Furniture project part 7: The pursuit of perfection.

So here’s the thing.

I finished the top of the case a couple weeks ago. The only thing I have to do now is the finishing part and putting it all back together. I haven’t yet because I need a tack rag (which I know yes, I can make myself..) and I need a couple of foam brushes (no brushmarks, yo.). But I’ll get to that. What I wanted to talk about really, is this point. This point in any project where all that’s left is the finishing. and once the finish goes on, you’re kinda stuck with what’s underneath it. So you’re looking over your project and NOW, this moment, is the one where you’re looking at it with a super critical eye to see if there’s anything you should do over again. You’re looking for something that needs fixing. You’re looking for flaws.

Don’t get me wrong. There are times when things really should be flawless. Those times certainly exist. If you’re making a new piece of furniture, custom, from scratch, for sale. Flawless is good. But recycled furniture is not about flawless(neither, btw is restoration.) It’s just as much an art project as a design project, if not more so. You need to be able to see those flaws, own them, and for the most part, unless they’re minor touchups, be able to let them go.

This is really, really hard for some people- self included, though it’s even harder for people who are very detail oriented. They get lost in the bark of the tree, when the forest is all around them waiting for them to get on with and over themselves.

“Oh SURE, it’s easy to say that- it’s not your project with all these errors and mistakes in it… You’re a professional!”

But it is. And I am. And I’m going to prove it.

So we have this project, right? You’ve watched as it’s slowly come together over the summer. Okay, great. And now we’re at this moment. The one before the finish, where if you’re going to fix something, now is the time. Other than minor touchups? I’m not fixing the following things:

DSC_4080

I’m not fixing the fact that this mosaic circle is cup shaped, when it should be flat. This is the result of the chisel not being sharp enough.

DSC_4083

I’m not fixing the fact that this “circle” is supposed to be round, and isn’t. (see: chisel.)

DSC_4085

I’m not fixing the evenness of the grout on the right top quadrant of this circle.

DSC_4087

I’m not fixing the fact that this circle isn’t flat.

DSC_4089

There’s nothing wrong with this one. Actually, it’s near perfect, which illustrates how imperfect those others are.

DSC_4065

I’m not fixing the fact that the purple circles are splotchy, and the black is darker and less painterly than I’d like.

DSC_4069

I’m not fixing the fact that that drawer up there? Looks different than the door front below:

DSC_4016

Or that this side:

DSC_4091

Is not like that side:

DSC_4637

Because perfection simply isn’t necessary here. Flawless isn’t really important (though I would love to get a flawless *FINISH* on these, I know better. I have cats.)

So I’m going to get some brushes and a tack rag and forgive this piece (and its maker) their flaws. No one else was ever going to care about them anyway.

Advertisements

Furniture project part 6.4- top’s done.

4th verse, same as the first.

DSC_4111

Mosaics are done, purple polka dots filled in.

DSC_4112

Same thing, different angle.

DSC_4114

First coat of black goes on around the spots.

DSC_4118

Same thing, different angle.

DSC_4120

Again, same thing, different angle.

DSC_4637

Top, finished. There’s a lack of light here, so the black looks a little more solid and uniform than it is.

DSC_4638

Same thing, different angle.

DSC_4641

Same thing, different angle.

So now, all that’s left is the finishing/putting back together part. I’ve decided to use a high-gloss polyurethane. I could use shellac but since it’s alcohol based I decided against it- if someone spills their drink on the thing my finish needs to be seriously fixed. I could use lacquer, which would match my coffee table, but I really, *really* hate working with lacquer. It’s toxic as shit, and the fumes are miserable. Even worse is lacquer *thinner*, which obviously, you need to use as well. It’s not fine furniture, so I’m not going to use another resin based finish. Poly will do fine. I can throw three coats on, finish it out with some pumice and rottenstone, and wax the bad boy up like a bowling alley.

Furniture project part 6.3: Drawer front.

Drawer front is done, as is the front and rear of the case. Only thing left is the top.

DSC_4069

I’ll dust the thing off after it’s dry.  🙂

Furniture project part 6.2: the second side of the case.

Long time, no progress. Unfortunately, some rather serious real-world things have kept me away from continuing on this project as fast as I’d like. However I just finished the second side of the case so I figured I’d post a photo.

DSC_4065

You can check out either of the previous tutorials on how to accomplish this. I don’t need to rehash it a third time. I do have to blot off just a tiny bit more of the purple stain, though.

