Just being lazy about blogging. We’re currently turning our teeny laundry room and powder room into one big half bath. Boom.
Hey peeps, just a quickie post to show you something Bradley’s been experimenting with at the shop:
This is his first stab at making a sink from a mold, and it’s been a huge success so far. If all goes as planned, we’ll have a couple of these in our bathrooms. Maybe even one in our kitchen. And we might even make a few extra for sale if anyone’s interested.
Beats the crap out of a standard Lowe’s sink, amirite?
Our plan for the day: finish off some built-in cabinets for the dining room and office.
Our reality for the day: plumb the eff out of our sewer line.
Turns out our old cast iron sewer line has eroded over the years and some tree roots finally managed to dig right through them. These are the joys of owning a 130-year-old home — sh*t happens.
Long (and gross) story short: we’ve got a smelly situation on our hands. Mostly all over Bradley’s hands. This city girl does not do anything with the word “sewer” in it.
We’ll be back soon with all the details of those built-ins. In the meantime, here are some lessons we’ve learned from our very interesting weekend:
- Invest in a good pair of waders. Bradley has some industrial ones he picked up during last year’s flood. I have some cute fashiony ones that look great while stomping in puddles.
- If it’s yellow, let it mellow. For all other, uh, situations…drive to the nearest chain store. They always have bathrooms. (Thanks, Dunkin Donuts!)
- Offering your plumber a Snickers bar while he’s ankle deep in nasty — highly recommended.
Some time ago, we found this old piece of barn wood:
And it made our hearts sing.
The aged grey tone. The weathered and worn grain. But most of all, the realization that this piece of wood is completely one of a kind. Nowhere on this planet is there another piece of wood that’s exactly like this one. Not even this other piece of barn wood we found to go with it:
Each piece is a unique thumbprint.
They’re so different, but close enough in look and feel that we were inspired to make a set of nightstands for our guest bedroom.
Here’s a rough mockup Bradley did on the back of a piece of MDF while working on another project:
The nightstand will be a basic white box, no back, sitting on four little legs, with one drawer set into it. The drawer will be made from the raw piece of barn wood. The rough sketch above shows a handle, but we’ve decided not to have hardware. Instead, we’ll make a little cutout in the face so you can pull out the drawer with a finger. That will help keep the focus on the gorgeous wood face with no distracting hardware.
The juxtaposition between clean white cabinet and raw, grungy drawer face will — there’s really no other way to say this — look mad hot. We love the way clean elements look when contrasted with raw elements. It’s a look we’re trying to carry throughout the house with our brick walls and rafters butted right up to our textureless walls and trimless windows. We think the nightstands will fit right in.
That’s our plan, man. What do you think? We’ll share the step-by-step instructions for DIYing a set of nightstands in a couple of weeks. We can’t wait. We’ve been stashing all of our bedside stuff in trays on the floor…for the past year.
It’s getting old fast.
Yowza, it’s been a while since we updated with a project. It’s been so long, in fact, that we’re now in a completely different season. (Uhh…when did winter happen??) We’ve always been pretty awful at updating regularly, but the biggest reason we’ve been super sporadic lately is because we’ve both been working more. I started a new gig, and Bradley’s taken on some freelance projects. Plus we’re still working on the house every weekend.
We might not update 2 or 3 times a week anymore, but rest assured, we’re still working away. Check out what we did a couple of weeks ago:
Boom. We painted our dining room floors white. Here’s what they looked like before, for comparison:
And here’s what the same corner looked like a year ago:
Major upgrade, amirite?
If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you already know that we painted the floors upstairs black:
We love the black upstairs, but the rooms on the first floor tend to be a bit on the dark side. We decided to go with white to brighten things up. The entire first floor will have white floors, and the second floor will have glossy black. To tie the two floors together and make everything flow seamlessly, we’re going to do a two-tone staircase. Here’s what we’re thinking:
Source: reevesinguam.blogspot.com (found on Pinterest, of course!)
We’ll paint the treads black, and toekick area white. Easy peasy.
