refinished shelf aka "the tetanus game"

first off...wedding countdown = 37 days!!!

I finally completed a fairly easy furniture refinishing project I've been procrastinating on for a while. Proof that there's nothing like an impending wedding and husband moving in to make you get your act together.

Looking back almost 4 years, I was a bright-eyed college grad, independent in her first solo apartment and zero furniture. Certainly no decent furniture. As such, I got most of what I'm still using either on Craigslist, at yard sales, or cheap at Walmart and Target --enter the dreaded $30 bookshelf. Don't get me wrong, they're inexpensive, easy to assemble, and will hold just about anything...except their weight in books. Behold IKEAs best kept secret: chipboard furniture is ultimately just garbage. Especially when poorly organized and unattractive like the one shown to the right (which has definitely *not* resided in my living room for 2+ years). Please note the obvious warping under the weight of the Chronicles of Mr. Potter.

To remedy this decorative and bibliophile tragedy, I sought out a vintage piece to do the job -- because solid modern furniture is too pricey, naturally. I found a beauty at a local showroom and bartered the seller down from $45 to $20 because of the serious damage to the back panel. You can't completely tell from the pictures but all those darker spots are thinned almost-holes and the entire bottom of the back panel wasn't even attached anymore.

So, to restore it back to its former glory, I started by measuring the existing back panel and taking that info down to (you guessed it) Lowe's. A friendly employee in the lumber department taught me a fun new term..."lauan" plywood which is a decoratively finished plywood, thin and easy to use for non-weight-bearing projects like the back of a bookshelf. The more you know! So I snagged a big ole' piece for $8 and after a bit of consulting on how to cut it down to the right size, I headed home. 

Lauan is so thin, you can actually just cut it with a sharp x-acto knife so I sat in the floor with a ruler and got to work. Following his instructions, I scored each cut several times then bent the unwanted pieces back until they snapped off. I lightly sanded the edges then stained the entire panel with a *thankfully* matching can of stain I already had.
If you've never wood stained anything before, it is one of the easiest tricks in the book, especially when starting with natural unfinished wood. Just use a foam brush like shown and paint it in long, even strokes. I usually go back and add a spotted second coat to certain areas to darken the stain and make it less uniform. Dry overnight before moving on.

I didn't take any photos of the next part, but while my new panel was drying, I stripped the old panel off the back of the bookshelf. It came off pretty easily once I got a corner loose and peeled away from the nails in long strips and made a giant mess all over the place. Word of warning - be careful when peeling, the strips are extremely sharp and a little unpredictable. Next I pulled up a chair and used a hammer and needle-nose pliers to get all the nails out of the shelf where the back panel had been. This, I have coined "The Tetanus Game" because with nails that small and rusty, every one you pull out without it going into your hand is a winner. I managed to extract every one, probably 25 in all. (And no tetanus, in case you were wondering - I consider myself the current Tetanus Game Champion.)

From there, it was easy peasy. I laid the bookshelf face down and attached the new panel with wood glue and stacks of books (irony, no?). While the wood glue was drying, I worked my way around the whole shelf, using small nails to secure the panel. Stand 'er up and let 'er dry. Voila - old shelf, new life. And by glorious accident, I realized that the bottom shelf is tall enough for awkwardly sized cookbooks that finally have a new home.
Much improved, in my opinion! Scroll up and check that first pic for a comparison shot. Sidenote- the stool is a temporary placeholder until Strider moves in and his small, dark wood end table may find a home there with coasters for couch guests. I'm so pleased! 

On an unrelated note - a slightly warped chipboard bookshelf is looking for a new home and open to inquiries.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, good job! I am the absolute worst at refinishing/updating furniture. Seriously, you did an awesome job. Love it!


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