build her a record box for her Christmas present.

My dad told me I could use some spare wood he had leftover from some shelves he built, so one night I set about throwing something together.

The box, in its state of potency.

The box, in its state of potency.

I set about measuring, sawing, gluing, and nailing.  For future reference: screws would be much easier/better to use.  Oh well…

After a bit, the box started emerging:

Inching towards  a state of actuality.

Inching towards a state of actuality.

After about an hour and a half, the box was constructed, and a sense of pride and satisfaction set in:

Tada!  Incredible what can be done at 10:30 PM.

Tada! Incredible what can be done at 10:30 PM.

The next few days were spent sanding, staining, resanding, restaining, finishing, and refinishing to finally make it look worthy of its record-holding duties.  I used the same stain and polyurethane from my great grandmother’s table (see previous post) but gave it an extra coat of stain to make it darker.

The finished product look great, in my humble opinion:

The box, in its state of actuality.

The box, in its state of actuality.

Side 2

Side 2

I have a book of vintage 1920’s ads (which is pretty rockin’ awesome) so I cut out two of them and used them to decorate the sides of the box, covering them with polyurethane to give them some nice gloss.

I also bought her a three-record set of Handel’s Messiah to go along with the case, which she loved. All in all, I’d say the project was a great success, judging by the look on her face when she opened it…

Indian Summers and Family History

I am dreaming of a white Christmas, don’t worry.  But I always enjoy 75 and sunny in the beginning of December.  And such pleasant weather facilitates my furniture hobby quite nicely.

This project is one with sentimental value.  The subject is my great-grandmother’s kitchen table, from the early 1900’s.  Maura was unable to help me with this project, so I was on my own once again.

The table was in pretty bad shape to begin with:



Note the edge closest to the foreground.  That stuff, whatever it was, was ridiculously hard to get off.  It took lots of scrubbing, sanding, coaxing, and bribing.

The first step was to scrub the whole thing down and take off as many marks and spots as I could.



The next step to tackle was filling the holes and imperfections with wood-filler.  This was my first experience with the stuff, so I sort of learned by trial and error.  There were dozens of tack marks on the edges and a few dings and scratches on the surface that required TLC.

Yucky tack marks

Yucky tack marks

Filling 'em in

Filling ’em in

Sanding commenced forthwith.  One of the hardest parts of this project was trying to remove the strange substance from one of the edges. It looked like old tape residue, but I’m not quite sure.

Before coaxing, sanding, scraping...

Before coaxing, sanding, scraping…

It took a long time with a scraper and a sander to make it look semi presentable.

After blood, sweat, and tears.

After blood, sweat, and tears.

The rest of the sanding was much less taxing.  Though, if you’re ever using an electric sander, remember to check the paper often–I have found that the paper frequently gets a gunky build-up which the heat of the sander then transfers onto the surface you’re finishing.  So make sure to keep an eye on what you’re doing.

When the sanding was finished, a sense of accomplishment started setting in.

After sanding

After sanding

Then came the staining.  I am inexperienced in the choosing of stain, but I decided on the English Chestnut shade from Miniwax.  And the color was very satisfactory.

Post staining. Getting there!

Post staining. Getting there!

The final and most rewarding part of the project was the finishing.  I was also unfamiliar with the different types of varnish, so I decided on an oil-based polyurethane finish–Miniwax Fast-Drying Clear Gloss, to be exact.  Since the finishing process requires multiple coats, and drying time between each one, I waited until the next day to finish.

For those who don’t know, between each coat of varnish, you must sand the surface to make sure the finish is even.  After each layer, the table looked smoother and smoother, glistening in the sun. Ahh…

After two coats of polyurethane...

After two coats of polyurethane…

The third coat was applied in the evening, while it was dark.  But you can still get a sense of just how reflective the surface became:



I am quite proud of what I did.  And very happy that I was able to preserve this little piece of my family’s history.

Ensconced in the home

Ensconced in the home

The Chair Pt. 2; Or, The Architect of Destruction

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile, but I’ve been a bit busy with the Holiday of Gratitude.  Top that off with the entrance of a new niece into this world, and you can understand my neglect.

Today, we return to an old friend.  That’s right–I’m referring to Maura’s chair… (See first post.  Groan.  Now come back.)

As can be expected with such a piece of furniture, we had a lot of destruction to do before we could even consider making it look presentable.

The first thing we did was to say to ourselves “To hell with trying to preserve the fabric–let’s tear this thing apart.”  This turned out to be a very beneficial decision.  So the destruction commenced.  Armed with pliers and screwdrivers (to ply off furniture nails) we set about denuding the chair:


Greeting us under the fabric and padding was a veritable jackpot of dust and other furniture debris.  Needless to say, we refrained from getting pictures.

Perhaps even worse than the dust was the state of the springs.  Maura displayed our sentiments exactly:


Now, this stage of the process is satisfying, but also somewhat discouraging.  That first look at the task ahead is always a bit daunting.

Those are nail holes. Lots of them. I think the count is up to about 439.

As you can see in the picture above, our next task is going to be to sand the whole thing down and fill the nail holes with wood filler.  After that, we’ll sand it again and work on staining and finishing it.

Here’s what it looked like when we were done for the day:

Hey, not too bad, eh?

We are planning on doing a new cushion for the seat, but we’re not sure what we’ll do for the back–we’re leaning toward putting in another slat and keeping it wood.

