Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A File Cabinet's Journey

This summer I started my office renovation with a lamp. However, in September I sewed what I call a "shower-cap" table cover for the oval glass coffee table in living room. In October I got back on track with my next office project: the file cabinet.

I'm not interested in matchy-matchy rooms purchased straight out of a catalog. I want pieces with history and personal meaning, and then I want to blend them. When you gather hodge-podge cast-offs it's hard to make a cohesive brand. But not impossible. 

Here's the file cabinet in its original state. It's pine and has moved six times, waiting eight years to be given personality. I emptied it (wow) and left behind a huge mess in my office so it could take over our garage for an entire weekend.

I removed the knobs and sanded away scuff marks, years of hand oil, and furniture polish. Next I cleaned with mineral spirits to remove wood dust. 

I couldn't stain until the mineral spirits evaporated so I helped my husband haul branches of a dead tree he cut down to the back yard. Much better than watching wood dry.


Once ready, I applied an oil-based stain (not a combo/all-in-one) with a cloth. I chose a dark walnut stain. For pine. Because I have no idea what I'm doing but I wanted a dark finish. 

My husband warned me that pine would yellow the stain and of course, staining pine is a...  umm, not fun. Fortunately, this piece was made from quality pine and I didn't mind the "flaws" of the natural oils drawn to the surface by the stain.

I applied an early coat by rubbing the stain into the wood. My husband let me know I needed to apply a heavy coat and then wipe away with a clean, dry cloth. I changed my technique and saw a difference.

That was Saturday. (BTW, mineral spirits is great for taking stain off of you -- we went to a nice dinner that night with my mother and sister and I didn't have to scrape off skin in the shower.)

Sunday, my wonderful husband applied the poly. This was an all day event, requiring ninety minutes between coats and sides -- two coats per side, applied to each side horizontally. After the first coat, the wood roughened up (normal) but two coats was plenty. I chose a matte finish because I don't typically like shiny (lamp is exception). The matte helped to hide fibers and brush strokes.

Once the final coat of poly passed the tacky test on the drawers, we cut the screws for the new knobs and put them in place. 

I danced around clapping over the final affect.

The fact that the file cabinet matches my desk is a total fluke. 100% accident. However, I'll make my small console table from pine and use the same Dark Walnut stain to complete the wood pieces in my office.

Office before starting make-over
Office currently