Thursday, September 24, 2020

Home Improvement Project - Part 5 - The Old Picnic Set - All Done!

After all the stain was re-applied, all that was left was to waterproof and re-assemble! I have to admit, though, that I obsessively went over the table with my hands to see if there were drips and drops and to get them sanded don.

The first (and only) coat of waterproofing stuff, below. Note the weird sunlight from the smoke choking the San Fernando Valley! This article said it was the worst smog we've had in nearly thirty years.

Ever the good sport, dad took on the job of re-assembling the set, hammering and drilling wherever necessary.
Of course, when one does these kinds of projects, one cannot do them alone! Supervision is crucial to the successful completion of the tasks at hand, so of course, Grace had to get in on the action.
She does love her grandpa, and when she feels secure enough to pry herself away from my side, she enjoys hanging out with him. Frequently, this involves throwing one of her toys at him. I think she believes that we'll be happier, if only we throw the toy for her!
We did have one little hitch when everything got put back together. One of the crosspieces was split as the leg of the bench was screwed in. It made the bench wobble noticeably, so dad had to go in and do some repair. I guess it was to be expected, considering how old the set is.


But at long last, it was set right, the mess was cleaned up, and we could sit back and admire our "new" table. Dad gave me a big hug and thanked me for all my hard work. I thanked him for reassembling it.
 
And, because I'm trying to get things done in time for Hallowe'en, this is what it looked like the next day! Lol!

It's funny. I've said for years how much I admire the 1920's and 30's style, because everything, even the most practical and functional thing was made to be beautiful. They took time for that. While my picnic set project is in no way on the same level as a gorgeous desk or car from that era, it's certainly a pleasure to sit down on the beautiful bench and use that smooth, blue table top to glaze my jack-o'-lanterns!

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

2020's Crop of Pumpkins!

I am so thrilled that the studio opened and I was able to get the first firing done on these! 







So the next step is to get them glazed. I have two types of glaze firings for these guys; low-fire and Raku. The type of glaze firing is determined by what type of clay I used to make them.

It's going to be super busy these next few weeks!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Home Improvement Project - Part 4 - The Old Picnic Set - Haint Blue

 
After all the sanding, it was a relief to finally know the staining and waterproofing process was at hand!

Don't get me wrong. There was a tremendous amount of satisfaction in finally getting all the old paint off and having a beautiful, almost soft wood to run my fingers over. But if I am ever to get this table put back together and get on with making more ceramics, it's got to get stained and sealed.

But first, all the loose sawdust has to come off.

It's funny, in a sad way, what makes you suddenly aware of what you don't have, anymore. When I was still in my old house, I had saved for an air compressor for its multitude of purposes; I used it for spraying glazes, filling tires, blowing dust off of newly bisqued ceramics, right out of the kiln. Of course, I had to sell it, along with everything else in the studio, and I haven't replaced it as of yet. I really could have used it to get rid of the loose sawdust between the boards of the table and benches! Instead, I went old school with a damp towel, rinsed frequently and thoroughly wrung out.

After, I used the stain/waterproofing on the underside of the table, to see how it looked. I really liked it, except - dang it. I did a dumb thing and didn't stop to think about the "semi-transparent" part of the product description, and the wood patch was showing through. I have used the product before and it looked great, but I hadn't used it over wood patch and so I didn't think of how it would react in those circumstances. So back to the hardware store I went!

I had thought to go with a cherry wood-color opaque stain, but, ah! The siren call of all those beautiful colors had me hypnotized! I stood in front of the sample panels of color, my eyes flicking back and forth over all the beautiful choices. And as I stood there, I thought, "If I have to have an opaque stain, why not something with color instead of just a plain wood tone?"

So of course, I stared for twenty minutes at two different colors which caught my eye, debating which one my dad could live with. I chose a bright pale blue-gray because it just made me happy to look at it. I had a pretty good intuition that Dad would like it, too.

I tested it out on the bottom of the table and benches to see if I could live with it. I wasn't sure, at first, honestly. I thought I might have blown it. But I walked away for a little while and let everything dry. It's been really hot for a while, so it was easy to step away into the air conditioning and come back later with dad in tow for his opinion.

"OK. Be honest. What do you think of the color?" 

He inspected it closely, running his fingers over it.

"It's alright. I like it."

For my dad, this is the rim of hysteria. 

