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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Refinishing Furniture

The Sludge Stage


Half Done

Finished except for top drawer pulls and new glass door.
I took on quite a job.  I started it last fall and finally finished yesterday.  My Grandma Bessie (1908-1981) had a beautiful oak secretary.  It had the curved glass door on the left and the drop down desk on the right. At the top right it had a mirror with a little shelf in front of it.  A beautiful piece of furniture!  This piece of furniture was special to my mom when she was growing up because her pet parakeet (Petey) used to sit on the little shelf and look in the mirror.  My mom asked for it when Grandma passed away and she had it in her house for years.  My youngest brother, Dave (usually the good child) broke the curved glass door.  One of the drawers is missing the handles, one shelf is out because the supports are missing, and I think the finish got damaged when Mom and Papa's house in Sterling flooded several years ago.  When my parents moved from Sterling to their new, much smaller house  in Pierce, there just wasn't room for the secretary and lots of other stuff.  I also took two end tables and refinished them.  These are older, solid wood, well-built pieces.  They had been sprayed with a thick, pecan colored, fake wood finish.  I was so shocked when I got that off and found beautiful, dark, cherry? wood underneath! 

A few years ago I removed a coat of white paint from a chest of drawers that had been Grandma's.  It was quite a messy job, but under that paint was some truly beautiful wood.  The secretary had stain and layers and layers of varnish.  What a chore!  So much more difficult than the paint.  The chemical I used to strip the old finish dissolves vinyl gloves in seconds, so thick latex gloves are a must.  The label says to use in a well-ventilated area and only work on a small area of your project at a time, to avoid excessive vapors!  Even with the garage door and window open I had to wear a mask and/or leave for fresh air every now and then.  Believe me you know when this stuff splatters on your skin, because the tiniest drop instantly begins to burn and continues to burn until you wash it off with water.

The removal process goes as follows:

Brush on stripper
Leave the area and wait
Try to scrape the finish with a putty knife (don't expect this putty knife to ever be clean again)
Wipe the thick, sticky, molasses-like goop off the putty knife onto the edge of a metal can
Repeat MANY times.
Brush on stripper and scrub with steel wool, wiping off product with a cloth (old socks work great) This step requires some serious elbow grease!  Don't follow the instructions on the can.  You cannot dip your dirty steel wool back into the clean solution.  It just turns to sludge and goes back on the furniture.  You have to wipe off the muck with a cloth.  Be prepared to use several pairs of gloves and lots of steel wool (don't use the super fine, it doesn't hold up).
Use a steel brush to get into corners.  A metal pick is very helpful too.
Wipe with mineral spirits to remove the last of everything.
Now that you think you are finished, you will notice many areas that  need more work.
Sand to remove stains and imperfections
Apply several coats of new finish of your choice.  I used Danish oil (light walnut)
Apply several coats of polyurethane to protect the finish and hopefully insure that you never have to do this job again!

The secretary and the end tables are not perfect.  There are a few bits of gunk in the corners and even though I thought I was being careful, some of the polyurethane ran down and dried, leaving bumps.  Still, they look much better than before and are protected and will last longer.  I really should have sanded the last end table down more.  The water stain can still be seen.  As difficult and time-consuming as this job was, I think I'm hooked!  I go to yard sales and see old furniture and wonder what is underneath.  The problem is Bret and Randy don't like me taking up valuable space in the garage.  A place they use for putting new engines in cars and other manly projects.  So I guess for awhile I'll just look.

Working on this project really gave me time to think.  The whole process made me think about what God does in our lives when we put our faith in Jesus and accept his gift of salvation.    I'm not sure I can put these thoughts into words that make sense, but I will try.  Like the old, worn and damaged furniture, we are dirty, broken, full of sin, and incomplete.  He scrapes away our old sinful life.    Like the stubborn gunk in the corners of the furniture, some of it is hidden, hard to see and hard to remove!   Like new drawer pulls and shelf supports and beautiful curved glass, He makes us new.  "2 Cor. 5:17...anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun."  He replaces our greed, selfishness, immorality, envy, pride, etc. with love, joy,peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Are we perfect?  Absolutely not!  But we are clean and forgiven!  None of us will become perfect this side of Heaven. We are a work- in -progress.  When we stick close to God, our lives show the results of His work.  When we stray, we start to get tarnished by the cares of this world again, and our sinful ways creep back in.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Airport

