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The Kitchen Island of Misfit Chairs

It’s not actually an island it’s a dining room table, but that didn’t sound nearly as festive.

So we received this table from a friend of ours. Who had previously got it from another friend of ours, and by the time that “first” owner had it the table was already second hand. So with this project I had the opportunity to do some serious archaeology.

When we received the chairs they had a lovely teal fabric on them. I wasn’t opposed to the teal but they were a little sun faded and stained from years of use and the cushioning was breaking down. I knew our friend hadn’t replaced the cushioning when she reupholstered instead opting just to recover the existing fabric. Which truth be told, is the only kind of upholstery work I’ve ever done.

So out the staples came to reveal what our other friend had for her chair cushions. Each chair a different pattern. We had actually considered doing this, all the same color scheme just different patterns, but eventually I found a bargain on some fabric I loved and just couldn’t pass it up. This is very much her style and her current dining setup has all different chairs not just different patterns on the same chairs.

So off that fabric came…. And what a surprise. The misfits were not the last layer. There was the most boring khaki color you have ever seen underneath.

So off that came as well. To reveal the horrors…

Turns out all of that work was for nothing, the seat bases were delaminating. Also the actual cushioning material was made out of an old egg crate mattress pad. Which was slightly horrifying. That didn’t matter as we planned on replacing that anyway. But the wood for the seats would have to be replaced.

Luckily one had already been replaced, two owners back if the fabric strata are to be believed. So that one was excellent to use as a template. We simply traced it out on our new sheet of plywood, used the table saw to rip it down and a jig saw to round the corners. And hey presto! New seats.

Next on to the foam padding, once again using the already refurbished one as a template.

Finally after the couple of bumps in the road (and a coffee cup full of staples… that could have made for a bad morning) we could get down to upholstery.

I’ve recovered a few things before, like I said I’ve never done it from scratch. The only real difference I found is that because you’re pulling on new foam and placing tension on the fabric you can if you’re not careful run into puckering. As long as you start from the middle, alternate sides, work towards the corners and be careful how much tension you put on the fabric you shouldn’t have too much trouble.

And always remember that if you do get puckering you can always pull out and replace staples to relieve it, mistakes are going to happen and they aren’t permanent in this case. I had to pull out quite a few on my first couple of chairs before I got the hang of it.

When all was said and done, we had lovely and oh so comfortable new seat cushions.

We also had a pile of old fabric and a coffee cup full of staples.

Also note I did not in any way try to center my pattern… do yourself a favor and do the same if you are trying this for the first time, from what I understand it’s not the easiest thing in the world

Next up we will be painting the chairs… wooo hooo!

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Desk Part 4: The Break Down

So we went from this

To this

Then on to this

And this is what it cost

Desk- $52.00

Handles-$27.00

Stripper- $11.98

Stain-$8.49

Tung Oil-$10.07

Paint for handles and broken foot-$2.98

Glue and resin for broken foot-$6.98

Sand paper-$2.00

Steel Wool-$3.97

Brushes-$1.00

Shop towels-$10.98

Contact paper-$9.99

Gloves-$2.00

Grand total $149.44

A good number of these things (Brushes, wood glue, paint, stripper, shop towels, contact paper, steel wool)are things that either I just had on hand already or have some left over and will be used again for future projects.

In case anyone was under a different impression I just want to note that I am a complete amateur at this. As in, I’ve never done anything of this sort before in my life. There were a lot of firsts with this project. I had never used a rotary tool before, never stained anything before (at least not wood and not on purpose). I had never used Tung oil. I had never used a resin to sculpt something, never had to reapply veneer or try to remove shellac (hopefully I will never have to do those two things ever again). The point is, I believed I could do it. More than that I believed that this sad little cast off of a desk could be something beautiful again, and I’m so very glad that it’s my something beautiful.

Now I do believe there is a dining room table that is begging for some t.l.c. as well. But in the mean time I may need some smaller projects. If any of you have any suggestions I would greatly appreciate them. In fact feel free to follow me on Pinterest so we can swap ideas.

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(Not About The) Desk Part 3.5: Pride is One of the Seven

Yep! I’m am pretty proud of what I have wrought.

