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Saturday, June 25, 2011

How to Start Furniture Upcycling – Part 2

I’d like to talk a little today about the “tools of the trade.”  These are the things I think are essential if you’re looking to start into furniture upcycling for profit.

1.  Electric Sander(s) – When I started out furniture upcycling, I only had a palm sander.  It did the job.  I still use the palm sander quite a bit for detail sanding and for most of my distressing.  I have a Craftsman Mouse and like it very much.

The times that it was not doing the job for me was when I was trying to strip or sand large surfaces like table tops or dresser tops.  For those purposes, it’s best to invest in either an orbital sander or a belt sander.  I purchased a Ryobi Orbital Sander and it works very well for my purposes.

Make sure you’re always stocked up on a course (for stripping, I usually buy 60 or 80 grit), medium (general purpose, 100 or 120 grit), and fine (for between coats, around 200 grit) sandpapers that work for your tools.

I generally don’t do a lot of sanding before I paint a piece.  You want to make sure you do enough sanding that you have a good, smooth surface to start painting on, but if you’re using a good primer, I don’t think it’s necessary to sand your whole piece before priming and painting.


2.  Brushes  -  I personally don’t like roller painting, so when I’m not spraying on the paint, I use brushes.  In the beginning, I bought the cheapo brushes, but once I started making a little money and heard everyone raving about Purdy brand paint brushes, I bit the bullet and bought a three pack of brushes for $20 at Home Depot.  Let me tell you, these brushes REALLY do make a big difference in the quality of your end product.  Do not skimp and buy cheapo brushes.  Purdy brushes will last you a good, long time, if you take proper care of them and they lay down a much smoother layer of paint and greatly reduce the appearance of brush strokes.

3.  HVLP Paint Sprayer/Air Compressor  -  Not very long into furniture upcycling, I realized that things would go SO much faster and be SO much easier and I’d end up with a MUCH better end product once I found a paint sprayer that worked for me.  Honestly, it has been my best business investment to date!  I did a LOT of research on different paint spraying options and here are my conclusions.

~ Airless Paint Sprayers, though an inexpensive option, did NOT work for me!  I know some of my furniture refinishing friends love their airless sprayers.  The Wagner Optimus Power Painter was my first sprayer purchase ($70 at Home Depot.)  I tried to get it to work for me and all I could ever get was a big, spitty, painty mess.  I returned the first and exchanged for another, thinking it might just have been a faulty machine, but had much the same experience with the second.  So I returned it as well and got my money back.  Later, I bought and tried a Ryobi sprayer from Home Depot and had a similar experience, with lots of spits and a big mess.  Returned that one as well.

~Self-Contained HVLP Paint Sprayers, though highly recommended by my pro friends, we’re just too expensive for me!  Some of the furniture refinishers buddies of mine whose professionalism, technique, and impeccable end products I greatly admire (namely Miss Mustard Seed and Christa from Stories of a House) highly recommended a HVLP sprayer unit.  These can run anywhere from $300 to $1000.  In the end, I just couldn’t bite the bullet and spend that much, so I was determined to find a less expensive, but professional quality alternative.

~The best option for my purposes is the combination of an HVLP spray gun attachment with an Air Compressor.  Once I decided on this option, I started scouring Craigslist (my BFF) for a good, used Air Compressor.  I found a huge, barely used Craftsman tank that was more than I would ever need for $100.  I LOVE it!!  I then bought a HVLP spray gun from Neiko (a 2mm nozzle) for around $50 on Amazon.  I used this for some time with much success.  It gave me a very nice finish and made things go along much faster than hand-painting.  It was still a pretty slow gun though, so I kept my eye open for something that would be faster still.  On the recommendation of Beckie at Infarrantly Creative and Gail at My Repurposed Life, I bought a very inexpensive Central Pneumatic spray gun from Harbor Freight ($14.99!!!)  I was skeptical that something so low priced could do the job I expected of it, but it has turned out to be everything I was looking for!!  And for such a great price, even if it doesn’t last forever, it’s cheap to replace.


Here’s a little pictorial summary of a few other miscellaneous items that I always keep on hand:

Well, I hope these posts were helpful and informative for you and took a little of the scariness out of doing this sort of thing yourself.  It has brought me so much joy (and a little bit of extra spending money to boot!)  I have a passion for it, and I hope that on this blog I’m able to help some people out there to JUMP IN! if it’s a passion of yours as well.  :)

Please let me know if you have any specific questions I can answer for you.  I got a few after the first of these posts and I’ll try to answer any of your questions next time.

Happy upcycling!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How to start furniture upcycling – Part 1

I’ve had many people ask me how to start out redoing furniture for other people, what tools and products I use.  Let me tell ya, like everything else I do, I’ve tried to figure out how to get the biggest bang for my business buck.  I’ve spent the last year finding the tools and products that allow me to put forward the best possible product for the least possible overhead, and thus maximize my profit and make the most for my precious time.  I started doing this with practically no money, and you can too!

If you’ve been asking yourself (or me) what you need to start doing what I’m doing, then this post is for you.  :)

1.  Furniture – Obviously the first thing you will need to start furniture upcyling is furniture.


Don’t be lured into taking every ugly, free thing that may come your way.  (Not that I’m knocking free things or ugly things, by an means!  The above dresser I got for free and it certainly was ugly and turned out to be a jewel!)  But make sure the pieces you’re putting your valuable time into are worth making over.  Keep an eye out for solidly built pieces.  I’ve learned the hard way that rickety chairs are just not worth the time and headache. 

