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:


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?

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Home Improvement Project - The Old Picnic Table - Part 1

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.

Times are weird. The world seems to be spinning out of control in new, horrifying ways, almost daily. Most people had challenges before the current state of chaos, and the addition of Covid-19, protests, mail sabotage and a myriad of other factors can only add to the stress and anxiety which was already present.

Depression and anxiety are important, in the sense that they let you know you need to live more mindfully, to be more in the moment. But living there can be really unhealthy. I'm not saying it's easy to break out of it; it's not. Sometimes you need therapy and/or medication to crawl out of the pit, or at least manage it. It takes courage to go to a therapist, but it's worth it.

What I can suggest is that if you're in a place where you can get cognizant of how you're feeling, you can sometimes beat it.

My solution? Distraction. Find a project that takes time and focus, and start it.

I've been using an ancient picnic table and benches set for a work bench/catch-all. I asked my dad how old it was, and after a moment of pondering, he opined it was likely there when he, my mom, and my brother moved into the house. So the set could be sixty or so years old.

The paint is peeling in places. The table and benches are wobbly, their legs loose or in a state where only gravity is holding them in place. It's showing signs of rot and is generally in a pretty sad state.

And it's poison green. Yuck.

I decided that since I need a break from the frustration of being unable to fire my work and the sad state of the world at large, it was a good time to start a refinishing/restoration project.

This is my kind of project. It's old, ugly, unsteady. I like to make things like that new and beautiful again, if it's at all possible. It's hard, physical, sweaty work, but it takes focus and serves to keep both mind and hands occupied. Then there's the satisfaction and, dare I say, smugness at the end of it? Smugness is the perfect payoff for the achy back and pruned fingers one gets while working in heavy-duty rubber gloves in summer.

Did I mention that currently, the ambient air temperature in Los Angeles is somewhere around the same as the surface of the sun? 

But these urges to set order to chaos come when they will, without attention to the petty concerns of temperature or a tiny bit of heat stroke, right? Pshaw! I say!

I started to research paint strippers. I decided to roll with Citristrip, since it's easier on the environment than the hard-core chemicals out there. You can also rinse it with water, which makes it a no-brainer when you get to thinking about clean-up. 

I had a couple of tarps laying around work that I could have, and took them home and set them up in the little alley way between the houses. Unfortunately, there's no shade there when the sun hits a certain point, but what can you do? Get up early. Early-ish, anyway.

I've never actually used paint stripper before, let alone on thirty or forty year old paint, so I want to preface this by saying there are things I would most definitely do differently, now that I have the learning curve (nearly) behind me. Even so, I'm liking the direction this is going, for the most part.

First, I feel it's quite important to approach these tough jobs with humor, which is the reason I decided that the noise needed to apply the thick, gooey paint-stripping gel is this one:


I know. It's dumb. But it kept me amused as I was sweating my body weight out in eighty-five degree weather at nine o'clock in the morning! I'm not kidding about that! My safety goggles were about a quarter full of sweat by the time the job was half over. Gross!

I started with the benches, since I was finishing up with underglazing some of the pumpkin guys and still needed the table. After I was done schlopping the gel, I wrapped the tarp around them and left them until the next morning.

If I had it to do over again, I'd apply the gel thicker and let it soak longer, because the next morning when I unwrapped them and started scraping, it was a struggle. The old outdoor paint was just too stubborn to come off at once. Where it did come off, I discovered the original color of the bench had been white. I wasn't able to get down to the wood but in a few places.

I did the only thing I could do, and re-schlopped them. I had also done a little research and took a friend's advice, and wrapped them both up in kitchen plastic wrap. I also schlopped and wrapped the picnic table.

Unfortunately, I didn't wait long enough again, thinking that since it had already had one application, it would be fine to scrape the rest the next day. Nope. Still had trouble. Fortunately, I started with the benches again, and left the table for another day and a half.

This was getting frustrating. However, I rinsed and scrubbed the benches down so I could do another application later.

But even after three days, the top was problematic. I meant to get to the legs later that day, but it was just too doggone hot. I scraped the legs the next morning, and it was so easy! The top layers of paint had bubbled up nicely and came right off.
But that damn white paint underneath the green. Not entirely cooperative! Grr! After some consideration, I decided to let it go and just sand it down. I was already tired from scraping and had more than a few aches and pains in my back. Sanding it was the easier choice.
Some of that green paint just refused to let go!
I'm pretty sure that's lead paint, too! Man, oh, man, what a project I took on!

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Quick Update!

 It's just been busy around the nest and I haven't been able to post for a bit.

The leak in the archives is fixed, new lights have been put in, and everything is patched, sanded and painted. Now what? Put all of it back where it goes. All one hundred fifteen boxes of it! *sigh*

But on the pottery front, it's going alright!

I was happy to get this sugar skull jack-o'-lantern's decorating done, and I'm happy with it! The colors turned out really well and looking at him just makes me so happy!

The pumpkin people need a few touch-ups and clean-ups, but they're looking good, too!
The one above just charms the daylights out of me! I think that this year, more than any other, the jack-o'-lantern faces have revealed themselves to me, told me who they want to be, just like the song by Andrew Gold.
I feel like they're developing more personality, and as my mind frees up, I have more critters clamoring to get out and be sculpted!

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Done! Well, Done-ish...

I say "done-ish" since I can't seem to find a place to fire him, as of yet. *Sigh*

I thought about doing a design on his "body," but then I thought that since I'm going to Raku him, I'd see how the crackle pattern would turn out as visual interest. I can always make another one with more details!

The gray-looking, flowery bits around his eyes will be black after the firing. The other colors should darken a little, after the clear crackle glaze goes on and gets fired. I like his lid. A friend calls it his "green man-bun," but I don't care! I'm looking forward to seeing how it looks after the Raku firing!
And here's another little friend! I really like how darn happy he is!
And this sugar skull jack-o'-lantern is shaping up really well! It's not done, yet, but I like the way the colors have turned out, so far! This one will also be getting a clear crackle glaze before the Raku firing.

I'm really pleased with how these projects are developing! Have I mentioned I can't wait to get them fired? ;) 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Pumpkin Sugar Skull Person in Progress

Step one! Throw the body.
Step one: Throw the body!

I've gotten curious about how the pumpkin people will look with the Raku process vs. regular glazing and firing. Then my creative mind spun off into the key question all creatives ask: "What if?"

What if I do a sugar skull pumpkin person?
Step two: throw, attach, and carve the pumpkin skull head.
Step three: Throw the arms, wait for them to dry a bit and then attach them.

Step four: sculpt and attach the hands.

What if, instead of the white ghost robe I've been doing, I use color, instead?

What if I make it orange with some kind of black pattern or design along the hemline, and maybe elsewhere?

I found this orange just a little too bright, so I layered another orange over it (not pictured, yet). Part of me is considering starting bright from the head and neck area and gradually blending to a darker and darker orange as the color approaches the hem. We'll see how it goes!