For months, after reading how I restored the doors in my house, my aunt has asked me if I could restore her living coffee and end tables. She’s had them over 40 years. They have weathered her youngest daughter (who just turned 40) and 3 grandchildren (ages 23, 10, and 4). The furniture is solidly made; real wood, not MDF or particle. The top is a wood veneer finish. This holiday season she treated herself to a new sofa, so now was the time to see if I could bring life back to these tables and I went back to my tried and true product Howard’s Restore a Finish. The color of her furniture is close to the moulding in my master and the kitchen built-in, so I had the product on hand.
I used the same process I used in restoring all the moulding and doors of my house. Step one I washed the surface with water and Murphy Oil soap just to remove grim and sticky stuff and then followed with denatured alcohol applied with 000 steal wool.
I used a new piece of 000 steal wool to apply Restor-A-Finish, Maple-Pine color. It’s amazing how well that product evens out the discolored areas. In that light spot I did apply a bit of Dark Ebony color, Restor-A-Finish that I used on my doors. I let it sit overnight because the furniture was very dry, especially on the edges where the protective finish had worn off.. That product has an oil consistency, so I didn’t think it would hurt.
The next day the more worn areas definitely looked more dry than other areas, so with a soft cloth I applied a generous amount of Howard Feed-N-Wax, which I also let sit overnight. Before returning to my aunt I wiped off the excess.
The end tables turned out equally as well. These are pics of the one in worst shape.
Warning Restor-A-Finish does not rebuild layers of polyurethane or another top coat that may be applied to your furniture. Up close you will see the raised differences. I believe the only way that can be fixed is complete sanding. I opted to not do that because there were several raised areas in the veneer, most likely due to water damage, and I did not know what sanding would do to those areas.
My aunt was please, not a bad outcome for 40+ year old furniture.
Happy New Year! Hard to believe a new year is here and the journey that started in 2017 of restoring my house has carried over into it. I spent the bulk of the day, including the strike of midnight working on the final four doors, but I did take a short break to join a friend at their family tradition. On a piece of paper they write down the negative things from 2019 they want to leave in the past and then burn them. Then they write down the positive things they want to have happen in 2020 and place them in a pot they pour water over to symbolize nourishment to help them grow. I had one significant one I needed to burn and one prayer I need to see manifest in 2020, so I thought this was worth taking a break.
The floor moulding clean up, specifically scraping to remove all the paint gave me a revelation for cleaning up the three guestroom and hall closet doors. I had cleaned/restored the previous eight doors using the method outlined in the video How To Restore a Wood Door. I have followed that video religiously, but one thing I did notice is that during the denatured alcohol stage the finish became slurry and goopy. I went through several pieces of steel wool with each door and had to work hard to make sure I had a uniform level of clean before applying the Restore-A-Finish.
Remembering that scraping the moulding did not lighten the color of the stain, I decided to scrap the surface of the doors before cleaning it with the denatured alcohol. Scraping just left a pile of dust, which I probably should have worn a mask as I had coughing spells for a few days following. Scrapping took maybe 15 minutes, far shorter time than trying to clean up the slurry mess I had with the other eight doors. Once scrapped, I used my shop vac to remove the dust and then cleaned with the alcohol, which seemed to be the first step in resurrecting life into the wood (see bottom right pic). Using this process I used only two pieces of steel wool for all four doors.
Once the alcohol dried I applied the Restore-A-Finish and here is a new tip, let it dry to a dull haze. I put the product on some pieces of moulding and had to leave before I wiped it off. When I returned the pieces had the haze, but like buffing a car that had been waxed, a firm wipe down revealed the shine. After the doors were hung I rubbed them down with the Howard’s Feed and Wax.
Hanging the doors brought out new stumbling blocks to deal with. The guestroom closet 1, hall closet, and hall safe doors had jambs that either recessed or extended to far, which would not allow the moulding to sit flush. I had to cut the jambs out, but that in turn made the doors easier to hang as at that point they became pre-hung doors as I attached the hinges and door before putting it back in place. The “safe” lock I’ve taken to a locksmith in hopes they can recreate a key for it. I also got the floor moulding inside the hall closet. Guestroom closet 1 I’m intentionally not installing the floor moulding as I may need to remove the drywall for a future project.
Closet 1 also needed a hole patched. I’d love to know what a prior owner was storing in that closet that caused the need for a padlock to be added. To fix the hole I used a piece of the wooden clothes rod from the original master closet. I drilled a hole in a scrap piece of wood first, which I clamped over the hole. I paddle bit, which I knew would jump around if I didn’t have a guide. I used a 1 3/8″ bit. I hoped that the old clothes rod was the same diameter as new because their diameter are 1 5/16″, which was just an 1/8″ smaller than my drill bit. That minimal gap would easily fill with glue and I rubbed saw dust on the excrement and immediately applied stain before the glue set up. I slightly over cut the plug, making sure the outside was flush by clamping a piece of scrap over it while it dried. I learned from the WoodShop that glue does not stick to wax paper, so I had no corner with the block sticking to the door. Not a bad patch if I must say so myself.
Dry run of plug
Hole cleaned up
The two doors where the jambs were aligning with drywall turned out to be the more difficult doors to install. Both doors needed to be planed down due to tight fits. After stain was applied you’d never know they were shaved down. While I could have left it alone, I also decided to replace a chunk of the jamb for the entry door. That door had obviously been kicked in as the area for the lock strike plate was really compromised. I have extra jambs in the basement so I cut out a chunk from one of them and spliced it in. I removed the damaged area with my JobMax tool.