So it remained to do the rest of it. Legs, braces, undersides, all of it. 

 

It's funny. I was on a cocktail call with the nice lady from Shadow Manor and mentioned my change of mind where color was concerned. As I described the color, she smiled and said, "Haint blue?" I laughed. It could have been a variant of haint blue.

Even when I'm not trying to be spooky, I'm still spooky!

And once that was finished, I went back to the store and talked with the guys about a waterproofing option. Unfortunately, I listened to them instead of doing my own research, and got a spar varnish.

Ordinarily, a spar varnish is a good choice for waterproofing. The stuff lasts forever and is pretty tough. But it has a slightly brownish tint due to the resins in it. What that means is my blue, was no longer the blue I liked. And since I am a dummy who just wanted to get the project finished, I had a bunch of pieces to strip. I wasn't going to have spent this much time and effort on this project and hate how it turned out.

So back to sanding. Dammit.

And then back to staining once that was done. Man, what a project this has turned out to be!

Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Art of the Night Gallery

In the event you haven't already heard about this, there's a Kickstarter campaign for this wonderful book, which is a collection of the art from Rod Serling's The Night Gallery.

Fortunately for all of us, the campaign is fully funded and they're getting ready to ship the book towards the end of the month! But you can still be a part of this and have all manner of delicious goodies to enjoy!

As you may know already, I'm a fan of the series and I was so lucky to get the opportunity to see some of the paintings and meet Tom Wright, one of the artists, at Creature Features a while back. 

If you haven't had the opportunity to see The Night Gallery, click here to be taken to the full DVD set of all three seasons on Amazon.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Home Improvement Project - Part 3 - The Thread Got Longer. And Longer. And Longer...

Legal crap I have to say: This post contains a link or links which redirect you to Amazon and I might get a small commission if you click or purchase from that link. Of course, I might also become the President of the United States, too. Both are equally likely.

I figured that if I sanded any more of the set with 60 grit sandpaper, I wouldn't have a table left, any more! It was finally time to start filling in some of the holes.

It's pretty cool that you can find advice and product recommendations for just about anything, especially as someone new to outdoor furniture restoration. After searching for what would work best with old wood, I found Bondo's Rotted Wood Restorer and Bondo's Wood Patch, and went to work.

I've never done anything like this before, honestly. I mean, never done something this complex. Back when I had a home of my own, I received an Adirondak chair and an Adirondak rocker as a gift from my ex's aunt, and eventually they needed sanding and staining, just as all wood furniture eventually does. But I've never actually taken everything apart and gone into it with this kind of depth. And I'll be honest: I don't think I needed to fill everything I filled! (D'oh!) I regret not having read a little bit more about what needs patching and what doesn't. C'est la vie!

In any case, so far, I like the Bondo products. For the Rotted Wood Repair, you need to put 4-6 coats of it on the spot you want to repair, and wait two hours before you start using the wood patch. The wood repair stuff comes with a brush already attached to the lid, so you don't have to worry about sacrificing a brush to the Goop Gods, which I think is a pretty nifty feature.

The only complaint I had was that the particular can I got seemed to be hermetically sealed! I mean, that sucker wasn't going to twist off without a fight! It took a good fifteen or twenty minutes with a set of Channellock pliers and a small blood sacrifice to get the lid to move. But at last, it came loose and I could get on with my repairs.

Even though the above picture doesn't show it, the wood filler is a two-part mix. A little tube of activator comes hidden in the lid of the can and their instructions are very precise and clear.

But, dang it! Why the heck is all the print on everything so small these days?! Seriously!

Teensy print aside, I will say that the working time with the wood patch is exactly as promised: short! If you need to do this kind of work with this product, be sure you have your mise en place, as the chefs say.

In other words, have everything you need ready to go and within easy reach. This isn't the product which will wait while you run to the tool box and get a putty knife!

Holes and old damages were filled. I went to town on this thing!
Was it pretty? Well, no. It was my first time doing this with this product, so there was a little bit of a learning curve. But it worked, and that's what counts.

I had some lunch, took a well-deserved nap, and came back out to sand the patches.

And next, I took the 120 grit sandpaper to the top of the table. Just because you can never have enough fun with power tools!