 

So after the contact paper in the drawers I went a little contact paper crazy.

Or perhaps a lot.

I decided I needed a pad for my keyboard and mouse to sit on. That was easy enough I just stuck felt and contact paper together. Two sheets of felt, some scrap contact paper, a seam in the middle. Tah dah!

Using it right now I can say it makes a great mouse pad and I’m no longer worried about wearing a spot in my desk.

I also used every bit of scrap I had to cover my icky tape dispenser. Not exaggerating, it really was icky, covered in goo and sticky stuff and what have you. Now on to find fun washi tape for it.

And line a pen holder. Obviously the paper in the pen holder isn’t stuck to it. Its just two scrap sheets of contact paper still on their backing, with backs facing each other, cut to size, rolled up, and stuck inside it.

Oh yeah and a composition notebook just for the hell of it.

Did I go overboard? I feel like I might have gone overboard

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Desk Part 3: The Cherry On Top

Oh! Finally! The home stretch.

All that’s left is to put handles on. One of those (the one seen in the blog post here) required new holes. I left the drilling of said holes up to someone else. Mainly because I don’t trust myself to get them positioned correctly.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Part Zero, Part One, and Part Two

I decided to paint the outsides of the drawer sides. Mostly because I got stain all over them. It wasn’t pretty, and even though I have no intention of leaving the drawers hanging open all the time it will be nice to have them look decent. Instead of looking like I’ve slopped stain all down the sides and hastily tried to wipe it up just to have it spread around. Which is what actually went down. Paint fixes everything in my book.

After one coat of my go to Dark Kettle Black.

I also lined the drawers to cover up the ink stains and various other oddness. This is very much a two person job. Not just a two person job, but a two person job in which you must delegate tasks according to strengths and weaknesses. It turns out my boyfriend is great at spreading out the contact paper smoothly however horrible at holding the contact paper up. I’m the opposite. Actually my boyfriend is likely better at both of those things but that night he couldn’t hold his arms up six inches after having spent the day painting a ceiling. I remember that pain and am not eager to relive it.

The cat approves of this one

The aforementioned handle makes an appearance

To do this you might want a credit card or a small squeegee to smooth out any bubbles or wrinkles, as well as an exact-o knife to cut the excess as close to the edge as possible.

So now absolutely everything is done and ready to be moved in. Its time you see why I was so eager to get a new desk.

This is the setup I’ve been dealing with for the last six months. It’s rather unpleasant in the way of room to work not to mention aesthetics.

Yup he approves

This is so much better, although I will be playing around with the setup over the next couple of days and I doubt my CPU will stay up there. Either way a vast improvement.

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Desk Part 2: In Which the Naked Desk Gets His New Clothes

Yes, my desk is male. Yes, he likes frills and corner details and gilding. Do you have a problem with that?

So when we left off my desk had gone from this to this after a couple of very hot weeks in late august.

You can see its progress in Part 0 and Part 1

After that I wasn’t particularly sure what I wanted to do with the beast. Originally I was going to refinish the top with an ebony stain and paint the base with a grey chalk paint. Then I had planned to go over it with a dark finishing wax to give the carved elements dimension. However, after getting the whole thing sanded down I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to cover up that beautiful wood. So after some convincing and seeing what the top looked like stained I decided it would be worth the little extra work to stain the whole thing with a light ebony stain.

The top with its ebony stain.

I know light ebony sounds like an oxymoron … what I mean is just one light coat of an ebony stain to darken up the wood without adding any additional red since the wood was already reading as red (I’ve no idea what kind of wood it is but it’s very red).

I did some additional sanding over the whole piece with some fine grain sandpaper prior to staining then used a lint free cloth to remove any dust from the desk before actually applying the stain.

Before and after staining on the back panels and drawer fronts

I found it quite hard to get sawdust and lint out of the corners and carved detail no matter what I did. I finally hunted in the bathroom for a bulb syringe to blow air into these areas  and that turned out to be the perfect tool. It was far more efficient than a dust cloth or for that matter my lungs when it came to the crevices.

