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Refinishing Ideas or Redoing Antiques and diy Old Furniture Repair

Updated on May 7, 2017
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I learned the art of frugality from a Depression Era survivor. Want to learn how to live on less? Save money, have fun & be secure; join me.

"I'm tired of this old furniture!"

It's something you hear as often as folks who are tired of their furniture arrangement. There's nothing like a bit of change to brighten your day and give you a fresh outlook, especially when short on cash do-re-mi.

Some people even rearrange as a way to fight depression while others change paint. Just look at Soviet era buildings. Sameness is not necessary. So let's investigate a way to rid the body of those furniture blues.

I have discovered a wonderful place to snatch up furniture at a great buy. My favorite place is the street curb. Believe it or not, folks seem to be so busy these days that they will throw out perfectly good furniture and appliances because something small is broken. So many times I have picked up a chair with one leg missing. And the best find of all is a solid wood chair with a leg missing. Wood can be refinished and it can be refinished easily.

An upholstered chair, abandoned outside a restaurant with one broken leg. Cost: $1.95 small box sheetrock screws and 10 cents worth of glue. Oh, and elbow grease.
An upholstered chair, abandoned outside a restaurant with one broken leg. Cost: $1.95 small box sheetrock screws and 10 cents worth of glue. Oh, and elbow grease. | Source

Cutting a replacement leg, or repairing a leg in pieces is frequently not that hard. Use a carpenter's glue and clamp it. Then, if you are unsure of its stability, buy a small straight bracket with two holes and screw it on the back where it cannot be easily seen. This kind of steel bracket can be had from a hardware store at less than a dollar. You can make your own filler to cover up the seam of the crack by mixing a few drops of carpenter's clue mixed with sawdust. If you don't have sawdust, get a piece of sandpaper and a piece of wood and make some! This is the poor man's way of making wood filler, as it is inexpensive. "Why do it?" you say. Because this inexpensive filler will also take up stain. If you're painting, the paint will stick to it well. If you just use the glue without the sawdust stain, it will not be absorbed. And lastly, I have even scrape peeled a thin piece of wood with a sharp whittling knife to fill large holes. Then you don't need to use so much of your homemade filler.

Have you ever repurposed a piece of furniture by painting, repairing, or changing use.

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Of course, this provides you with a good new piece. What if you don't like the finish? Sand it down - I know it can be a lot of work, but you will feel great when it is done - and think about darkening the wood. I have discovered a way to make a dark finish out of a household product most of us have. To darken wood, use store bought ammonia, coating your furniture with a paint brush. This is also called fuming and dates back to the middle ages. Do not mix ammonia with bleach, and for heaven's sake, do it in a well ventilated area, preferably outside. For a thorough discussion, see

These straps can be found at any hardware store for about $0.50 per. Plastic may be less expensive.
These straps can be found at any hardware store for about $0.50 per. Plastic may be less expensive.

Here's A TIP

Use a 1/2" pipe strap or smaller and screw it to the back of a wooden chair. Put colorful artificial flowers in them. Match flowers with all the chairs for a theme if you wish. Good-looking artificial flowers are inexpensive at dollar stores.

Here's An Old Trick

Using bleach in the same way lightens dark rings and scratches that have collected dirt. So it is used mainly to clean, but it also can be used at times for a distressed look. Wash the furniture with a sponge after it is absorbed and let the piece dry.

Wicker table that had a broken leg. Recovered from a dumpster. Cost: $3.00 for can of white spray paint and $1.00 for a small tube of epoxy.
Wicker table that had a broken leg. Recovered from a dumpster. Cost: $3.00 for can of white spray paint and $1.00 for a small tube of epoxy. | Source

Paint stain is another way to refinish and reinvent an, let's say, uncovered wood rocking chair. Basically, just pour out enough paint to cover the chair. Make sure you estimate high because after adding water to thin the paint for rubbing you will find it hard to create the same mix if you run out. Use a clean old rag to dip into the stain and rub it on a blank piece of wood. Continue testing until you get the right color. Applying a second coat on your rocker (or whatever) after drying will darken.

Paint covers a myriad of sins. If you have a spot that isn't so easy to refinish, think about a stencil. I make my own. Find a picture that you particularly like, and trace it. Cut it out (I usually use tag board or wrastle up a manila folder). Put the stencil at the appropriate spot and paint the color you want. Acrylic paint is pretty cheap and most of us have paint leftovers in the garage.

If you want to bring new life to a room and you have four solid wood chairs to work with, paint them all a light color, preferably white (this also gives the space a more open look) and think about the look you want. If it's a Dutch theme, make a tulip stencil. If Norwegian, maybe paint a "simple" rosemaling patterned stencil. Not only will the results look rich, but it will brighten your day and everyone else's.

