Furniture Restoration Workshop Wrap Up


Last Wednesday night I headed over to The People’s Market in Collingwood, and ran a couple of classes for Laneway Learning. The classes were in a similar furniture restoration vein to the one I held last year for L.L., though this time alfresco at the P.M. Really nice space to run  the classes. Since running the class last year, Laneway Learning has taken off, currently holding classes at 3 venues, (Little Mule Cafe, The People’s Market and Ferdydurke) in all sorts. Suss out it out.

Both classes went really well. Everyone was keen to get right into it, sanding, polishing and waxing. Thanks for everyone who came along, hope your heat mats are settling in nicely. I didn’t manage to nab any photos during the workshops, but check out the L.L. facebook if you want to see some of the action snaps.

Thanks to everyone who came along and got involved, Mark for inviting me back for a second go and The People’s Market for hosting the whole deal.

Below is a bit of a summary of the content covered in the workshop as well some starting points for getting into your project. I’ve also got some links to where you can delve in a bit deeper.

I’ve got some ideas for further classes, but I’ll let the sawdust settle for bit I think.


To get started on your own rustic restoration…

– Check over item for broken/damaged sections. Check for loose joins, legs, handles, tops etc. Signs of this may be nails rising out, gaps in joins etc.

– Plan out how you’re going to go about the restoration. Are you going to pull it apart and reglue it? Are you going to find or make a replacement part for the broken area? (eg. a leg) so it matches in? Are you going to replace the broken part with something different to reinvent the item into something new? If you’re looking for ideas on how to repair an item or reinvent it, have a scroll through sites like Instructables and Recycleart.

– Check out your piece and decide how you want to restore it? Are you going to strive to restore it as though it had been built yesterday, or bring the patina and character that has developed over time to the fore?

– Work out what tools, materials and skills you’ll need. Use websites like the Sharehood and Open Shed to possibly find tools that you don’t have and share what you do have. You may even meet a fellow DIYer next door! Go to quality hardware stores to seek out materials and get quality advice for free! You could also look at enrolling at The Victorian Woodworkers Association to pick up some more skills.

– Make sure you have the appropriate safety gear for what you are attempting. Ear muffs and safety glasses are a good minimum to always have. A dust mask is handy. Make sure to tie back long hair and don’t wear loose clothing.

– Start small and build up. You may have that mangled wardrobe or workbench sitting waiting to be fixed up, but start with something small to build up your skills and knowledge.

L.L. @ People's Market - 1

The Basics

When gluing up pieces with PVA glue, be sure to clamp the piece securely while drying. This is generally best done using a clamp. Clamps can be improvised from everyday items for some jobs. For small jobs, old bicycle inner tubes can be tied around the piece to keep it in compression until dry. If it is a small piece that has chipped off, masking tape can be used to hold it in place.

The other way to get around having clamps, is to use a counter sunk screw(s). This will have the effect of ‘clamping’ the pieces together and will create a strong bond once the glue sets.
L.L. @ People's Market - 6
It is best to sand either outdoors, or in a designated workshop area. A dusk mask is recommended for small jobs and a ventilator mask is best for big jobs. Always work from the roughest tool/sandpaper to the finest. As a rule electric sanders will speed up the job considerably, but will leave marks that will need to be hand sanded to be removed completely.
It is best to use hand tools such as chisels or planes first to get rid of splintery bits etc., then power sanders, then finish hand sand the piece.

When buying sand paper be sure to get a variety of grades, 100, 120 & 180 is a good start. Get 240 grit for a fine finish. The higher the number on the sand paper means the finer finish you’ll get. So you use 80 or 100 grit to rough out the general shape and get rid of splintery areas etc. then go up the grades to get the finish you want. The amount of sanding you do will depend how damaged the piece is and what finish you want it to have.
L.L. @ People's Market - 4
Be sure to read the instructions on the container about how to apply it and safety precautions. Applying stain is best done outside in a well ventilated area. Test out the stain on a hidden part of the piece to check the finish before starting on the visible areas. Be sure to leave the piece for the appropriate drying time to allow the stain to dry fully. Suss out the container for this info too.

L.L. @ People's Market - 5

Polishing is best done outside in a well ventilated area. Before applying polish, use sandpaper of 240 grit or above to very lightly sand the piece. This is called ‘cutting back’ and will cut the grain back, giving the surface a lot smoother finish. If using shellac, create a mix with shellac and methylated spirits. If you use more shellac, you’ll have a thicker finish but it’ll be harder to apply. If you use more methylated spirits you’ll have a thinner finish which is easier to apply but requires more coats.

Generally to get a nice finish you can do the following. Apply 3-4 coats, waiting 30s-1minute between each. On the first coat be sure to squeeze polish into any cracks or diverts so the whole surface looks ‘wet’, then wipe it with grain to get an even coat. Once you’ve applied 3-4 coats, leave the piece until it’s touch dry and doesn’t feel cold. This’ll take considerably longer in colder environments.

Once the piece is touch dry and doesn’t feel cold, cut it back again lightly, then apply another 3-4 coats. The amount of coats you apply is up to you and the finish you’re after. Remember that when using orange shellac, it will tint light coloured timber and get more ‘orange’ with each additional coat.

Once it’s done, leave it to dry for a day.

Bees wax mixes can be applied by simply cutting back (lightly sanding) the surface lightly then rubbing the wax in. It is important then to buff it off with cotton cloth (old t-shirts are good for this) soon after before the wax solidifies. If it does solidify it’ll leave smears in the finish. These can be removed carefully with a cotton cloth and some pure turpentine. A little pure turps can be added to pure bees wax or wax mixes to soften them if they’re a bit hard also. Keep buffing the surface and changing clothes until you get the lustre you want.

The main thing is just to get in there and have a go, and you’ll pick it up over time. Like life really…