While this dries enough for me to set the case upright again so I can get to the top, front, and back, I am going to be working on the long drawer front. I got some new tile, also. $24 worth. Basically I ran out of the two pink colors there on the lower left about 3/4 of the way through that circle, so I needed to grab those. However I have realized that though I own a lot of tile (like, a lot.), it’s heavily tilted towards blues and greens. There’s a lot of under-representation of several other colors, and I wanted to be able to provide a balance on the piece. So I wound up getting six bags. The two pink colors you see there, so I could finish up that circle, a bright red, a sort of a black with white speckles, a metallic blue/copper swirl and a red-violet. I had meant to grab some orange as well, but unfortunately there were no small bags of orange tile to be found- it only was available in 1/2 lb. bags, and I really, REALLY don’t know why I’d need 1/2 lb. of orange tile. I may try to find some online, though.

Right now Im on track for finishing up this project by the end of the summer, since it’s going to need a lot of finishing to make it look nice and smooth.

Oh also, and this is totally unrelated? I want to thank Jennifer from Design Hole (which is a design blog everyone should be reading, because she’s very talented and updates way more often than I do.) , because she really made my day yesterday, even though she probably doesn’t know that.

Jennifer had written a post about (of all things) Motel 6, and their proposed new look. Knowing that I love, love, love hospitality design (really, it’s my second favorite design topic only because you know, there’s no food involved), she shot me an email specifically asking for my opinion on it. Which I thought was really very kind and flattering and made my day, honestly. So thanks, Jennifer. 🙂

furniture project part 6.1: The small doors.

I told you guys, this wasn’t a weekend project. After finishing the first side of the case, I turned my attention to the small doors, because the oil based stain takes forever to dry and I didn’t want to flip the case over while that side was still wet.

Basically it’s the same process- seal the carved areas, do the mosaic, and stain. One of the doors had another additional problem. The carved circles were too deep. This meant I had to fill them in a bit with some lightweight spackle and sand the result to it created a flat base to which I could apply the tile. I also used some stainable wood fill in order to fix some minor problems with the doors.

So let’s review (we’ll be doing this a lot- there’s another 4 sections to go…) how this goes:

Here’s one of the original doors, before I did anything to it.

DSC_3982

I then put a thin coat of shellac on the MDF to stabilize it, and then began to add mosaic tile. This has to be done in stages or you keep pushing tiles around on the wet glue. It’s time consuming, and requires patience.

DSC_3985

DSC_3987

DSC_3989

I did the same thing with the other door. This door however, has a layer of spackle on top of the MDF since the chiseled portion was too deep (this happened more and more as my chisels became more dull.)

DSC_3991

I then taped off the mosaic work in preparation for grouting. I mixed all the grout colors by hand and applied them as described previously.

DSC_3996

DSC_4000

DSC_4003

That being accomplished, I turned my attention to the stain. It required multiple coats for each color. This was taken after the purple stain had been completed. (It needed two coats.) Once dry, I put a thin coat of shellac on both the purple circles and the mosaic work in order to protect it from any black stain that might get on it accidentally.

DSC_4005

DSC_4007

I then sanded off all the extra stain that fell outside the perimeters of the circle, and taped off all the areas I’d worked with previously.

DSC_4008

I then started working on the black stain, which took multiple coats, with a shellac resist coat between each one in order to layer the rag effect (If you don’t apply the resist coat, the stain will just dissolve when you add another coat- the pattern you’ve applied will disintegrate.)

DSC_4010

So one coat, leads to two…

DSC_4013

To three…

DSC_4016

Then I did the touchups.

DSC_4019

Next up is side two of the case.

Furniture project part 6: the pain of stain.

I thought I was going to be glad I had finally finished the mosaics and could move on to staining. I was wrong.

Until yesterday, I’d never used a water based stain before. Now I know why. Normally, for bright colors I prefer to use aniline dye, using alcohol as the solvent. But I was in Home Depot at the time and minwax had a water based stain that came in purple. I figured “hey, I’m already here. I don’t have to order online for this.” and brought it home.

Yeah. There’s a reason I order online. I am sure that realistically, there’s wood surfaces this works well on. This just wasn’t one of those projects.

The first thing I did was once again, clean my surface thoroughly so it was free of dust, dirt and any residue. However be careful of your pencil lines, so you don’t accidentally erase them.

After that, I applied the purple stain to where it needed to go. Before anyone asks, yes I did this freehand- no tape.

DSC_3935

DSC_3939

I left the stain on longer than I should have (I am used to oil based stains and alcohol dyes) so I had to fight to get it off. It stuck like paint. This is what it looked like after that first coat came off:

DSC_3940

DSC_3942

So…not great. Not terrible, but not great. I was less than impressed with the stuff, to be honest. So I went back and tried another coat.

