Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Refinishing Our Dutailier Glider - Part 1

We really lucked out when it came to getting a glider for the nursery because we still had Jennifer's from when B was a baby.

The only problem was the wood didn't match the new espresso furniture we were using.

"Not a problem -- I can just stain it to match."

Famous last words.

What I thought would be a simple project over a few weekends has turned into much more than I expected. None of it has been really difficult -- although there have definitely been some frustrating times, it's mostly just been a time-consuming ordeal.

I've decided to break the process down into a series of blog posts to better document what I've gone through, and to give anyone else out there thinking about doing the same thing a more realistic view of what to expect.

Just as a disclaimer, this is my first time doing anything like this. As such, you're going to see all of the mistakes I've made, along with how I went about figuring out what works (well, the jury is still out on that one since the chair isn't done yet, but fingers are crossed!).

The first step was to get the cushions off. Since the ottoman was smaller and less intimidating, I figured I'd start with it. The cushion was simply velcroed on, and once that was removed, three screws on each side (holding the sides on) were revealed.

I removed the screws only to find that the sides were also glued to the "seat" of the ottoman. I'm not sure how I did it, but somehow I managed to get one side to break off clean from the top, allowing the top and sides to be removed. (I tried to pop off the other side, but the glue seemed to be holding stronger, so I left it alone to make sure I didn't crack the wood or anything).

With the top and sides off, I had better access to the inner pieces, so I began sanding (by hand)...

You can see where I sanded off the clearcoat better in this picture:

And so it went for a few hours -- sanding away by hand

I soon realized that sanding this thing by hand would take WAYYY too long.

Luckily, a co-worker's husband has lots of tools and even trusts me with them. He let me borrow a couple of power sanders, and that's when the real fun work began.

The power sanders definitely made the work go faster and easier, but it was still a very time-consuming process.

And while they got the majority of it, I still had to go back and clean up the corners and joints by hand.

It became a matter of looking to see where the wood was still glossy and sanding it down until it wasn't glossy anymore.

Once I had gone over the entire ottoman, it was time to take the chair apart.

Unfortunately, the chair didn't come apart as easily as the ottoman had. This time around, I was forced with taking it apart from the inside where it was screwed (and glued, of course) together.

Removing the screws was definitely more of a challenge than it should have been. If you look in the picture above, the screws are kinda like philips heads, but kinda not. And since I only have a cheap set of drill bits, I ended up stripping a lot of my bits trying to get the screws out (luckily none of the screws stripped!).

Once the screws were out, I had to figure out how to get apart roughly a 3" x 5" section of wood that's been glued together for over a decade. I read somewhere online soaking it in vinegar would help dissolve the wood glue, so I gave it a try.

Sure enough, the vinegar (apple cider in my case), combined with using a putty knife and hammer as a sort of chisel did the trick!

One side didn't fare as well, but at least it came apart!

I'm not too worried about the wood splitting like it did -- once I glue it and screw it back together and let it cure, it'll be just as strong as it used to be.

So now that the chair was apart, it was time for more sanding.

...and more sanding...

...and more sanding...

Seriously, it felt like I would never get it all done.

Once I got close, I decided it would be best to take each piece one by one and make sure all of the glossy spots were gone.

Originally, I was going to sand everything with 220 to give it a nice, smooth finish. Later, I started using 60 to strip the old clearcoat off faster, followed by 220 to smooth it out. Eventually, I just ended up hitting the pieces with 150 and calling it done.

The hardest parts by far were the sides, since the power sanders didn't really fit between the slats...

...but this metal file I had in my toolbox seemed to do the job...

Once I had gone over all of the pieces again, I was officially done with over sanding.

In the process of researching how I was going to get this chair stained, one particular brand stood out on the woodworking forums: General Finishes.

Apparently, espresso is one of the hardest colors to match because it can vary from a reddish-brown to a blackish-brown. Some of the comments on the forums even mentioned mixing stains to achieve a perfect match.

I knew I was in over my head at that point, so I took one of the dresser drawers and a piece of the chair to a local woodworking store for some advice.

Unfortunately, the guys working there weren't very helpful, but since it was the only store that sold the General Finishes brand, I was stuck. At least I left knowing that I was most likely dealing with maple, and that maple is very hard to stain and that I should use a dye stain since it would take that better. Looking at the sample board on the wall, General Finishes dark brown dye stain seemed to be a very close match to the color of the dresser, so that's what I went with.

Eager to see how close of a match the color was, I tested it out on the underside of the seat.

The color itself is a very close match -- definitely close enough for our liking.

However, notice the how the stain didn't take very evenly? You can clearly see the lines where the wood wasn't sanded down enough.

And once I moved on to the ottoman, the results were even uglier...

It quickly became apparent that I'd have to sand the chair a lot more if I was going to have any hope of making this thing look decent.


Check out part 2 here!


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