Don’t Give Up on Broken Furniture–Think Outside the Box!

We meet again. I promised myself I wasn’t going to do any more furniture posts, but I couldn’t help myself. I want to encourage people to consider other avenues before throwing things into the landfill that can be repaired, re-purposed and re-loved by someone else. If you aren’t up to the challenge of repairing your cast-offs, maybe you can find a handy person who is. Or maybe you can donate your not-so-great furniture to your local Habitat Restore or anyplace where DIYers frequent. So let me explain what I found, and why I wrote this particular post.

I have strong sense of rescue built into my psyche when it comes to salvaging what the average person might consider to be…well…junk. I’m just wired that way. I nearly hyperventilate if I have to drive by a pile of furniture on someone’s curb without stopping. My children grew up with my psychosis where I would abruptly pull the car over, and tell one of them to jump out and quickly grab an old chair or side table. Thankfully my kids never seemed too fazed by the idea. I guess when you grow up that way, you assume every mother gives their children whiplash in order to nab yucky furniture off the curb. My children were taught patience by going to garage sales with me. “Just one more, kids. I promise.” I quickly learned that they wouldn’t last very long once they found their own treasures.

Those memories re-surfaced when I spotted Catherine. Since its February at the time of this writing, and there are no garage sales to be found here in Central Illinois, I spot her on one of my frequent trips to the Habitat Restore. Meet Catherine.

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I am a huge fan of our local Habitat Restore, but I must admit when I saw Catherine I thought, “Are they off their rocker?” (Pun. So sorry.) Why would they sell a rocking chair with a spindle missing? Do they really think someone’s gonna pay money for that? The spindle is tapered so it can’t be replaced with an ordinary wooden dowel. Most people would have just put it on the curb in hopes that someone like myself might pick it up and at least use it for firewood or something.

But the need to rescue starts tugging at me, and I decide just to sit on Catherine for a minute. You know, just to see how she feels. The “tushy” test, so to speak. I figure with the spindle missing the whole back is probably unstable, and I may end up on the floor. Nope. Solid as ever. The whole chair is solid.

So then I notice that she’s only $5. My heart skips a beat, and now I’m really trying to quickly come up with a way to make Catherine “normal” again. Feeling a sense of urgency, I remove her price tag so no one else will steal my find before I come up with a plan. I’m feeling a bit like “Ralphie” in the bathroom with his brand new decoder ring while little brother’s banging on the door.

I know that I can’t add another new spindle because of the taper, but I realize I can remove the spindle opposite the missing one, fill the remaining holes and paint her up! I’m pretty proud of myself for coming up with such a grandiose idea. I return home with Catherine, and show her to my son, Ross.

I explain about how I found this treasure, saving her from certain death, but that in the store I was trying to think of a way to fix her. Before I could blurt out the grand finale he interrupts and simply says, “Why don’t you just remove the spindle opposite the missing one?” He taps his index finger on his temple and says, “U of I, Mom.” So maybe the idea wasn’t as grandiose as I thought or maybe my son’s just super smart. Anyway, how great would Catherine be in a child’s room with a cute cushion, on a front porch or next to a fireplace with a blanket draped over it?

So step one is to remove the spindle without traumatizing Catherine. She’s so nice and sturdy that I want to be careful not to loosen up any of her other spindles, and make her wobbly during the “operation”. I use my jig saw that was purchased where? Yep, at a garage sale. The $5 tag is still on it. I leave it on because I’m slightly twisted–wanting to feel that rush I get when I see another bargain I snatched up. So I cut thru the spindle, and then twist the two pieces out. It worked much better than I anticipated. I was a bit worried that the pieces might be glued in, and would break and splinter on the ends and create a whole new set of problems. You might recall from my first post about Molly, that I don’t really enjoy furniture repair if it’s too involved. I just like to paint ’em. Here are pictures of the spindle removal. She looks much better once the “odd” spindle is completely removed.

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Next I fill in the holes left from Catherine’s spindle-ectomy. I decide to add small pieces of her spindle into the holes so I don’t have to fill them completely with filler. It would take at least a full day or two for that much filler to dry. It would also crack and shrink and have to be refilled again. So I fill the holes about halfway with filler, push the scrap spindle pieces into the filler and add more filler as needed. I slightly overfill, and then sand off the excess after it dries.

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I also fill the top holes even though they probably would never be seen.

While I’m waiting for the filler to dry, I go ahead and sand the entire chair to rough it up for paint. I think it would be more interesting to leave the spindles and the “rockers” unpainted so I tape them off. After the filler dries, I sand and prime the patched areas so they don’t show through the paint as a different sheen.

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Now I’m ready to paint.

Since I would like for Catherine to be able to be outside in the summer, I decide to paint her with exterior paint. I always have Sherwin William’s “Pure White” on hand in interior, exterior, satin, flat, and semi-gloss. It’s a bright, crisp white and I love it and use it often.

Whenever I paint a piece of furniture like this, I like to start with the piece upside down and paint the underneath areas first.

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But before I paint Catherine completely, I would like to “crackle” her, and have her original wood tone showing through in some areas such as her headrest, her arms and the front of the seat. So I apply the crackle medium generously, and then paint her white. Here is one of her crackled areas while still wet.

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Here she is after one coat.

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Catherine ends up taking three coats of paint, and that’s ok. I want my paint finish to be nice and solid. I wait a minimum of four hours in between coats, and then rough up chosen areas with 100 grit sandpaper. So here is what I’m thinking is going to be my “after” photo, but after some agonizing and careful deliberation with my genius son, I decide I don’t really like the spindles unpainted after all. Here’s Catherine before I decide to paint the spindles.

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I wish her crackle detail and roughened edges showed up better in the photo, but here are my official before and afters.

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If you would like more pictures of creative ways to paint rocking chairs, there are hundreds of pictures on “Google Images”. There are many colorful ideas there. I decide for me, a simple, neutral color is best, and then I can dress up Catherine with a throw or cushion to match the room she’s in. Or she can go au naturel outdoors on a nice spring day. Now spring just has to get here!!

After rescuing more furniture than my house can hold such as the coffee table below, I have made the decision to take some of the pieces I’ve written about in my posts to The Bronze Giraffe. It’s an antique store that’s packed with some very unique items if you are into that sort of thing. For more information about store hours and location visit them at http://www.BronzeGiraffe.com.

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Before closing, I would like to thank my daughter, Sophie, for all the hard work and time she has put into the creation of my webpage, business card design and many other projects, and for all the assistance she has given me with publishing these posts for my blog. She has pushed me to step outside my comfort zone (kicking and screaming) as far as teaching me how to publish and insert pictures into my posts. Now I’m a big girl and can do it on my own. Thank you, Sophie–you deserve a gold star!

This article was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and Journeyman Painter servicing the Bloomington/Normal, IL area. Feel free to visit her portfolio on her website www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com for more before and after photos. And if you’re a fan of gardening, you may want to visit her urban gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.

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