We went to our supplier in Brooklyn to pick up a 5 gallon bucket of oil-based glossy white paint:
It didn’t look so white when we opened up the can:
But that was quickly remedied by mixing the paint with a drill outfitted with a mixing attachment:
Mmmph. If that image doesn’t make you crave a latte, you don’t know what’s what.
We followed the same process as when we painted the floors upstairs (you can read all about it here). Our first coat was a mix of 50% paint and 50% paint thinner to encourage the paint to soak into the wood rather than sit on top of it.
Our paint guy told us to do this and we highly recommend it for anyone painting soft pine floors. It helps make the wood harder — less likely to gouge under, say, the claws of an easily excitable 2-year-old doofus:
It doesn’t look like much, but that first coat makes all the difference:
The second coat — undiluted oil paint — went on after a light sanding:
We gave the floor one last sanding and then gave it another coat of undiluted oil paint:
We still need to paint the black metal under the stove, but we won’t get to that for a while. Regardless, we love how it turned out. The dining room’s always been the darkest in the house. The brick wall and rafters make it so much worse. With the white floors, the room feels super bright, even at night with dim mood lighting. We also dig how it adds a crisp, clean feel to a room that has a lot of industrial, raw and gritty elements.
It has all the character and charm you’d expect from 130-year-old floors but it looks a lot less grimy.
While we had the paint can open, we went ahead and took care of a couple of projects we’ve been waiting on for a while. This is some sliding door hardware we snagged from an old building:
The hardware would have ended up in a landfill, but instead, it ended up in our garage. What can we say — reclaimed stuff is our jam. Now that we’re almost done with the dining room, we pulled out the hardware to prep it for installation.
We started by scarping off the remnants of brown paint. Here’s how it looked after a little elbow grease:
And then we gave it a coat of oil-based white paint. We don’t have after pictures yet because we have to give the hardware at least 2 more coats of paint.
We also painted one of the frames we made 3 months ago.
We have plans for that sucker. It needs another coat and then we’ll share a really fun, really cheap DIY project that anyone can do. Super geeked about that one!
Remember this dorktastic magazine Bradley scored at a thrift shop a few months ago?
He matted and put it in one of the frames we made. We haven’t figured out where we’ll hang it yet, but it’s done…3 months after we started. Whee! Gotta love home renovation timelines!
Hope you dig what we’ve done with our dining room floors. We’ll be back to share some built-in cabinets we’ve been working on for the past couple of weekends. Stay tuned!
Let’s talk about our front door. We can see it from the dining room:
And, man, it’s not pretty. At least not from the outside:
Gross, right? That’s a screen door with a net to keep bugs out — it covers up the gorgeous solid wood doors that are on the inside. But that’s not the only problem we have with our front entrance.
Someone tried to stop drafts from creeping in through the 130-year-old doors with weatherstripping foam and felt. Only they did it wrong. The wood doors barely close — we have to push them in and quickly lock the doors before they pop back out.
And, in installing the storm door, the pretty wood details were covered up:
We also hate how the storm door has basically become a home for creepy-crawlies:
We found at least 5 spiders hanging out in the doorway. Blurgh! And did we mention the dust?
No? Well feast your eyes, friends:
It’s a good thing we have 3 entrances to the house, because if we invited people in through this doorway, nobody would ever visit. Ever. And we’d probably never leave either.
Despite all the hideousness, our front door has a lot of redeeming qualities. Here’s what one of the two doors looks like when taken off its hinges:
Bradley looks so tiny standing in front of it…and he’s 5’11″.
Yup. Their size alone makes these doors awesome. And check out this doorknob:
It came with a skeleton key, but we accidentally broke it while trying to jam the door closed, Incredible Hulk style. Whoops. For the record, it’s really, really hard to find a replacement for an ancient skeleton key. Good thing we’re updating the locks anyway.
But before we get to that, we decided to permanently remove the storm door.
We were so geeked to see thing thing go. Especially when we started seeing the woodwork that had been hidden before:
Ooh la la, so purdy! One side was completely in tact. The other side:
…not so much. We were so bummed when we saw this.
