July 26, 2013

the writing oasis - part i

Remember the writing oasis I mentioned two weeks ago? The one centered around a refinished wooden loveseat, new cushions and bright flower pots all made for my future outdoor porch/writing spot?

Well I have an update.

I, Laura Chapman, successfully sanded, repainted and finished that loveseat. *applause* Now, don't get too excited. I still have all of the sewing and flower pots to go, but I'm pretty proud about my mad skills with power tools and a paint brush. Lucky for you -- and me -- I documented the whole fun process.

Before I actually got to work on the wood, I spent weeks researching the best practices for sanding and refinishing a piece of wooden furniture. I grew up with a dad who did several projects around the house, but my part in the matter was usually small. "Laura, hold this board in place." "Laura, can you refill our water?" "Laura, stop asking so many questions. You're giving me a headache."

Needless to say, while I felt relatively confident in my ability to work through this project, I didn't have any guarantees of success.

After taking the plunge and committing to starting the project on a Saturday, I spent the night before doing a little shopping. I picked up three packs of sandpaper -- two for overall general sanding (larger grit paper) and one pack for finer details. I grabbed a paint brush, new work gloves, white matte paint and outdoor wood sealant (the kind you use on decks, according to the picture). I had safety glasses at home, otherwise I would've picked up some of these, too. I spent four years writing safety publications. You don't forget the horror stories of people not being properly geared up for work.

The next morning, dressed and ready to go...

I got to work sanding. Here are a couple of before pictures to remind you of what we're working with...

Now, this electric quarter-sheet sander was a dream. I borrowed it from my dad and it was super easy to use. The No. 1 bit of advice I find in all of my research was to follow the grain of the wood. I wasn't quite sure what that meant at first, but trust me, once you get going you know.

Here's a progress shot...

I planned on spending five hours doing the sanding, and that's how long it took -- with a few breaks for hydration, breathing and Facebook. While I'm pleased I managed to stay with my time budget, I didn't count on how tired the work would make me. Even hours after I stopped working, I could still feel my arms vibrating. By Tuesday, I could lift up my arms and stand straight without cringing.

Regardless, I was pretty effing pleased with how that looked. Just a girl, her power tool, clear furniture and a smooth, clean surface...

That same night I started the whitewashing process. Now, I wasn't 100 percent sure this was the route I wanted to go. And once I got started, I realized I didn't like it. I wanted a cleaner finish than the more rustic treatment would give. So, after doing one panel, I gave up and did a base coat.

I finished up the next morning with a second coat and later did some spot touch-ups.

I could've done the wood sealant within 48 hours of doing the painting, but it was so freaking hot, it was more like a week later.

Still, no fuss no muss. I'm thrilled with how clean and fresh this piece of furniture looks, and I'm looking forward to breaking into the fabric stash. Which arrived... how gorgeous is this?

I know, I know, I shouldn't give up my day job, but I'm still pretty pleased. The seat will be perfect for what I have in mind, and it really looks bright and fresh.

Hopefully, I'll have another update for you within the next couple of weeks, and you'll get to see what the full loveseat looks like.

Ooh. One other thing... It was pretty hot while I was working. And though I did some hydrating, I didn't do enough. So, important safety tip -- drink tons of water, give yourself breaks and make sure you don't get heat rash on your face. I'm lucky that was all I ended up with, and it mostly just looked like a small acne outbreak. Gross, I know, but I want you to learn from the error of my ways!

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