I’ve shown you and talked about lots of projects that my talented Handy Hubby has helped me with.
So, it would only seem natural to me to have him Guest Post on an occasional project.
Today, he (Jonny) is going to share how he restored a couple of things that I picked up at our local Vintage store.
So… without further adieu…. Take it away, Jonny!
Thank you, Sarah and Jenna, for giving me the opportunity to [hopefully] contribute to your wonderful blog. I really enjoy reading your posts to get my creative juices flowing. Thank you both for sharing a part of your lives with so many.
Well, as Sarah said, I am her ‘”Handy Hubby”, or as I like to refer to myself…the lucky man that gets to spend the rest of my life with her. She has been a blessing in my life and in the life of so many. As anyone who follows this blog knows, she is creative, talented, caring, and hardworking, and I have benefited greatly from these characteristics throughout our five years of marriage. This blog’s followers also know that we recently bought our first house and have spent a great deal of time working on things to make this house our own. One particular thing that I have enjoyed doing to put our signature on this house is taking old, worn out, looking things and restoring them to good looking, functional, decorative pieces. Sarah has asked me to use one of my more recent projects as a basis for a general “Restoration DIY”. In this post, we will talk about some key things to look for in pieces to restore, the basic tools required for almost any restoration, and finally I’ll share some pictures of a vintage desk fan that I recently restored.
Before I begin this next part, let me make a disclaimer… I am not a professional, but have a bit of experience in restoring things. When it comes to restoration there are many differing opinions and techniques. There is more than one way to restore something; the method which I use is the easiest for me and provides the best results compared to effort.
1. Choosing the Piece
The most noticeable thing about any piece which may potentially be restored is its type of finish. Any complete restoration is going to involve some degree of refinishing and refinishing could range from something as simple to a coat of paint to something as involved as electroplating a metal piece with a new finish. When looking at a piece, it is important to consider the finish. The type of finish that the piece currently has is most likely the type of finish that you will want to repeat in the restoration process. Paint, stain, and varnish are something that can be easily done at home, but things such as electroplating, powder coating, or re-glazing (as in porcelain… i.e. that awesome claw-foot tub) are finishes that may need to be left to the professionals (and it will be worth every penny that you have to pay them when you see that restored piece).
The next thing to look for is the material which the piece is made out of; out of common (restorable) materials, wood and metal are the easiest materials to work with, plastic and fiberglass are manageable but require some refined skill, and porcelain should be avoided like the plague (ok so maybe not that harsh, but to get porcelain to look right takes years of experience and/or expensive tools). For the purposes of the rest of this post, we will assume that our piece is made out of wood or metal.
Now that the type of finish and material has been discerned, it is time to look at the item’s condition. Is the paint flaky? What is the structural integrity of the piece? How many moving parts are there? Do the parts move freely? If it’s made out of wood, is the wood in decent shape? Can any rot be easily repaired/replaced? If it’s metal, is it rusty? How bad is the rust? What type of rust? How bad are the dents? Don’t be afraid to pick up the piece and inspect it closely.
Now that we’ve talked about a few questions to ask and answer in picking out a piece, let’s talk about some basic tools that will help in the restoration; the most important tool being patience! To get the best finish, a lot of prep work goes into the piece and prep work takes time. Below is a list of some basic tools needed for almost any restoration:
-sand paper of varying grits (recommend a t least 80, 150, 220, and 400 grits)
-good quality dust mask
-aerosol paint/primer (for painted finish)
-aerosol lacquer (for wood/stained finish)
-screwdriver (both Philips and flat-head)
-mineral spirits (or other liquid solvent/thinner)
-wood filler (for wood applications) (I prefer Plasti-wood)
-epoxy resin (for metal applications) (I prefer JB Weld or Bond-o)
-ball pin hammer
-belt sander (for items with large, flat, surface… i.e. kitchen table)
-sand blaster (for metal pieces and if your budget allows)
3. Getting Dirty
Now let’s talk about what we are going to do with all of those tools. I like to refer to this part of the process as the “tear down”. In this stage we are going to take the piece apart as much as possible without taking apart a “permanent” bond. The idea is to take a large piece and break it down into smaller, more manageable, pieces. A little work here will make the rest of the steps much simpler. Anything that is held in place by screws, bolts, nuts, friction, or gravity (basically any mechanical bond) is a prime candidate for being removed. It is worth taking the time here to break the item into as many pieces as possible. for example, it is much simpler to remove a drawer pull from that dresser drawer than it is to try to sand, stain and lacquer around it, or it is much simpler to remove that chrome accent piece than it is to try to tape it off well before applying your paint coat.