I am now the outer kitchen door moulding, office entry door and the top landing for upstairs moulding (lost what was originally there, so need to create something) from being complete with all the original scope of work listed in my building permit. Honestly I’m fearful about having so much time on my hands.
My feature image my look like a pile a junk wood (it is), but what you don’t see are two pallets that were set out for trash that once held piles of moulding. Santa brought me a burst of energy and I am now 3 doors away from a 100% complete interior.
All of the 5″ floor moulding is in place. The gap moulding (not sure what it is really called, but the thin strip next to the floor) is in everywhere except where a door needs to be installed. I am so proud to share that every room with unpainted moulding has moulding original to the house. I thought I would need to buy new moulding for the guest bedroom because my memory from taking it down was that it was not usable due to the fire damage. So wrong. I just had to cut out a larger patch where the outlet that caused the fire was located and scrap away some of the charring.
The walls separating the dining from living rooms needed moulding left over from upstairs, so it took the most work because it had to be sanded down and stained to match downstairs. The only large piece missing was the closet wall in the office and it took a patch of two pieces from upstairs to make it work.
Now I’m no professional finished carpenter, but I can’t label myself an amateur anymore either. The only areas that gave me trouble were the openings where I had 45 degree miter cuts on both ends. I mis-cut 4 of the 5. Thank God for spare moulding.
I said in my I Would Buy Stock in Howard Products post that I wouldn’t write much with the finished moulding post since the process for restoring the wood was covered, so, here are the pics that got me to this point.
All the windows are complete. I finished the last two in my office in time for the final inspection. I caulked the hell out of the window frames before putting on the moulding. I know air was seeping in around the edges and through a seam in the middle of the frames. I could see the curtains blow. Granted we haven’t had any arctic cold temperatures, but I’m seeing a market difference in temps on the first floor now that all the window moulding is in place.
Upstairs floor moulding was a piece of cake/walk in the park as compared to downstairs. The top edges are caked with paint, caulk, and tape. They are extra filthy, smelling of animal urine, caked in roach waste, cracked, or junks missing. I found the living room pieces first, but once unwrapped I thought no way they were usable. Howard’s Restor-A-Finish is a miracle product. The end result, is truly amazing.
The first piece I treated per the instructions from the video that first introduced me to the Restor-A-Finish product. I washed off the dirt, attempted to clean with the denatured alcohol, before applying the product. Unfortunately the paint was so thick on the edges that I was scrubbing hard with the steel wool and it wasn’t budging even though it was slurring the stain. I took a paint scrapper to it. I noticed that the areas that were still moist from the alcohol did not scrap as well as untouched areas where it seemed to pop off. I decided to change my game plan, scrape first, even before washing off the dirt. Scraping removed the top layer of stain, but that turned out to be advantageous as it made the denatured alcohol step faster.
Right side is wood after scrapped and then cleaned with denatured alcohol; left side has Dark Ebony Restore-A-Finish
Every piece needs to be fully scrapped and the majority of the pieces also need some type of mending. The easy mends were gluing pieces that were cracked or completely broken off. Amazing how many broken pieces I was able to not loose as the piles were jockeyed around. I pin nailed were I could and clamped until glue dried.
The harder mends were those where the broken off piece was missing. Only one so far and for that I made a splice out of moulding left over from upstairs. I had to sand the patch piece down to the wood, to remove the wrong color stain. I lined it up with the damaged piece and clamped them together along with my straight edge set at the angle I needed to capture all of the broken area. I used my mini circular saw to make the cut. I impressed myself with how this mend turned out. I used the custom colored Zar stain on the patch piece.
The other difficult mend was filling the holes from where the electric outlets were located. The living room only had two outlets (today’s code I have 8), so I employed some of the technique I learned from the This Old House video I found. I did not make a jig or use a router since my pieces weren’t attached to the wall. Instead I used my jig saw and traced the shape of my patch piece onto the piece I was cutting. I did sand after gluing, so the dust would fill in the slight gaps. Again I impressed myself although moving forward I will be mindful of the grain of wood used for the patch. The second one didn’t match as well as the first.
With the pieces mended, cleaned, and restored installing was a breeze. I used my Walabot stud finder to make sure I was hitting studs and I used 16 gauge, 2″ nails loaded in my nail gun. Finding studs was key because the pieces were warped and bowed from not being stored flat. This was corrected by the force of the nail pulling the board into the wall. Hitting drywall only would not correct this. The only wall that I had to treat differently was the exposed brick wall. The moulding originally went into plaster, now it had to attach to brick. For that I marked the mortar area in 4 spots and drilled a countersink hole in the wood. I used masonry nails to attach to wall. With the nails being black they blended perfectly.
I’m about 50% done with the floor moulding that must be restored. The guest bedroom will be the only room to get new moulding because fire destroyed the original on one wall. The moulding for the other three walls I’ll need to ensure the other rooms are complete. In some areas the original pieces will be too short due to doors that were permanently removed or I’ll need to place it where it didn’t previously exist.
Next post will be pictures only when all restored floor moulding is complete. I have an ambitious goal of having the entire inside complete by my birthday in January, which includes making my dining room table. If the doors go well it will be completely possible.