I picked up a piece of discarded furniture the other day, and I’m going to be refinishing it.
But first things first–namely, my background in woodworking.
When I was 11, I took woodshop in summer school at Horace Mann Elementary school in Beverly Hills. It was the first of three woodshop summers. Two decades later it seems crazy to let someone of that age deal with all kinds of tools that can lead to permanent damage, but at the time, I just made sure to be careful.
I made a chessboard and a side table/stool. They’re still going strong, but they do need some attention. I tried to turn chess pieces at 13 when my summer woodshop class was at Beverly Hills High School, but those came out poorly. The Horace Mann shop didn’t have a lathe. Beverly’s did.
I’ve made things over the years, and the lessons from woodshop class and Mr. Bartkoski have stuck with me.
(Sidenote: I just now found out that Mr. Bartkoski passed away in January 2007. My day is now a little sadder.)
In the past decade, my woodworking activities have mainly been focused on refinishing things other people have made and people afterward have made worse, either because they actively didn’t care or because they didn’t know what to do.
For example, I was given my coffee table by a friend who was moving. After years of parties and little attention to cleanup by the people who lived in that house, the table looked pretty gross. But I saw potential.
When I sanded it down, I found a stain that wended its way around part of the table. I don’t know what had spilled, but it’s many, many layers deep.
I forewent finishing it with teak oil in favor of staining it and applying a polyurethane topcoat.
Ultimately, I am happy with the end result.
Recently I refinished some folding chairs found in the alley, but there wasn’t nearly the same level of filth.
As you can see, I like to take things people have given up on and make them look like they’re not garbage. Some projects are easier than others, and there’s no guarantee that a project won’t amount to a total waste of time.
So I picked up a step-up end table that was on craigslist’s free stuff. I wiped it off, brought it back with me, and then let it sit outside. This one is going to be the biggest challenge yet. Stay tuned.