This past summer, in the middle of a heat wave, I decided to start a project that would persuade me to appreciate the process of refinishing furniture.
Located along the north wall of our garage, stood a two-piece hutch and an old dining room buffet, painted an unattractive beige color. Both pieces were ugly, worn-out, and used as storage, holding a plethora of items, including a sander, a small toolbox, chemicals for the lawn, and a bag of golf tees, just to name a few.
Through the years, my husband has reminded me numerous times that these pieces belonged in the dump because they were ugly and took up needed space in the garage. I couldn’t disagree, because after years of abuse and neglect, neither piece was worth a second glance. But, secretly, I would imagine how beautiful they looked brand new and with a little TLC, a few repairs, and some stain, they both had potential to look beautiful again.
Then, one day out of frustration with lack of room in the garage, my husband declared that he was getting rid of “the crappy furniture.” I quickly convinced him to let me try refinishing the two-piece hutch AND if it did not look beautiful, he could take both pieces to the dump. But, if it turned out as I was expecting, I would refinish the buffet and we would bring both pieces in the house. Reluctantly, he agreed to my plea.
While my husband cleaned out the hutch, I began researching the process of refinishing furniture and I made a list of the items I needed – paint stripper, sandpaper, wood glue, wood filler, wood conditioner, stain, and polyurethane clear finish. With my list in hand, I headed to the local paint store to pick up all the items on my list.
With excited vigor, I was ready to start and I wasn’t going to let the sweltering heat slow me down. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I walked outside and saw that my husband set up a canopy on the driveway to protect me, and the furniture, from the blistering sun. Other than an air-conditioned garage, which I would have preferred but didn’t have, the canopy was the perfect set up for me to start working on my project.
Listening to my favorite podcast, I grabbed a flathead screwdriver and got to work removing the eight hinges that held two cabinet doors and the two hutch doors, in place. Once removed, I carefully extracted the glass from the hutch doors, then separated the top half of the hutch from the bottom and placed all the pieces onto the tarp under the canopy on the driveway.
I cleaned all the pieces with soap and water and let them dry in the summer heat.
As the heat remained unbearable, even with the canopy to shield me from the sun, I knew it would affect the duration of time I spent working on my project. Not wasting any time, I quickly applied the paint stripper, each time waiting approximately 30 minutes to allow it to permeate through all the layers of paint and stain. As the paint started to wrinkle and separate from the wood, indicating it was ready, I started the painstaking process of scraping every bit of color off each piece. I followed this process with a thorough water cleansing, and I left them to dry.
Once dried, I filled all holes and gouges with wood filler and again waited until the filler was dry. When my pieces were ready for the sanding process, I put on my protective eyewear and facemask, grabbed the sander and got to work, diligently sanding each piece until the natural wood was smooth as a baby’s bottom. And just as I had suspected, stripped, in its natural state, the hutch looked pretty good and I couldn’t wait to apply the stain, but first, I had to coat each piece with wood conditioner to allow even absorption of the stain.
Applying the stain was the moment I’d been waiting for and the anticipation of completing this step, had me excited and nervous at the same time. Remember, if this hutch turned out as expected, I would have “new” furniture in my house, otherwise, it was off to the dump! So, as instructed by the salesperson at the paint shop, I carefully added a small amount of thinner to the “espresso” colored gel stain, gave it a stir, grabbed a rag and slowly started applying the stain. I was pleasantly surprised by how effortlessly the stain seeped into the wood and how gorgeous the wood looked with its new color.
Would this project turn out to be a worthwhile investment or did the furniture end up at the dump? To find out, tune in to read my Feb. 21 column.
“Am’s View” is posted on alternate Sundays.