This story is really going to expose how naive I am.  Thankfully, I am able to laugh at myself and don't usually mind if others laugh as well.  There is no reason to take yourself too seriously.  In my defense, this was the first time I had flown on a commercial airline.  When I was very young we flew in a small, private plane.  My dad's cousin was the pilot and all I remember is looped-e-loops and feeling very nauseous, but also how amazing everything looked from the air.  My Grandma Bessie used to fly from Colorado down to Tucson about once a year and spend a week or two with us.  I remember the excitement anticipating her arrival and the bittersweet watching her board the plane to go back.  This was back before 9-11 and long security lines and we could go right to the gate with Grandma.  Fast forward to 2006 and Bret and I decide to fly down to Phoenix and look for an apartment for him.  He had enrolled at UTI (automotive).  Bret had only flown once before.  The tickets said we should arrive about 2 hours before departure, so we planned accordingly.  We stopped at Fuel B's in Ellicott for a bathroom break and coffee.  Lo and behold their sat my cousin, Johnny, who I hadn't seen in years.  We talked for a few minutes (ok, I like to talk, so quite a few minutes)  Back in the car and on the road.  I had done my research online and found a place for affordable, extended parking since we would be gone a few days.  Finally, find the place and get parked and Bret and I realize we might need to hurry a little.  We catch the shuttle (had not calculated this wait in the plan)  to the airport.  I am incredibly directionally challenged.  I did not learn North, South, East, West until I married Randy.  Bret, though he says he has improved a lot, inherited my lack of direction.  We ended up at the wrong kiosk and wasted a bit of time trying to print our boarding pass.  Then, on to SECURITY.  The line was like a mile long, weaving back and forth.  Having never flown, I had never been through security.  Again, not in the itinerary I had carefully calculated.  It's 15 minutes before our flight is scheduled to leave.  I called Michelle on my cell and she sounded concerned.  She said she wondered if it was wise for Bret and I to travel together and she suggested we politely push past a bunch of people and get closer to the front.  Those of you who know me, know that I am not that bold!  We finally get to the guy and hand him our passes.  I asked if he thought we would make our flight.  He chuckled and said, "Time will tell".  I thought he was rather rude and uncaring.  Now, for the naive part.  Having never flown, I thought if you missed your flight, you just had to go back home and were out the money!  And to me, this was a LOT of money.  I had no inkling that they could just put you on the next available flight. Next we get on a train (didn't know to schedule for this) that takes us to the concourse.  We get off and hear our names over the P.A. system.  Yvonne Petrie and Bret Petrie please report to gate whatever, your plane is about to depart.  Here I am in sandals with a heavy carry on and Bret and I begin to run!  Talk about embarrassing!  We finally get to the gate and there is no one there!  the door is shut.  I try to open it.  It is locked.  I yell to the lady at the next gate, who along with the rest of the people in the area are staring at us.  She runs down and knocks on the door and someone opens it.  I start to go in and she says, "Wait, they might not let you board."  The attendant comes back,opens the door and lets us walk down the ramp and onto the plane.  My friend who used to work for Southwest told me later that we were very lucky.  They never do that.  This was a Southwest flight.  No assigned seats.  There were exactly 2 seats left and they were not together.  I'm walking down the aisle with approximately 50 seated passengers giving me "THE LOOK" and the attendant points out the last seat for me.  I have to say in all the movies I'd seen, flying seemed so glamorous (must have been 1st class, or Air Force One)  Seriously, did they really expect people to be squished like sardines?  And the noise!  It sounded like the engine was about to fall out and the plane was shaking.  Yikes!  Two hours later we land in Phoenix and Bret and I are completely lost.  We ask a nice volunteer for directions out of the airport.  Now, Bret realizes that the phone number for the person who is supposed to pick us up is in the seat of the car parked back in Denver!  He somehow remembers the number of the UTI scout who got him into this deal and gets the other guy's number from him.  He picks us up and it's June and the thermometer in the car reads 112 degrees!  Wow.  What we learned from apartment hunting in Phoenix in that kind of heat is ICE CREAM is the only way to cool off.  It cools you off from the inside.  Water just doesn't do the trick.  The flight home and every flight I've taken since has been much less dramatic.  I have a fear of being late and being humiliated so I get there with tons of time to spare.