After all the staining was done it was a matter of protecting the finish I had just worked so hard to get. I originally purchased a can of polyurethane just assuming that’s how you finish things. After doing some research I decided to forego the ungodly coats of poly for just a couple coats of Tung oil. Tung Oil is pretty interesting stuff. If you’re thinking of refinishing furniture any time soon you should consider it as an alternative to poly. It was really easy to work with, a very quick process, and as far as I can tell quite durable. The only prep involved for the Tung oil was a quick buffing with a fine steel wool followed by dusting.

A couple of freshly stained drawer fronts getting the steel wool treatment before Tung oil.

In the end I’m really glad I went with staining the whole thing versus painting.

Tung oil really brings out the grain of the wood without being overly glossy.

Oh and remember that broken foot. It didn’t take stain luckily I had some paint handy, at least it’s an improvement.

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Handles

Not that handles

Let me rephrase. Drawer pulls. By that I mean I found some to replace the not so attractive ones that were on my desk. Only problem is I wanted the center (I think this used to be called a glove drawer or something) to have a long lock looking pull but there were none that matched the knobs I picked out

Nothing a little paint and eyeshadow can’t fix. Yes, you read that right. After rough sanding the handle to get off any loose paint or patina I painted it black, or close enough.

I then went over portions of the handle that were in relief or would see a lot of wear and tear with a chocolaty brown color.

Then while the paint was still wet I packed on a bronze colored eyeshadow with a dry brush to match the bronze patina on the knobs for the shorter drawers.

Once I was satisfied I dusted off any excess shadow with a soft cloth, and sealed the pull with a clear acrylic. Now I actually have a matching set.

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Desk Part 1: Safety First

I could have called this “Always wear gloves and goggles” or “Shellac is the bane of my existence” or “Sweat does not evaporate in 60% humidity” maybe “DO NOT! Sand in 90 degree heat”. I vote not doing anything in 90 degree heat anyway.

There is always a learning curve and these are the things I’ve learned in the first part of this project. If you missed Part Zero you can find it here

Where do I start? Oh yes, the bane of my existence. That lovely shellac. In case you don’t know what shellac is, here is the short version. Its excretions from a tiny bug dissolved in alcohol and painted onto furniture…. Yes I’m serious. Click here for the long version. Why? I have no earthly idea. It’s not particularly scratch resistant, it turns white when it gets wet, and god forbid you ever want to remove it. It’s an old (I don’t know how old) piece of furniture so I’m not surprised that it’s covered in shellac. Over the years shellac has fallen out of favor to be replaced by much more durable varnishes and polyurethanes. This piece however was caked in a very deep red/amber colored shellac and it has not been fun to remove it.

So about removing it. Sanding sort of works. For the most part though it just gums up your sand paper. And if you were paying attention yes, alcohol will dissolve it. However you have to work incredibly quickly and waste a lot of paper wiping it away, otherwise as the alcohol rapidly dries and you’ve essentially just reapplied the shellac. For the most part strippers aren’t particularly efficient on shellac. I managed to luck out. I have a stripper that I’ve used on a couple of other projects in the past that is absolutely marvelous. Its non-toxic and biodegradable. I have no idea what it’s made of but it even has a bizarrely pleasant smell.

Unlike latex paint its not going to strip it off in lovely sheets that just plop off nice and clean. Instead it turns the shellac into this strange gloop, it’s like blood and viscera… let’s just say always wear gloves unless you want to look like an axe murderer

So after attempting to sand the top and resorting to stripping the whole desk it turned out not as bad as I thought.

Look, I found a water ring hiding under all that shellac and stain.

I also found some pen scratches and what I can only figure are cigarette burns, but after lots of stripping and sanding I found some gorgeous wood underneath.

The poor broken foot received a prosthetic. This is where goggles come in. Always wear goggles when using a rotary tool. Tiny bits of resin in your eye are no fun and also will hinder your sight so that using your rotary tool to sculpt so everything is all nice and neat instead of doing it by hand becomes a moot point.

The before and after of the stripping process on the drawers.

The drawer that had the cracked veneer loosened but has already been re-glued. It’s thick veneer (about 3/16) which made it quite easy. My photographic evidence of the repair work failed me.

It’s looking rather vastly improved already. Now just to figure out what to do with it now that it’s naked.