From the get-go, I’ve set a per piece spending limit of $40.  YES, it’s true, every single piece you’ve seen on this blog was purchased for less than $40.  Part of the fun (for me at least) is the challenge of trying to find things that are interesting to make over for $40 or less.  :) 

How do I get the screaming deals?  I’m a compulsive-Craigslist-checker, yard-sale-rubber-necker, thrift-store-frequenter.  In order to snatch up the super-great deals, you need to be the first on the scene (so to speak.)  If you’re getting into this as a money making avenue, you need to look at the treasure hunting as part of the job.  If you are on top of it, you will get the best deals and you will make more on your pieces when you turn them around.

2.  Primer – First, I’d like to say that you should NEVER skip the priming step (unless you’re using a paint that has primer in it or, like chalk paint, doesn’t need a primer.)  I generally use a water-based primer in my sprayer.  I’ve found very little difference between Kilz and Zinsser.  Both are good.  Kilz Clean Start is Zero VOC, which is especially good when pregnant, so it’s been winning my vote for a while.  :)


I also keep some oil based spray primer on hand for pieces that need more stain-blocking (heavilly knotted pine, or dark-stained pieces will sometimes bleed through the water-based primer) or odor covering (musty or smokey smelling pieces.)

3.  Paint – When I first started out, before I had a sprayer, I primarily used canned spray paint for furniture makeovers.  I still use it a lot for smaller redos that I don’t want to use the sprayer for or for quick hardware updates.  My preference is for Krylon brand.  Krylon has SO many wonderful colors, and I love their nozzle and the consistency of the paint.  Some of my favorite Krylon colors are:


Cherry Red


Catalina Mist



And, of course, I always keep some oil-rubbed bronze and ivory on hand for hardware updates.

The key to adding a hand-done and time-warn finish when using canned spray paint is the addition of distressing and and glazing.  Even though the spray paint make for a quick paint application, I always put a lot of time, energy and attention into the distressing and glazing.  I’ll talk more about those later.

Another tip to furniture upcycling on the cheap is to keep an eye out for mistints at Home Depot, Lowes, Ace, or paint stores.  You can get great deals on some great paint because someone decided the color wasn’t exactly right.  The sample paint pots are usually just the right size for a project.  I painted the Chevron Dresser with one sample paint pot. 


I generally keep an eye out for the sample size pots (50 cents) and quarts ($2.00).  I will generally pass by the gallons ($5.00) unless it’s a color that I know I’ll use often, like a shade of white.

I’ve also found the Habitat Restore a great resource for paint mistints.  Many paint stores donate their mistints to Habitat to move them along.


In part 2 of this post I plan on talking more about the actual tools I use; brushes, sprayer, sander, etc.  I have a lot to share, so this may turn into a 3 part post.  ;)

Please comment below if you have any specific questions you’d like me to address in the next addition!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Robin’s Egg Armoire

It’s been quite some time since I’ve been able to finish up a project!  Thanks to you all for hanging in there with me.  The last couple months of pregnancy are not for sissies, that’s for sure!  But I’ve got a great one for ya this morning!

You’ll remember in my last post that I picked up this REALLY, really heavy armoire (thank goodness for my strong hubby) at a thrift store the other week. 


It’s been so long since I’ve been out painting that I couldn’t wait to jump in!  I was poking around on Pinterest (which I’m just starting) for some inspiration and came across this fantastic Robin’s Egg Blue hutch that The Nester did for her living room. 

I was further “egged on” (pun intended) by my loyal Facebook peeps, and I got to crackin’ mixing up a custom Robin’s Egg paint brew in my workshop.  (Mine might be a smidge greener than Miss Nester’s, but I’m pretty happy with the result!)


I decided to keep the original hardware on the bottom of the armoire.  I thought it gave it some weight and I liked the faux keyholes (keyhole hardware is so big right now.)


But I switched out the big handle pulls on the top of the piece in favor of some daintier knocker pulls that I had in my stash.  The hardware got a coat of my favorite bright and shiny metallic paint, Rustoleum’s Bright Coat in Chrome.  (I haven’t quite decided if I want to leave them bright silver or give them an antiquing glaze to make them look more like pewter.  What do you think?)




On a very exciting side note, I picked up a fabulous Federal style Secretary on Saturday from a young guy who was cleaning out his late mother’s estate.  He advertised it on Craigslist as a “Curio Cabinet” for $40 and I just about died when I saw the picture!


It’s in really good condition.  It actually still has the top finial (in between the pediment on top) that just needs a dollop of wood glue to reattach.  It also still has the really awesome skeleton key for the locks!!  I decided I’m going to try and sell it as is before I do anything to it, because this is a real antique.  So I started doing a little research online, and I found this very similar one (probably a little better condition)…

listed for $1300 on Ebay!!  So I’m going to contact a few antique dealers in town this week to come and check mine out!  So glad I didn’t slap any paint on her yet!!  Wish me luck.  I feel like I’m on Antique Roadshow.  ;)

Linking to:

House of Grace, Primtive and Proper

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Armoire Inspiration

I picked up this great dresser/armoire last weekend while on a thrifting adventure with my lovely sister-in-law.


Okay.  I know it’s ugly and beat up, but it’s a diamond in the rough!!  ;)  It has three drawers behind the cupboard doors.


So, I’ve been pondering what to do with it. 

A light, French gray is always tempting, but I’m working on another piece right now that’s that color, so I think I need to mix things up a bit. 

Off-white is always a safe bet.  But can get a little BORING. 

I saw this GREAT charcoal gray armoire on Pinterest. (Sorry, I don’t know the source.  If it’s yours, let me know and I’ll add a link!)  Charcoal was definitely a strong contender in the color battle royale!

But in the end, and on the strong recommendation of the large majority of commenters on our Twice Lovely Facebook Fan Page, and heavily based on the inspiration of this fantastic armoire from the one-and-only Nester…

I’ve decided to go with a Robin’s Egg Blue!

Stay tuned!  ;)