September 22, 2011

Sand and Paint

Back in June, with my husband newly returned to me from his half-year long training, I demanded a new dining room set. Our old set was functional and already dented, as Josh loved to point out. But I had bought it primarily because it was incredibly cheap and we needed a table. It had been a co-worker’s grandmother’s set, and that’s exactly what it looked it. My style is not really faux-American Colonial with lots of scroll work. I also hated the trestle table because I bruised myself endlessly getting out of my chair. And I hated the groove that ran around the table top. All it did was trap crumbs. Crumbs have grown by exponential proportions in this household in the past two years or so and anything that stands between me and a clean table is not my friend.

After four years, I sold the whole set. I definitely got my money’s worth out of the table. It went to a lovely family who lives just down the street who were in desperate need of a table. We set out for Ikea.

I admit that originally I had wanted an Amish table. Delaware has a big Amish population. The chairs cost $250 apiece. That’s $1500 for chairs. For a little less than that we got a table, six chairs, and a buffet at Ikea. We are going to be doing a fair amount of moving. I’d hate to spend $5000 to get a dining set that’s going to get dented. Josh did not, however, like it so much when I told him he could get me the Amish set when we stopped moving. But that’s a post for the future.

We put the furniture together no problem. But we really needed another piece to finish out the room. The old set had a full china closet and after we received crystal and china for our wedding, we really needed a place to put it. The buffet is big, but not quite big enough for everything.

While Ikea did have some pieces we could have made work, which were really meant for entertainment centers in the living room, they were all made out of particle board. When you move as often as we do, you do not buy particle board. Otherwise you’ll be buying a lot of furniture. Those cabinets were also $350 and more, for particle board.

I suggested we look at used pieces and the next week I found this beauty at Spence’s Bazaar in town. It was a little old, a little rough, but it had good bones and it was only $160. I embarrassed Josh by dickering and got the guy to reduce the price because of a gouge in the front. Ended up that with delivery it was only $165. I was really quite proud of myself. There I was thinking, “A few days to sand, then we’ll spray paint and in a week or two, we’ll be all done.”

Fast forward to the middle of September. Three months later, we were finally done refinishing that cabinet. The sanding actually had gone fairly quickly. It was a lot of work, especially on the glass doors, which required almost all hand work on the detail around the panes. Then there was my bright idea to replace the crown molding. The piece originally had this massive crown molding around the top, which read very old fashioned. It was removable, and I stripped it and bought a much smaller, more architectural molding.

A small side note: When you are dealing with a corner cabinet, the angles are not 45 degrees, like they would be on a regular cabinet with four sides. Traditional miter boxes only cut 45 or 90 degree angles. A compound miter box, which can cut any angle, is enormously expensive. Somehow, never having cut molding before, Josh and I managed to get it on there and actually have it look good. I still don’t know exactly how we did it. Quite frankly, I don’t care how we did it. I just know that I don’t want to do it again soon.

That brought us to spray paint. “Spray paint will be sooooo fast,” I thought. Wrong! Toxic fumes, rain, and 90 plus degree weather meant that it took forever to get the painting done. Everything needed two coats of primer and two coats of paint to make sure that the deep burgundy red would show up true. The fumes were so horrendous that H couldn’t be outside while it was being painted. That meant it could only be done in the evenings when it cooled down and she was in bed. The label warned that occupational use could cause long term nerve damage and psychosis. Awesome! And you couldn’t paint if it was above 90 degrees. July and August is not a good time of year to avoid 90 plus degree weather.

We preserved. We had slight set back after the hurricane. Our careful stacking in the humid garage for a week ended in the doors having a thin film of cardboard stuck to them, which required a light sanding and another coat of paint.

Finally we brought everything in and got ready to put it all back together. I still have new pulls on back order from Anthropologie, but in the meantime I had kept all the screws and hardware. How hard could it be to just put it back on?

Should I ever be hypnotized into refinishing another cabinet, I will take extensive, detailed, and annotated pictures of the before. I managed to separate the hinges into upper doors and lower doors, so I’m not a complete buffoon. I did not, however, note whether the hinges were put on with the thin part on the door or the cabinet side. Several permutations later, we had the doors on. The right bottom door, however, had developed a disconcerting tilt and would barely close. My dad worked a miracle by switching the top and bottom hinges a few weeks later. Now it works like a charm.

Despite all the extra effort and cost of ever so many cans of spray paint, I am very pleased with the result. We have a one-of-a-kind piece that fits our needs, and we now have plenty of room to store all those other serving dishes I have my eye on.

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