To fit the stupid storm door on, someone chipped away some of the original woodwork. Luckily, we think it’s salvageable. With some creative use of wood putty, we think we can reshape the missing areas.
Once the screen door was gone, we vacuumed up all the dust and cobwebs. Then we insulated the gap between the inside of the house and the outside of the house with Great Stuff.
That grey thing Bradley’s standing on? That’s a solid piece of stone. It needs a little cleanup work, but it’s in great shape otherwise. It’s going to be beautiful some day. Not today, though. We have priorities.
Here’s Bradley putting the cast iron plate back in place:
Don’t be fooled — he makes it look easy, but that sucker is SUPER heavy. While Bradley worked on adding insulation, I worked on removing insulation:
I used a paint scraper to remove all of the foam weather strips from around the doorway. They were keeping the doors from closing properly. With the strips removed, the doors open and close easily. We’ll go back in and install new weather strips that don’t interfere with the doors opening and closing.
We had to shim the cast iron plate to make it level:
By shimming it, we raised the metal plate a smidge…and the doors wouldn’t close at all. Not even a little. Our next order of business was to make the door fit properly.
We took the doors off their hinges, posed for the pictures we showed earlier, and then used a circular saw to shave 1/8th of an inch from the bottom of both doors:
And here’s the fun part: when Bradley started sawing, the wood released an unmistakeable smell that caught us totally by surprise. Walnut. These doors are solid walnut. We stopped the saw and had a mini freakout right there on the street.
To get an idea of why we were so geeked, check out the price tag on these solid walnut exterior doors. And those are standard sized doors. Ours are way bigger, way older, and — if we do say so ourselves — way cooler looking. Hence the dancing in the streets.
While we had our walnut beauties off their hinges, we did a few minor repairs on the locking mechanism.
We also lightly polished the brass locks using steel wool:
If you’re a longtime reader, you know we have a serious aversion to brass. Gold metals are not our jam. But this door is an exception. We think the locks and doorknob are badass in brass and we’re leaving them that way. Here’s what the doorknob looked like before we scrubbed it with steel wool:
It’s pretty grimy looking, with a dingy green color due to aging. And here’s how it looks after we polished the raised surfaces:
Two tone! All of the raised edges are shiny orangish brass, and everything recessed is still greenish-greyish old brass. For comparison’s sake, here’s how the doorknob looks next to an oil-rubbed bronze lock:
We’re in love.
Our last task for the day was to silicone the spot between the cast iron plate and the stone.
We used black silicone so it’s not visible, but it will still keep water and dirt from creeping under the cast iron plate and into our basement.
It feels like forever since we’ve done a before-and-after. Whee! Here we go. This is what our front door looked like before:
And this is what it looks like after:
BOOM. Magic happened.
We’re not done working on the front door. We have some big plans to make this entrance even better:
- We’re going to replace the old glass with new double-pane glass.
- We’re going to paint the outside of the door a bold color. We have it picked out already, but we probably won’t paint until spring.
- We’re going raw on the inside. We’ll sand the inside of the doors to reveal all that walnut prettiness.
We’re already loving the way the doorway is letting more light into our dark hallway. It’s only going to get better from here. We’ll be back with more updates from the home front. We’re going to start ripping apart our fugly kitchen this weekend. But before we do, we’ll share our before pictures. Warning: it’s gnarly looking. Stay tuned!
We haven’t been posting much because we’ve been working on the dining room nonstop. We’re really stoked to start demolishing rooms again — our favorite part of renovating! — so we’re hustling to get the dining room finished. Bradley finished plastering on Friday night, and on Saturday morning, we whipped out our paint brushes and rollers.
In case anyone’s wondering why it took us so long to plaster the walls, it’s because we’ve decided to do smooth, sleek walls rather than textured walls. We had to spend a lot of time making sure our plastering was 100% perfect because we can’t just hide the flaws under stucco or spackle. We also did trimless windows, which means we can’t just hide imperfections under trim. But all the work we put in upfront paid off, because we ended up with walls that are perfectly smooth:
Like a baby’s bottom.