Dad was nice enough to drill things for the bolts and to nail that pesky cross-piece back in place. We had a couple of blots which had bent, so he ran to the hardware store to replace them and get that one extra bolt we needed. After that, I matched up all the legs and supports.
I have to giggle, because he took on the drilling, himself. Because he's the man of the house and that's how it's done around here! Lol!
I'm taking a break from the project for a day or two, just because I am one big bag of aches and pains! But the next step is getting all the legs on, and then start with the deck sealer. 

We are SO close!

Monday, August 31, 2020

Home Improvement Project - The Old Picnic Table - Part 2, Don't Pull That Thread!

If you read the previous post, you'll know that my usual, suicidally optimistic self reared its ditzy head and had me sallying forth with the cry which will, doubtless, be on my tombstone, assuming there's enough left of me to bury:

"WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?!"

O.K. That may just be a touch dramatic, but still, taking on the major project of restoring a sixty-ish-year-old picnic set was, perhaps, a bit much. But it is a good distraction from the current dumpster fire which is 2020.

Dad helped me move everything back to the covered patio, and after a trip to the hardware store to get sandpaper, I started sanding. It was nice to be in the shade while I was working.


Safety first! I brought out my respirator for this, since I knew there would be a plethora of particulates floating around, including bits of old (probably lead-based) paint. Pretty sexy, huh?
I started out with 60 grit sandpaper, so I'd have a fighting chance at stripping the paint off before 2021. 
 
As I went along, I ran across some old wood patch, which I'll deal with later.
 

 

After the sanding is finished, there's going to be a small fortune in wood putty/repair used! If you look at the picture above, you can see the leg is completely disconnected from the table top. That's not the only place in need of restoration and a little love!

So this is where it starts to get just a little comical. Read: compulsive.

Anyone who has used power sanders knows you can only get them into nooks and crannies just so far. When there are angles which need sanding, it's impossible to get the sander in far enough. When you have very stubborn paint, the idea of sanding those areas by hand makes you cringe.

I said I wasn't going to take the table apart. I wasn't. Going. To. Too much work!

The patches of paint in the unreachable spots were laughing at me.

Thus the title: Don't pull that thread!

Ever have a loose thread on a sweater or shirt? You think, "Oh, I can just pull it out. It'll be fine."

And then it starts unraveling the seam. The thread just gets longer and longer as your top falls apart.

Well, that's kind of how this project started to go, as I looked at those madly giggling paint spots.

I sighed as I tried to ignore them.

I went back into the house for some ice water.

I looked out the kitchen window at all the sawdust and the beautiful, clean, bare wood I had worked so hard to expose. And those little areas with the paint still intact.

Another heavy sigh.

I walked back out and stared at the table some more.

"Oh, well," I mumbled, "In for a penny, in for a pound."

And I got the tools out to start taking the legs off.

And I started on the benches after I finished up with the table.
 
Yes, I know they were in areas where nobody could see them. But the goal is still to waterproof everything as best I can and to stave off more rot.

I noticed one of the cross pieces on a bench was a little loose and gently tested its solidity in the bench. 

It came off in my hand, with the nails still intact. (Hark! I hear the sound of thread unraveling!)


I know how my memory can be, so I took these pictures for reference when it's time to put everything back together.
And then there's the one leg which had no screw, but was nailed in.
That was such a pain in the butt to get out! Lots of gentle rocking and the judicious application of a screwdriver to try and pry them loose. Patience and finesse, that's what it called for. After about a half hour of turning the air blue with creative invective, the two nails were finally free and tossed away.

Piece by laborious piece, the table and benches came apart, were strip-sanded, and set aside for examination later. I wanted to be sure as much of the paint was sanded off as possible.
The white paint under the green was so difficult to remove;  it really was sunk in to the little cracks and crevices of the wood. Now that I'm actually done with it, there are still small place here and there to which the white paint still clings.
And bits of the green, too, of course.
Oh, my gosh, that green! I can't tell you how many days I spent sanding it off of all the pieces and there were still traces of it in the divots and grain! Enough to make you crazy, but it really, really had to go.
 
[Sounds of unraveling]
Through it all, my faithful helper, Grace, supervised and threw her ball in the middle of everything. Like, all the time!
And can I tell you about the cleanup of sawdust afterwards? I swept it up while wearing my mask and then had to take my vacuum cleaner outside to get the finer bits which resisted all reasonable attempts at collection. And it flew absolutely everywhere!
By everywhere, I mean all over the patio, around the corner and to the back gate. But what can you do when you're pursuing a really great restoration?