DSC_3944

DSC_3947

DSC_3948

DSC_3951

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if this result was better or worse. I put the problem aside and decided to work on the background. I taped off all the stained and mosaic areas first, so I could, in theory, avoid getting stain on them.

DSC_3954

I then gave up on water based stains for the moment and went back to an oil based stain for the background.

DSC_3956

This is where you can see any unevenness in the sanding process. I wasn’t too concerned, since I knew I would be doing multiple coats anyway.

DSC_3958

DSC_3960

That got me this result, once the tape was removed:

DSC_3962

So I realized I hated that, and tried again.

DSC_3964

I realized I hated that too, and finally realized that because of the veneer I was never going to get the kind of saturation of color I wanted without running the risk of breaking through the veneer entirely. I painted all the purple parts and the mosaics with a thin coat of shellac to act as a resist, and then I went back with the stain and instead of just wiping it off as normal, I ragged it off with a paper towel, creating a mottled appearance (which was at least done purposely.)

DSC_3977

I was finally happy with this, and so I left it alone. At this point, I am going to leave this alone to dry, and in the meantime, work on one of the doors. By the time I’m done with that, I can feel safer about moving the case so I can get to the other side to work on it. I won’t start finishing it until the whole thing is done, so it can dry thoroughly. I also have to decide what I’m finishing it *with*, and what level of sheen it will have.

But next up, I’ll work on one of the doors.

Furniture project part 5: Grouting.

So after many hours, I did finally manage to finish the mosaic work on that large circle on the left side of the case.

DSC_3900

I really do want to stress that what you’re looking at takes hours. You can only put down so many pieces until you have to wait until the glue firms up so you can continue, and that number is much smaller than you think; usually fewer than ten pieces. The glue I’m using is water based, and is honestly not too much different than plain old Elmer’s. The only difference is that this has a slightly longer open, or working time, so you can get the pieces exactly where you want them before the glue sets up. That also means you’re waiting longer for the glue to firm up enough so that you can continue working. Remember, this is only the first side of the piece- I still have five other pieces in which I have to install tile.

Once it was done though, I masked off all three tiled areas. Normally I use blue low-tack painter’s tape but I’m low on it, and so I used ordinary masking tape. I *WOULD NOT* use masking tape for anything involving paint. It’s *terrible* for that purpose. But for this, it’s fine, and when it gets wet, it doesn’t lose its’ grip.

DSC_3903

Once everything was masked off, I mixed up some grout. Yes, you can buy it premixed and pre-colored. I have a box large enough to tile a swimming pool in my house, and so I just used what I have (which is kind of a very light gray) and I tinted it using ordinary acrylic paints. To be honest, using powdered pigment would be better, but also more expensive, and I don’t have any in the house. I mixed up just enough grout of each color (really, I just winged the colors- there’s no science here.) and applied the grout with my hand (I was wearing a glove at the time.)

The important thing about mixing grout is it’s sort of like cooking. It has to have the right consistency or it falls apart. You’re only looking to add enough water to form a smooth paste. If it’s the consistency of cream, you’ve gone too far. If you want to know what it should look like, put a bit of toothpaste on a plate and smoosh it around a while. That’s it. You then let it sit out in the bowl for about 15 minutes, stir and *then* apply it.

When you do large areas of tile, you should use tools to apply grout. In areas this small and when the pieces are irregular, your fingers work just fine. Just be sure to wear gloves.

DSC_3916

DSC_3910

After about 40 minutes or so, you can start to clean off the extra grout. **BE GENTLE**. Both the grout and the glue you’ve used on your tiles are water based. If you scrub too hard, you will pull tiles up as well as grout. If this happens, just re-glue the tile in place, being careful not to drop grout in the hole. I use a little pad and some water. Don’t use too much water. Just enough to dampen the pad, and rinse the pad (and change your water) frequently. You will be doing two cleanings, so it’s not imperative to get all the extra grout off in one shot. Also, remember your grout color will lighten as it dries, so if it looks super dark, don’t worry about it.

DSC_3922

DSC_3926

DSC_3930

About an hour later, I do my final cleanup. On the second pass I just use a paper towel or a rag. You can use even less water- you want to make sure all the grout and haze comes off your tile and not remove much if any grout from between your tiles.

Once this is all done, you can remove your masking tape and clean up any final bits.

DSC_3931

DSC_3934

Once everything is cleaned up, you can get things prepped for staining, which is our next step.