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Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Remember this beauty from a few weeks ago?

~ before ~

This was a $40 craigslist find that I was determined to makeover, but it needed a lot of work. It needed some serious sanding, the doors were off their hinges (see them in the picture?), the top "desk" portion of the piece was falling apart (that's it on the floor in the foreground), and the top of one of the "bookshelves" was only half on the piece (see it sticking up a bit on left side? It was barely hanging on with some out-of-shape screws). Not to mention the splitting pieces of veneer that needed to be glued (and clamped overnight) back on. And of course new hardware. But what I can I say? I'm a glutton for punishment (and a good makeover).

So, Home Depot quickly became my new BFF and off I went to buy everything I needed to make it happen. Since this was my first refinishing job, I needed everything. Drop cloth, stain, staining pads, rags, poly, hardware, sandpaper, new drill bits, wood glue ... you get the idea. If, however, you already have these only-need-to-buy-'em-once things, the costs are pretty low. Some stain, some sandpaper, some polyurethane, some handles. Easy Peasy. Even with all of the extra costs I had, I don't think my new super furniture was more than $150. The final price for this was a bit higher than usual because of the start up costs, but I still think it was well worth it.

~ after ~

How I did it:

  1. Step 1: Glue and Clamp! As I mentioned above, bits of veneer were practically falling off. The first order of business was securing these once and for all. I bought some wood glue and a bunch of clamps (at just $0.99 a piece) and got to clamping. Glue both side of the wood, clamp down, wipe away the excess with a damp cloth (or your finger!) and let sit overnight. This worked like a charm!

  2. Step 2: Close up the unused holes. It's difficult to tell from the before and after photos, but there were pre-drilled holes in each drawer for the original hardware. The problem? The placement of these holes was wrong for my new handles! To make life easier on myself I decided to reuse the outer holes and only fill in the inner ones. I put some painters tape on the inside of the shelf (to cover the hole from the inside so the wood filler wouldn't fall through the hole), grabbed some wood filler, and filled the tiny holes up with it.

  3. Step 3: Sand! Once the wood filler was dry (given the depth of my holes I let them set overnight again) I got to sanding. Every surface had to be completely sanded down to allow the stain to work. Unfortunately with this piece, I had to do a lot of it by hand because the surfaces were too small for the hand sander.

  4. Step 4: Once I was down to the wood (and had removed all the varnish!) I got to the fun stuff - staining! It may be messy, but I really do get a kick out of staining. I used Minwax's Ebony stain, a staining pad, and a foam brush (for all the places I couldn't reach with the pad). To apply it's just like the Karate Kid says: Wipe On, Wipe Off. I did 3 coats (I wanted it really black!) and let each coat dry overnight before applying the next one.

  5. Step 5: The finishing touch. Once I was done with all of the staining it was time for the polyurethane. I used two coats of Minwax's Rub-On Polyurethane. I debated which kind of poly to use - wipe on, brush on, or spray on - and I'm so glad I went with the wipe on. It worked like a charm. Two coats of poly later (with a light sanding between coats) and I was almost finished!

  6. Step 6: Adding some hardware. The final touch was replacing the old hinges with new ones and adding the new handles. Once that was done the piece was ready to move out of the "workshop" and into the house proper. Now it has a lovely place on the top floor landing, waiting for all to admire my handy work.

~ some of the things that made it all possible ~

I have to give a proper shout out here to my parents. They were a tremendous help and there's no way I could have done it without them! They helped me figure out things I never would have thought of on my own and I owe them a big THANK YOU! I strongly suggest to any newbie DIYers out there, if you have people who know about what you're trying to do, consult them! I've learned so much from their experience and it was fun having someone else there to do the hard parts with!

So what do you think? I'd love to hear if you would have done something differently (different hardware? different stain?). Have you madeover a piece of furniture recently with success? Learn anything from it that you'd like to share?

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