I have to admit that sometimes the reason I pick up pieces are completely silly and then they wind up being way too much work. That is the story with this piece. I wanted the cabinet because it had hand carved handles and I just KNEW there was a treasure hidden under the paint. I was right....under 4 layers of paint!
It took a long time to get all the paint stripped off and to be honest there are still little flecks of paint in the wood. Once I got the paint stipped away, I had to take the thing completely apart and start rebuilding it. Sigh...it was a long process.
I had to put the top back together, build a new back, new from leg piece and shelf. In the process of pulling things apart I discovered old square nails. For those of you who are not familiar with those, they used to hand make nails by cutting the metal and hammering them into a square nail. they look very much like horseshoe nails except smaller. Manufacturing of the square nail ended around 1860 but many remained in circulation until the very early 1900's. I actually reattached the top with new horseshoe nails! It is finally complete. It will never look brand new; it has nail holes, cracks and flecks of paint...but it is finally original....beautiful....Black Walnut. Hard to find that anymore!
My sister purchased an old house and needed to find furniture that fit her design ideas. Now that was a challenge I could handle. So we began looking. My husband found these old pieces and we brought them home. The frames were solid with hand carved detail. I did not want to strip these pieces because I did not want to alter the detail. I wanted to find a way to bring the finish back to life and get rid of the oxidation and damage that had occurred over the years. In the process I got to learn some new tricks and apply some old ones.
I can't give away all the trade secrets but I will tell you that Formby's is my best friend, stain gives life and you cannot work on furniture without triple ought steel wool. The result? Amazing! The wood came back to life, every detail was spared and the normal wear just enhances the age of the pieces. They are now timeless pieces that will grace a home for years to come. In the final picture you will see that the owner has decided to re-upholster these pieces in tartan plaid...from Scotland.
I have been so remiss in posting blogs and I didn't realize my last post was the beginning of December!
Of course December was a very busy month. I sold several pieces of decor and the bed steps/ library steps. I helped my sister start a renovation project on a home she purchased, I restored some antique pieces, finished some pieces and started new ones. Now that is busy! So... now for the rest of the story. Stay tuned!
There are times when I am granted the opportunity to refinish a piece that causes me to stand in awe. We picked up this piece at auction because no one else wanted it. They could not see the possibility in those dry, dirty bones lying in a pile. It took some time and much work to get all the caked on dirt off the wood and out of the crevices of the table. It took a Dremel, vinegar and baking soda to get all the rust off the claw feet and clean up the glass balls.
When I began applying the stain to the wood, I held my breath looking in awe at the beauty of the tiger oak grain. My work is very good, my attention to detail is excellent but I have nothing to do with the wood. That is in nature and the elements hands; then come the many hands it took to harvest, mill and craft the piece in the beginning. To all of those who went before me, I owe you a debt of gratitude for without all you have done, this piece of wonder would not be in my hands.
Aside from all the home decor items and the extracts, I spend most of time restoring and repurposing furniture. The reason? Because I love well made WOOD furniture with craftsmanship and detail. The problem I found was that the furniture in stores today are not wood but "Wood Products and Veneer". Now veneer has been used for a long time but usually over hardwood and only for accent. Like most people I also have great taste that my bank account can't cover. I have always been an avid second hand store and thrift store patron and have found amazing pieces of furniture and decor items that I turned into something for my home.
Then I found that there are many people out there who are looking for unique, quality furniture and decor that won't break the bank. So there you are. That is why i do what I do. I want everyone to be able to furnish and decorate their homes with quality items that they can afford. Check out our products!
I'm a little weird in that I look for the old, dumpy pieces of furniture with a hint of character hiding under the grime. We picked up a piece at auction a couple of months ago. My husband thought I was a little crazy because the piece was old, broken, grimy, the back was missing and the top was cracked. I liked it because it had wooden handles on the drawer.
The cabinet has four layers of paint on it and in order to get to the fasteners to remove the top without breaking it, I had to remove everyone of them. I brushed on stripper and scraped, cleaned and repeated. As I began to expose the details of the cabinet I noticed that it had very beautiful craftsmanship. The handles were hand carved wooden leaves and nuts. The detail in the carvings had been filled with old paint. The doors were meticulously carved. But the real cincher in this piece? The square nails that I eventually removed from the top of the cabinet.
Most people are not familiar with square nails, these nails are not actually square but more rectangular with a small flattened head. Why are they so unusual? Because these are hand crafted nails. Before the industrial revolution, nails were hand made by blacksmiths. By the beginning of the 1800's steel mills began producing long rods that could be cut and finished by blacksmiths making the process easier but it was not until 1880 that the wire nail became widely used and by 1900 wire nails were found in every tool box.
So as I sat with my chisels painstakingly removing paint from carved details and I wondered, where had this piece been? How many homes had it served? How many families had found a purpose for this piece? What parts of history had it endured. We don't think of those things much because we live in an instant society. But think about it for a moment, these nails were probably made between 1800-1880 and we can guess that this piece was made somewhere at the end of that time period. The civil war was fought from 1861-1865, President Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, The Homesteader's Act was signed in 1862, Colorado became an official state in the union in 1876. People traveled in wagons, your house was furnished by cabinets, dressers and sideboards. The piece has a story, a legacy of travels and people.