On Saturday morning, we vacuumed all of the walls and floors to make sure no dust was left on anywhere. We scrubbed the brick wall to get rid of any lingering plaster and loose bits of mortar:
We love our raw brick walls, but we hate how much they shed. A few months ago, we tried a brick sealer for the walls upstairs and they’ve completely stopped shedding. We picked up another gallon for the wall downstairs:
What we love about this sealer is that it doesn’t look glossy when dry. It darkens the brick a little, but it doesn’t look like it’s been sealed or painted. And it stops the wall from flaking. Here’s how our brick looked after one coat:
Exactly the same as before, but better. We plan on using it on our concrete sills to protect them from stains.
We spent all day Saturday painting the brick and priming the walls. On Sunday morning, the room was ready for some color:
We went back and forth on a lot of colors for the walls. At one point, there were easily 30 paint chips hanging on the walls. The one we both agreed on was this:
SW6204 Sea Salt is a cool blue-green neutral from Sherwin Williams. We went with a low luster finish — it’s sort of a semi-gloss, but without too much sheen.
Before we decided on the color, we hung a paint chip in the room and checked on it at different times throughout the day. We loved how the color went from a subtle greige in the morning to a calm blue-green in the afternoon, and then finally a more dramatic green at night. We were a little panicky when we looked at the same chip in the Sherwin Williams store and it looked white. But that just goes to show you that paint color really depends on the lighting of the room.
Here’s Bradley getting the paint party started:
And now for the fun part — the before & afters. Remember how fugly this room used to be? No? Feast your eyes on this:
That’s how the same corner looks today. Boom! Not fugly anymore! Here’s the set of doors that lead to the basement (left), the front entrance (middle) and the living room (right):
The most obvious change in that corner is that we got rid of the basement door (we have another entrance outside). Can we talk about how hideous our paint color choice looks next to those orangey-brown doors?
We considered removing the doors completely because we like the open look, but we kind of need them. In the winter, we use the doors to direct heat to rooms that we’re using. For example, if we’re in the living room, we can shut the door to the hallway so the air has to flow into the living room. And when we go to bed, we can open the hall door and shut the living room doors (there are 2) so heat bypasses that room and flows up to the bedrooms.
Instead of getting rid of the doors completely, we’re going to replace them with something much more elegant. The door on the left will be a glass sliding door. The one on the right will be a glass pocket door that tucks away neatly into the wall when not in use.
While we’re on the subject of ugly doors, this is what the dining room entry used to look like:
And this is how it looks with our new door, trimless windows and concrete window sills in place:
We went with a basic door and hardware from Lowe’s. The little window above the door was a custom order from a local glass company (the same one we use to get our custom cut mirrors and glass for frames). It cost about $22.
We love how the crisp white looks next to the sea salt blue. It’s such a happy, beachy color.
We’re really happy with the way our windows turned out. The sills have some plaster residue on them that we need to wash off, but we’re really digging the way the textured concrete looks next to the smooth walls.
Here’s a project that we completely failed to photograph and share on the blog:
Bradley whipped up this cabinet one weekend while I was out of town. This is going to be part of the radiator cover that we’ll make next weekend. Check out the bottom shelf:
Routers are total eyesores, no matter how well-designed they are. So we decided to make a cabinet to hide ours — plugs, wires and all. Bradley built this cabinet with a plug-in on the back. Once we have the door on, we’ll never have to see that tangle of wires again. We can store things in the cabinet that we would use in the dining room but don’t necessarily want to see all the time (our pile of boardgames, for example). Gotta love functional built-ins!
If you want to see some more before pictures of our dining room, check out this post. We’ll be back with more updates from the home front. Stay tuned!
Good news, peeps: we’re finishing off the last of our plastering today! We’ll be priming and painting the dining room later this week. We’re actually ahead of schedule right now because we found a shortcut for making our custom concrete window sills. (If you don’t remember those from upstairs, check em out here.)
In order to make concrete sills, you first have to make a mold. Then you mix up the concrete, pour it, thawp out the air bubbles and wait for it to dry. And finally, you clean them up a bit before installing them. We skipped most of those steps and went straight to the clean-and-install part with these babies:
Those are concrete walkway stones for yards and patios. We went to a local nursery and picked up 3 of them for $80. Each one measured 36″ x 24″ and they’re about 2″ thick.
