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Author: Brendan

As a former corporate financial executive, I’ve found significant gratification working in a peaceful shop environment where the predominant sounds are that of mallets tapping and planes scraping. To build a piece of furniture that a family will enjoy for generations is very rewarding.

Creating a unique Dining Room Table

Recently I had a client commission me to build a table that would be used for playing board games, card games etc.  Creating a unique Dining Room Table is my specialty. However, while gaming tables can be cool they are a bit unpractical when not in use.  Not everyone has the room to have a large stand alone table that isn’t used every day…..

Sooooo…. got my wheels turning.   Why not kill a couple birds with one stone..?  How about a table that when not being used for gaming looks and functions as a dinning table???   The trick is that the table should be self containing  (i.e. hold or store all the components that are needed) and really look like a dining table. Read more

Beautiful, late 1800’s wardrobe restoration

1800's wardrobe restored

Why we restored it…

Generally speaking you don’t want to modify or refinish a piece this age as it can have a very negative effect on the value.  However, the client had already begun to strip the piece before contacting me so that made us all in!  We had to refinish it for this wardrobe restoration.

What we did in this restoration..

The client had attempted to sand on one side and had sanded through the paint to what was a  yellow/golden color.  Initially, we thought they had sanded through to a layer of milk paint.    However, after working on the piece a bit, we discovered this wasn’t a light coat of milk paint.  Rather it was the color that the underneath poplar had aged to. I have never seen poplar turn this beautiful golden hue…  I guess it was the mixture of painted top coats, age of the wood and the environment that made this happen.    As such the color was chosen…we were going to leave it natural. Read more

Give antique look to furniture in 5 easy steps

I like to give an antique look to furniture when it makes sense. I recently was asked to make a small bench for a client. Here’s how we did it. Because we wanted the resulting end look to be very rustic, distressed and aged, I followed specific procedures.   So, when I picked out the lumber I chose pieces that had lots of dents, scratches, nicks and saw marks.    

The Bench Project – Giving antique look to furniture

(Also, I picked Oak because the finishing steps described below work best on open grain woods like oak, pine, etc..)   The rest of the antique look to furniture appearance I achieved during the finishing process.
Making wood look old

Here is how I did it 5 easy steps for giving an antique look to furniture….

Read more

Repurposed Armoire

Armoir Repurposed
Armoire Repurposed

This Repurposed Armoire was challenging, but the end result made it well worth the time and effort. Moreover, the client was thrilled so all is well!  Remember how the old armories were built very large and deep to house large TVs? Now that TV’s have gotten so slim, Armoires are generally not used for TV’s as they are hung directly on the wall.  As such you can find these old pieces for sale all over the place for next to nothing.  Read more

Old Dining Table Refinish Project

For this old dining table refinish project I noticed how the leaves in the middle don’t match. There was a few steps for this old dining table, chairs and buffet refinish.

Old Dining Table Refinish Project

In this situation I had to strip off all the old finish and gett down to the bare wood.  Then I had to sand through the color (as much as possible without going through the veneer) to get back to the original unstained wood.    Then I restained all of it together to get a much better matching base coat of stain color. Read more

Staining different woods to match

When finishing furniture, one often finds that the piece may be made from several different types of wood, so staining different woods to match becomes a challenge.  Because woods take stain differently, it is helpful to know a few techniques that allow you to color the wood (across different species) and achieve a uniform and pleasing color.   Additionally, not all projects can be made from mahogany and walnut.  However, just because you have a piece made from pine you are not prevented from creating a dark wood, fine finish similar to what you might find on a more formal piece.    See the steps below which were adapted using techniques and materials readily available to the DIY person. Read more

Reusing heirloom marble to make custom night stands.

Recently a customer asked if I could salvage some heirloom marble that had been broken during a move. Marble Top End Tables
Recently a customer asked if I could salvage some heirloom marble that had been broken during a move. Reusing heirloom marble is possible. The marble was originally the top of a dining room buffet.  A marble fabricator cut the marble into two pieces and molded the edges.  I then recreated two Sheraton style end tables using cherry. The legs were turned on the lathe by hand and also have flutes.  The drawers were made from poplar and contain hand-cut dovetails.  The color was a unique color blend created specifically for the project. The finish is lacquer.

We made a chest from old doors

A chest made from old doors was a very fun project. A customer recently salvaged some heart pine flooring and old doors from an old home.A customer recently salvaged some heart pine flooring and old doors from an old home that was being demolished.  They asked if I could make something interesting for their daughter.   That was the extent of the guidance, which doesn’t happen often.   So  – I let my imagination run and here is what I came up with.




It all started with cutting the doors into a manageable size and then stripping off 80 years of paint.  This was a job!  It still took lots of scraping using the strongest industrial chemicals I have.



The customer also had a piece of yellow bodark wood which was taken from his family’s farm in Texas.  He asked if I could incorporate this wood into the piece –  so here was my idea.  I made these butterfly inlay and placed a few on the top of the trunk.

Butterfly Inlay

I also inlayed walnut into the old mortise holes and used large walnut dowels to lock in the halflap joints on the case.

Walnut Dowels

I found this escutcheon buried in the thick paint of one of the doors.   After scraping and repainting to match the antique trunk hardware it was used over the top of one of the butterfly inlays.

Reclaimed Escutcheon

I then stained with Mohawk’s Van Dyke Brown followed by a brushed coat of diluted Mohawk Burnt Umber.   After five coats of sprayed lacquer and some rubbing out the trunk was done.    Thanks to my brother Todd for taking the pictures.

chest made from doors

Refinishing Queen Anne Furniture

A client called asking that I help in refinishing Queen Anne furniture, specifically a desk they attempted to strip.  The piece was a fairly nice, well built Queen Anne desk that was in great shape except for the sanding that the owner attempted to do.

Before Refinishing Queen Anne Furniture

before repainting queen anne furniture

When refinishing a piece it is always preferable to remove the top coat (the clear protective layer) in the least intrusive way possible.  Since we are a professional shop we use chemicals that flow out of a brush and the piece is in essence washed until the finish is softened and removed.   This method removes all the hard protective finish but doesn’t remove all the color and patina.
If this is not possible, then a gel stripper would be my next choice.   This is much more time consuming but is not abrasive.  You brush on the stripper then scrape off with a puddy knife.  Then you clean thoroughly with mineral spirits.
If this choice is not available, (the stripper won’t dissolve the finish or bad sections require sanding) then you have no choice but to sand it back entirely.  When sanding, always use the highest grit possible that still allows proper sanding. (such as 220 grit) The lease amount of abrasive used is the best.  In this case I had no choice but to sand the entire piece because the client had begun that way.
 After I sanded entirely I cleaned with mineral spirits then applied the color stain I liked.  Heres’s what it looked like after the first coat of coloring. I used a standard Burnt Umber – very light coat.
 After coloring…

Queen Anne Desk after base color

Next, I sprayed a seal coat and then brushed on a very light coat of very diluted black glaze.  I then “aged” the piece by brushing black glaze in all the crevices and corners.. notice the black highlights on the leg closeup.
 Glazed crevices

Glaze used to highlight carvings and crevices

Then I sprayed several coats of the final finish….seems easy doesn’t it??
Here’s the finalized piece.

final picture of queen anne desk refinished