Grandpa's unfinished project under the trailer. Cost: $2.75 for spray paint and elbow grease - not on the table.
Grandpa's unfinished project under the trailer. Cost: $2.75 for spray paint and elbow grease - not on the table. | Source

All of us have the best of intentions but sometimes the projects we stow away do not come to life. In the old days, a piece of furniture that had deteriorated or that had become loose was disassembled and placed on a shelf for later refinishing. People back then didn't have as much money as we do today and were extremely reticent to waste. Another good spot to find such things is in your grandparents' or parents' attic. For example, I found a small shelf with spindle legs made of solid wood piled under a large trailer. My wife's grandfather intended to bring it back to life, but passed away before he had a chance. Her grandmother was not aware of its existence and was glad to let me have it. It was found while doing maintenance on the trailer. Gotcha! This was solid wood and had been lathed.

A discarded pantry with broken shelves. Cost to repair: $1 for acrylic paint already purchased, repurposed shelves for replacement, 20 sheet rock screws, $1.00. Adventure? Priceless.
A discarded pantry with broken shelves. Cost to repair: $1 for acrylic paint already purchased, repurposed shelves for replacement, 20 sheet rock screws, $1.00. Adventure? Priceless. | Source

Some people enjoy using contrasting colors. In my case, I have enjoyed bright colors in my kids' room. So have they! Play tables are often found by the side of the road with a minor injury. In some cases, you can take a small table and cut down the legs. After cleaning up the piece, all you need to do is paint. What a difference! Got old children's wooden furniture? Why not repaint it? This also works well in a family room.

Want a quirky look? I have found that when I have repaired and/or refinished a piece of wood furniture, it may wind up not going with décor in other rooms. That's when it seems to wind up in my work room. But don't think it is a reject! The contrasting pieces are just right for an imagination lab. Not only does it excite, but it provides an atmosphere for creativity and exploration.

Why not save your old piece or resurrect a poor wooden nightstand leaning against a garbage can like a stray dog wanting a home? Another favorite place to discover untold treasures is a college dormitory at break time. There is all manner of furniture that coeds leave behind. The area near a dumpster at apartment complexes is also great territory providing for serendipitous adventures. If you are in the market for a free office swivel chair, check out the dumpsters near doctors' offices. You may have to ask permission.

Grandma's coffee table that had been left outside. Cost: $2.50 small can stain and $2.50 small can of varnish. Oh, elbow grease, priceless.
Grandma's coffee table that had been left outside. Cost: $2.50 small can stain and $2.50 small can of varnish. Oh, elbow grease, priceless. | Source
Source

Fastening Tip

A right angle strap can often cure a disconnected leg. When painted copper and brown, or stained (oil stain) and placed on the inside, it is almost invisible.

You can often find remnants of tile batches at Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity recycle stores. In lieu of that, broken crockery can be smashed in a plastic bag with a hammer and fashioned into beautiful mosaics. File the edges to make small changes.
You can often find remnants of tile batches at Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity recycle stores. In lieu of that, broken crockery can be smashed in a plastic bag with a hammer and fashioned into beautiful mosaics. File the edges to make small changes. | Source

TIP

Broken crockery can come in handy too. Make slight changes in the pieces once broken with a dremel tool or electric drill with a grinding wheel.

A Conclusion

For many, the thought of new furniture is out of the question. You're as tight for money as a new college graduate working part time on minimum wage! Not to worry. You can get a new look for free, or almost free.

Some people rearrange their furniture. Others bring new vitality to furniture or fix a discarded piece and fight the fog of boredom. Rejuvenating can give you a new lease on life. When human beings are stuck in dull surroundings, they tend to have a brain condition similar to low-lying thunderclouds heavy with rain. Use the suggestions in this article to bring about a spring fresh look.

Discarded table with a broken leg - sometimes furniture made out of pressed board or composites are salvagable.
Discarded table with a broken leg - sometimes furniture made out of pressed board or composites are salvagable. | Source

Redneck Restoration

© 2014 John R Wilsdon

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    • john000 profile image
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      John R Wilsdon 2 years ago from Superior, Arizona

      I think we do a service to our planet by thinking in such ways. Thanks for your comment.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      clever way to reuse and recycle old furniture into a new one.

    • john000 profile image
      Author

      John R Wilsdon 2 years ago from Superior, Arizona

      Isn't it amazing what we can be useful if we open our eyes? An old item can be refreshed to look new. Thank you for your kind comment.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      These are some great and useful suggestions! Many of the old things are lying in the house just like that, since they are either broken or too old.

      I like the tiles and mosaic ideas and will try this one.

      Thanks for sharing your creative ideas. Voted up!

    • john000 profile image
      Author

      John R Wilsdon 2 years ago from Superior, Arizona

      AliciaC - Garage sales are wonderful! It is amazing the wonderful pieces available for next to nothing. And, of course, just planning an outing to all of the sales is a lot of fun, too. Have some great adventures, and thank you for the kind comment.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      What a useful hub! I love your ideas, especially the stencil one. I'll try this myself. I see so many interesting items at garage sales or offered for free at the curb that could be improved by your techniques. I'll pin this hub to my DIY Home Décor board.

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