Anyway, we have our work cut out for that.  A trip to Lowe’s is due in order to get a few things we realized we desperately need.

Like personalized work aprons and cool goggles…

Who Knew That Distress Could Be Good?

Distress:  a state of danger or desperate need.

Hmm…  Challenge accepted.

This project came hand in hand with the dining room chairs (See previous blog post) and consisted in the dining room table accompanying said chairs.

The day after tackling the chairs, I returned to my godmother’s house to undertake the cosmetic reworking of said table.  My Dear Friend was unable to join me, so I was ridin’ solo.  Like Jason Derulo.

Wanna see a before picture?  I’m afraid to show it.

OK, here it is.

Before. Look at all that grossness! Water marks and ink stains.

So, as you can expect, the first thing to be done was to scrub it.  Lots.  With my faithful Murphy’s Oil Soap.  (I wonder if I’ll get nabbed for copyrighting violations if I use that product name too often… How about I call is MOS?  Nah.  Too boring.)

Yes.  I scrubbed.  Thankfully I had cocoa brought to me, which made the task lighter.

After scrubbing it looked a little better…

This is after scrubbing. Looking a bit better…

At this point, I took out the sander.  Mwahahahaha…

Ha. I wish.

Sanding is my favorite.  I think I mentioned that before.

But you know what’s even better than sanding?  I would like to direct your attention to the title of this post.

That’s it–DISTRESSING!!!

Now, distressing, as the word implies, involves stripping the wood to give it a worn, battered look.  Like it’s in distress.  This is considered tres chic, and you all know how chic I am.

I worked on that table top for a good hour, with the invaluable help of my godmother, to make it looked as distressed as possible.

Voila! Lots of distress going on.

I highly recommend distressing wood to anyone.  It is so very satisfying.

Now all that was needed was a little polish before it was ready for the protective finish.  And so I obliged.

After. Woohoo!!! Compare to first picture.

Sadly, I was unable to stick around for the final finish application, but my godmother tells me it looks great.  And because I’m so proud of myself, here’s another picture…


Yes, I won’t deny this was, for me, the most satisfying project so far.

Now I want to go around distressing everything in sight.  My family tends to object, especially when I start looking at the piano with a twitch in my eye…

The Second Project: Or, How I Learned to Quit Worrying and Love the Grapevine

My Dear Friend and I live in a small rural town, in rural Virginia, with rural neighbors (neighbors being a relative term–the average distance being about two miles).  As can be expected, news travels fast around here.  When everybody knows everybody, everything is interesting.

Thus, it came as little surprise to me that, barely a day or two after working on last post’s chair, we were approached by my godmother to help her refinish a dining room set she had recently acquired.

This invitation enlivened me.

Not only did it indicate that the local grapevine actually serves a purpose, but it also gave us an opportunity to work strictly with wood.  Upholstery is all very well and good, but it does not compare to the satisfaction of scrubbing, sanding, and polishing a solid piece of wood, releasing it from its watermarks and ink stains to reveal a surface ready for a new chapter in its history.  If the furniture world were a civilization, the woodwork would be the traditions and heritage; fundamentally unchanging, but often reworked, polished, and adjusted to fit the current times.

It was with much excitement that we approached the dining room set.

We began with the chairs, which took up all of one day.

First, we set about scrub, scrub, scrubbing them, using Murphy’s Oil Soap, scratchy sponges, and yes, even steel wool.  Seriously, these chairs needed help.


Before. Yuck.

This is the before image.  I will not show you how the cushions looked because the image might just make you cringe.

I did not get many pictures of this project because honestly, I simply forgot.

But we scrubbed, sanded, and polished, take my word for it.

The result was this:


After. Pretty!

Full disclosure: we worked mainly on the wood.  The cushions were primarily doctored by my godmother and her niece, but I helped with some of the stapling.  Hey, I was proud of it.

On the whole, this was a pretty low maintenance project, but it did give us some good experience with wood and exactly what it the best way to go about its restoration.

The next day, I returned without my Dear Friend to work on the table that accompanies these chairs.  But that will have to occupy its own post.

For now, I have to remove the steel wool from under my fingernails.

And So It Begins

Idle minds are the devil’s playground, as the saying goes. So I, not willing to give up my soul to strangers, have combined forces with my Dear Friend to lay aside our couch potato tendencies and start a hobby.

It began a few weeks ago when my Dear Friend told me she wanted to try her hand at restoring furniture.  Brilliant idea! I said.

And so began our adventures.

It started with a chair…Image

This was one of my Dear Friend’s acquisitions.  Can’t you tell it needs some TLC?  Yeah, I thought so too.

Now, when we started this project, we were in the midst of Superstorm Sandy.  Or, as everyone here on the East Coast liked to call it, The Apocalypse.  So we were racing against the wind, rain, and hail, trying to make some progress before a canoe became necessary for my commute home.

Hence, we made little progress:


Can you see the skirt?  Exactly–you can’t.  We removed it, along with about 148 rusted furniture nails.  Yes, it was a labor of love.  Or something of a similar constancy.

We also removed the back panel:


Yeah… That was about the extent of our work for that day.

We were so proud of ourselves, we rewarded ourselves with a lunch of salami sandwiches…


Salami sandwiches are for champions.

So is tetanus. (See “rusted furniture nails” above)