After all of your pieces are separated, you will sand, sand, sand, and sand some more using the lowest number (roughest grit) sandpaper. The goal here is to remove years of dirt, grime, and nastiness that would detract from the aesthetics of your finished piece. While sanding, though, it is important that you do not sand so much as to remove the intricate detail that may be part of your piece. The trick is to find the balance between removing the unwanted “patina” and leaving the details of the piece intact. Often this balance can be achieved by using your power sanders as little as possible and opting for more detailed “touch” sanding (i.e. using a sanding block and your hands). Also, the piece will be sanded more at a later time with some finer grit sandpaper, so if a little bit of “patina” is left, it is not a huge deal. *Disclaimer 2: Sometimes it is better for the value of the piece to leave the patina alone. Antique guns, for instance, are often more valuable with the patina than they are with a non-professional restoration.
After sanding the piece down to the original material, it is time to take care of the imperfections in the piece that will affect the finish. Begin by using mineral spirits or another solvent to remove any dust that may be left over from the sanding process. If the piece is made out of wood, look for gouges, missing pieces, or rotten pieces that need to be addressed. Use your putty knife, wood putty, and wood glue to repair any broken or gouged pieces, being sure to slightly overfill any voids in the wood.. If the piece needs to be replaced, use it as a template to create a replacement piece. If the piece is metal, look for dents or rust that need to be repaired. Most dents can be removed/lessened with a little bit of effort and some controlled pounding with a ball pin hammer. Rust is a little trickier. All rust needs to be removed, and, chances are, any surface rust would have been removed with the initial sanding. Structural-destroying “bubble” rust requires some more effort to remove and may mean an end to the simple restoration (it can be repaired, but for the purposes of the time and space allotted, it is outside the scope of this post). After the dents are removed, slightly overfill any voids with the epoxy resin.
Once your filler cures, it is time to sand the piece again. Begin with the 80 grit sandpaper and gradually move up to the higher number grits until you reach 400 (higher number grits may be necessary depending on the desired glossiness of the finished piece). Any sanding/swirl marks should be minimal/not visible and the piece should be smooth to the touch. Use you solvent and a clean rag to remove any dust from the piece and let it air dry.
4. Stained/Lacquer Finish
If a natural wood color is the desired finish, simply spray on a few light coats of the aerosol lacquer/varnish according to the manufacturers label. It is better to spray on several light coats than it is to spray on fewer, heavy coats as heavy coats can result in drips, uneven covering, and rough “orange peel” texturing when cured. Allow the varnish to cure completely after the final coat and lightly sand with 400 grit (or higher) sandpaper. Remove the dust with a solvent cleaner and reassemble the piece. Apply furniture wax/polish to the assembled piece and enjoy the result of your hard work. *It is important to note that most lacquers/varnishes have a slight amber tint to them. This is meant to bring out the warm, rich, tones of the natural wood, but the color that the wood is before the lacquer is put on will not be the color of the finished product.
If you wish to stain the piece, apply several coats of stain according to the manufacturers label until the desired color is achieved. In most cases, you will brush the stain on and allow it to soak for several minutes before wiping off any residue with a clean rag. You will repeat this process several times before the desire color is achieved. Once the desired color is achieved, follow the steps in the paragraph above and enjoy your piece.
4. Painted Finish
If the piece is going to be painted, you must first apply an aerosol primer. Usually 1 to 2 light coats is plenty of primer to get the paint to stick to the material. Allow the primer to fully cure and lightly sand with 400 grit sandpaper. Remove the dust with a solvent cleaner. If the original material shows through, reapply the primer, allow it to fully cure, and lightly sand again. Once the piece is evenly primed and cleaned, the paint can be applied. Apply the paint in several light coats according to the manufacturers label. Again, it is better to do many light coats than it is to do a few heavy coats as heavy coats can result in drips, uneven covering, or “orange peel” texturing when cured. After the final coat has completely cured, lightly sand with 400 grit sandpaper and remove the dust with a solvent cleaner. Reassemble the piece and apply polish and wax (car polish and wax works well) to bring out the lustre of the assembled piece. *When applying aerosol paint, it is wise to move in swift, even strokes. Begin the flow of paint before moving over the piece and end the flow after having passed over the piece. Doing this will allow the paint to adhere evenly to piece.
5. Other Misc.
Some pieces such as the desk fan that I restored will require additional restoration besides the finish. The beauty of restoring things is not only that it brings new life to these pieces, but that is also allows you to expand your skills and stretch your creativity. Knowledge in things such as electrical circuitry and structural design may be beneficial in restoring a piece.