That is why I take the time to repair, restore and repurpose these pieces. They have already stood the test of time. This piece is probably 120 years old, more or less, and even after all the use, all the paint and all the travels, it is still useable. The pieces of furniture that we find in stores today will not have the same legacy. They may not make it 5 or ten years before they begin to fall apart, they cannot stand the test of time and there will be no legacy. It won't be around to be passed on to the newly married daughter or son. It won't be a dowry gift from a grandmother to a granddaughter.
That made me think of something I read the other day. Are we going to leave a legacy? What are we doing to make memories or to be memorable? Are we working solely for our "resume virtues" or are we working for our "legacy virtues"? In other words, are we doing the easy thing and focusing on building titles or are we building relationships? Leaving a legacy. What will your children say about you? What about your grandchildren? What will you be remembered for? When all the kids have grown and the grandkids have grown will you have good memories to keep you company? Give it some thought.
I better get back to scraping now.
So you have been diligently working on your projects. You have refined your skills and begun to find your own signature look for your products. Everything seems to be moving along just smoothly and then a little tug shows up in the back of your mind. Soon the tug becomes a nag and the next thing you realize....it's time to grow.
Most often our need to grow is the result of a wall. We hit a wall in sales growth, in followers, in product expansion but something comes on our path to MAKE us change, grow and take the next step.
For me it was the need to expand my customer base, make it easier for my clients to make purchase and to get my name outside the boundaries of my neighborhood and city. I began researching the usual options, you know the neighborhood consignment store, a consignment store in the nearest city, boutique shops or a shop of my own.
Growth is necessary but it must also be strategic. What is the logical next step? What is the easiest? What will be a building block for future growth? What is fiscally responsible and reasonable? All these questions must be answered and all plans must be put to the pencil and paper test. Will it be worth the risk? Once you have racked your brain, run the numbers ten times and ten different ways, there is only one question that really counts. Are you being true to yourself and your dream?
You see when you are an artist, (paint, photography, furniture, graphic design, marketing, manufacturing, gardening, interior design, chef, restaurateur, seamstress, fashion design, jeweler, silversmith....the list goes on) your product stops being unique, precious, a labor of love, when you put money first and your dream second. Yes we need to make a living but not at the cost of creativity and a business built on ethical, moral, creative truths are the ones that become legacies.
With that being said, we are growing and changing to make the dream bigger and to make it easier for our clients. STAY TUNED. Oh and this will be one of our new pieces in our new place.
The pieces I am working on now have great form, solid foundations and the design is timeless. They were created to last, to go through the years and continue to serve as useful pieces in a home. As I was removing the faded, dingy and banged up finishes, I uncovered a story of color changes, use changes and finally the pieces were discarded to the back of the shed.
We begin with a good foundation (at least most of us) and we have good form, strong bones and we are built to endure the test of time. We have our own style, unique and beautiful and completely individual. Then someone comes along our path, takes a look at us and decides we would look better, be more successful or more desirable if we accented with this color, changed our hair or maybe a complete makeover. So we do it, we change our appearance, our mannerisms, our relationships in response to someone else's opinion of who or what we should be. When that doesn't work out for us then we listen to the next great idea and so on and so on.
One day we wake up, look in the mirror and we do not recognize the person gazing back at us. We have lost ourselves, what made us special, an individual that stands out among the crowd. When this happens we lose touch with our soul. The very essence of our individuality.
I make it a point to take time during this season of transition between summer and fall to evaluate myself, my work, my family and my goals. I look at what didn't work and I get rid of it. I look at what seems to be working and I strengthen it and then I set new goals. I look in my soul and take a hard look at who I am and if I am being true to myself. Is the work I am doing, the health and strength of my family, my relationships and my contributions to the community making this world better? Am I creating or just glossing over things with a new color?
Then I get to work, I grind off the old stuff, smooth the rough edges, reinforce the design and style that is unique; making sure that the beauty that was intended from the beginning is all that shines through with a light that can help change the world.
I advocate for re-purposing and reusing whatever we can. I spend most of my time restoring and repurposing furniture which is a passion of mine. Most of the time it is repairing something broken, refinishing something old or uncovering something hidden by time and dirt. This time it was the challenge of maintaining the original beauty AND fixing the broken and used places.
This old dresser (and her matching vanity yet to come) were originally decorated with beautiful veneer. I didn't want to lose that if I could help it. Some of it was popping loose and in a few places the veneer was missing. The veneer on the top was absolutely hopeless.
I peeled all the veneer off the top by hand that would come off easily. Then I took a WET towel and my iron (the only thing I really use it for) set on cotton and began loosening the glue holding the veneer. I learned a few things. Move the iron slowly to build up heat and steam. It takes time for the glue to loosen so don't get in a hurry. Peel the veneer while everything is still warm because the glue will reset quickly.
I sanded the frame of the dresser, the top, the legs and re-stained them. I worked the drawers and the ends of the dresser with Tung Oil. I used steel wool to remove buildup and mess, repaired the broken veneer, re-glued and repaired the drawers and then applied hand rubbed layers of Tung Oil for the finish. It worked! I didn't lose the original beauty and everything looks new again. I let you know how the matching vanity works out.
I applaud all the creativity that I see in furniture painting, repurposing old pieces and the design that has come forth from all the talented craftsman (and women) out there. I like to dabble in all sorts of textures, colors, designs and create something absolutely original. But sometimes...yeah sometimes the timeless beauty of the original design is all you need. Love this drum style table from the early 1900's and the walnut wood? Gorgeous. That's what I found under the gold paint. Timeless beauty. Do you agree?