These slabs are much more textured than ours because they were made to mimic stone:
We went for a super smooth, velvety finish in our DIY version. We’re OK with not having matchy-matchy sills throughout the house if it’s something interesting.
Another big difference between our DIY version and these pre-made slabs is the lack of rebar support. The pre-made slabs don’t have rebar in them, so they’re more fragile than then ones we made. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Since there’s no rebar, we can cut these suckers down to whatever size we want. We just have to be really careful while lifting and moving the slabs because they could easily break if we don’t distribute the weight properly.
We measured out our cuts and drew them on the slab using permanent marker. Then we cut it:
To make our cuts, we used a grinder and a circular saw, both loaded with diamond concrete blades. The slabs are 2″ thick, which means there’s no way we’ll be able to penetrate them with one cut. Instead, we first used the grinder to score the cut.
Then we went over the score line using the circular saw:
It helps keep the dust down if you hose the slab with water once in a while:
We ended up giving each cut 2 passes with the circular saw. The first cut was set so the blade cut one inch deep. the second cut was set so the blade cut two inches deep.
After each slab was cut down to size, we were left with 3 window sills that slid right in:
Each one sticks out a bit, just like the windows upstairs:
And we’re really digging the texture:
We sealed up the cracks between the drywall and the sill with painter’s silicone:
And that’s a wrap: we’re done with the window sills! We saved ourselves about 2 full weekends worth of work with our little shortcut. We also have enough left over to do the window sills for our kitchen, so our $80 spend was stretched to two rooms. Not bad, considering how much time it saved us.
We’ll be back later this week with updates on our dining room. We’re currently duking it out over paint colors, but we’ve narrowed it down to a couple of choices. Stay tuned!
We just realized it’s July 30th. As in, almost August. Which means that summer’s more than half over. Boo! Hiss!! We thought we’d be renovating our kitchen by now, but we’ve had a pretty major setback in the dining room: we have to plaster the walls ourselves. Plastering is the bane of our existence. It’s boring and it takes us way too long to do it. But since our plasterer (who did a fabulous job upstairs) completely blew us off, we’re stuck doing it. Not easy when this is going on outside:
That’s why there haven’t been a ton of updates lately. We would show you a million pictures of ourselves plastering, but they all kinda look like this one:
Also, we’re frowning pretty much the entire time we plaster.
This weekend, we decided to wrap up a way-more-fun-than-plastering project. We finished our tree stump side tables.
This is the kind of project that we live for. You take something that’s essentially garbage and you turn it into something beautiful and functional. We also love that it’s super easy to make, doesn’t cost much and doesn’t require a ton of special tools. Ready for the step-by-step? Us too. Lets go.
First things first: you’ll need a tree stump. We found a pile of them by the side of some railroad tracks near our house. We picked out the two with the most interesting shapes, threw them in the back of our car and brought them home. Here’s what they looked like way back in January:
Next, you’ll have to dry the stumps out completely. This is arguably the hardest step because it requires a lot of patience. We put our stumps in our garage’s uninsulated attic for a few months. It’s 100+ degrees up there every single day, so it basically acts like a kiln and thoroughly dries out the stumps. If you don’t have access to an attic or a kiln, you can leave the stumps in a dry spot for a few months. Elevate the stumps on a couple of shims so air can circulate underneath. This will keep mold from growing on the underside.
How do you know when the stumps are dry? The bark will fall off really easily. If you can grab a hunk and easily rip it off, they’re ready. Which brings us to the next step: remove the bark from the stump.
We used a chisel and a prybar to remove the stumps in big chunks. You have to be careful not to damage the wood underneath the bark. If the stump is truly dry enough, it won’t be a problem. But if you find yourself having to jam or shove the prybar between the bark and the stump, walk away for a few days.
With the bark completely removed, we’re ready to level the table top. To do this, we need to get the stumps on a level surface. We swept all the dust off of a section of the garage floor and then checked to see if it was level. First we check it in one direction:
Then we checked it in the other direction:
And we were happy to find that it was perfectly level:
Maybe happy isn’t the right word. It looks more like he’s in pain.
