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?


  1. You are a courageous woman! With a sense of humor!

  2. Wow - kudos to you for putting in so much time and energy. The wood is really coming up beautifully. I would have grown bored long before it was finished. Grace is so sweet!

    1. She's a little jerk but I love her!
      And thanks for the compliment! It's been really grueling, but it's going to be worth it. Even my dad is looking pretty happy with it and has been dishing out the compliments. :)


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