It's hard to believe, but it's been a bit over two years since I've started my business. Seriously, where has the time gone?! Over the course of these two years, I've gained a lot of knowledge and have picked up a good deal of valuable information, making the physical part of this business a heck of a lot easier. Not that it took much; I was a bit of a novice when I started this whole gig! I cringe when I look back at some of the techniques I used to do and how painfully time consuming and laborious they were. You may get to the same result in the end, but when you can do it in half the amount of time, that means happy hour can get started even earlier, and that, my friends, is called working smarter, not harder. I thought I'd share a couple of these little tricks and tips with you today. For any of you out there who also enjoy refinishing furniture, you may find this post useful. Or, you may already be ahead of the game and this is nothing but common sense to you.
1) Use a blowdryer to remove old drawer liners
If you have a heat gun, it's the exact same concept. I learned this one the hard way. As in I spent one day of my life peeling off drawer liners on a dresser that was going out, only to get to the last drawer and have it 'click'. The heat loosens up the adhesive backing, allowing the liners to peel right off. Trust me, there was a lot of questioning my life decisions and career choice going on that day. "Really, I got a college degree for this?!"
2) Use a hardware template when replacing hardware
One of the great things about painting furniture versus re-staining furniture is it gives you the freedom to update the hardware without having to stay within the constraints of the original hardware layout. While you can do this with stained furniture, it's just much more difficult. If you are updating hardware to something that has a different hole setting, you will need to fill in the old holes and recreate holes in the new dimensions.
It just so turns out, there is a template for this, making this process much simpler. For under $10, you can purchase a hardware template, cutting a lot of time out of this step...and really reducing the chance you make some stupid math error. But that's never happened to me though, I promise.
3. Bondo vs. Wood Filler
While we're on the topic of filling holes, let's talk about filler. While your traditional wood filler is great for some projects, I have found that it has a habit of sinking in after awhile, leaving divots where the old holes used to be. A better alternative for filling deeper holes that penetrate through the entire drawer front is Bondo.
It dries harder, making it easier to sand it down to a smooth, level surface. It also works great for surface scratches and gouges.
4. Use a brown paper bag for light sanding
When 420 grit is still a bit too much, turn to the brown bag. Think of the brown lunch bags you used in middle school. When you need that final finishing touch, rub a brown paper bag along the surface to give you that extra smooth finish. This technique works on both stained and painted finishes. This is always the final step I use when redoing pieces with stained tops, as the polyurethane can sometimes leave a bit of a texture.
5. All hardware is not created equally
When I refinish pieces, I try to keep the original hardware as much as I can. I do this for several reasons. First, a lot of times the old hardware is really nice. We're talking heavy duty, solid brass hardware. It often times has a bit of a vintage look to it (which people find good and bad - depending on the overall look they're going for), but to replace it with something of comparable quality, you're going to be putting down a small fortune.
Another reason I like to keep the original hardware is because it usually flows with the overall style of the piece, and I try to keep the integrity of the pieces as much as possible. Granted, any time I see the 'batwings' I know I will be swapping out the hardware for something less dated.
One thing I have learned though is when you keep the original hardware, you have to make it look a bit more relative. I always give the hardware a good cleaning with a brass cleaner like Brasso. However, if it still looks a bit too 'old' for the overall style I'm going for, I will give it a quick spray of gold spray paint. I know some people are probably waaay against this, but I'm telling you, it's a dirty little secret that I'm not going to hide.
6. Keep notes
Yes, this is definitely one that some people may consider common sense. But for those of us who are slightly less organized, I mean...have a more creative way of doing things, this one is a bit of a challenge. It's not hard. In fact, it's probably the easiest tip on here. But I'm telling you, it makes life a lot simpler down the road if you do it. As you're tearing out the drawers, getting so excited to start your next furniture makeover, take the time to number the drawers so you know where they go. Believe it or not, even though all the drawers may look the same, they all fit a bit differently, and when you are trying with all your might to fit the center right drawer into the bottom left position, you'll realize this very quickly. Also, write on the back how you refinished the piece. What color you used, what finish you used, etc. If you have to go back for a touch-up, it takes a lot of guessing out of the game.
So there you have it. The tricks of the trade. I've got plenty more where that came from, but I can't give up all my secrets just yet! :) But I will say, it's all a big learning process, and just when you think you've got it figured out, you learn something new and realize there may be a lot more that you still don't know. So, if you have any additional tips or tricks, I'd love to hear them!
Sunday: Finding Silver Pennies