Next, we need to figure out if our stump is level. To do that, we moved the stump to our level spot and then tested it:
Fail. Our stump was not level at all. So we have to plane our table top.
We used a planer and shaved off the side of the table that was too high.
If you don’t have a planer, you could use a belt sander…but it’s going to take you forever to level off your top. A planer gets the job done in minutes. This is how much sawdust we shaved off from just one table top in order to get it level:
Yeah. Don’t try this with a belt sander. You’ll go through so many belts that you’re better off buying a cheap planer instead.
Next, we have to remove the gouges that the planer left:
And that’s where a belt sander comes in handy:
We used 80-grit for this task.
It’s important to keep checking to make sure the top is level. Once the gouges are gone, we can flip the trunk on its side and start cleaning it up:
We used an orbital sander with 180-grit sandpaper. 180 is coarse enough to get any leftover bark off, but it’s fine enough not to completely strip the wood. Check it out:
We sanded only the bottom half in the picture above. The dust and grime are gone, but the neato bug trails and scars are still completely visible. A closer look post-sanding:
After sanding the trunks, we need to do clean up the cracks and crevices.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get a tree some funky knots and cracks and textures. We think these are the things that give a tree stump table character. Both of our stumps had spots where the bark grew in big lumps and knots:
We don’t want to remove the lumps and knots — we just want to remove the fibrous bark and dirt that’s built up on top of them. So we used a chisel and a rubber mallet to gently pry off anything that seemed loose. After that, we cleaned this area with 80-grit sandpaper. We didn’t use a sander. Instead, we used a sheet of sandpaper and followed the curves of the stump.
We also had some deep cracks on the top of one table:
We cleaned this out by shoving a folded-up piece of 180-grit sandpaper into the crack and then wiggling it around to loosen dirt up. Then we used our air compressor to blow the debris out. (If you don’t have an air compressor, you could use a can of compressed air.)
With everything cleaned up, we were ready to give our tables something to sit on.
We decided not to do legs on our stumps because we like how low they are. Instead, we purchased 2 packs of furniture glides from Lowe’s.
They’re little discs with a nail on one end and a felt pad on the other end. They’ll serve two purposes:
- They’ll keep our floors from getting scratched up.
- They’ll elevate the tables off the floor just enough so that air can circulate under them.
That last one is super important because even if you dry your table for a solid year, it’s still going to have some moisture in it. And moisture means mold if air isn’t circulating. We used a moisture meter to check our stumps (Bradley borrowed it from work) and even though they pretty much baked in our attic, they’re still not 100% dry. Lifting the tables up a little lets them air out.
We carefully flipped our tables over and hammered 4 glides to the underside of each table. Also, we flipped them so our freshly sanded tops were on a soft mat instead of the hard floor. Highly recommend that if you don’t want your top to get scratched up!
Now we’re ready to seal these suckers up.
We moved the stumps to a work table and flipped them over so they’re sitting right-side-up. Here’s how they look all clean and ready to finish:
We love the texture in the knotted crack that runs down one stump.
We were originally debating between bleaching the stumps and then staining them white or staining them a dark espresso. After we cleaned them up, we decided that we liked them raw. So we used a water-based polycrylic to seal them:
Here’s how they looked after one coat:
The whole thing got much darker.
We love how the streaks are much more visible. The different shades of brown pop. We let the trucks dry for 30 minutes (timing varies based on the brand, so read the package label!) and then sanded the whole thing with 320-grit sandpaper:
After the first coat of sealer, you might notice that little fibers of wood stand up all over the stump. Kind of like tiny raised hairs. Don’t panic! This is normal. Basically, the wood is dry when you start painting so everything feels super smooth. The dry wood soaks up the wet sealer and plumps up. Sanding with 320-grit will smooth everything back down. Just take your time and don’t rush through the sanding — it’s really important to get a smooth finish or else the table will look kinda shabby.
Here’s how you check to see if you’ve sanded enough. Run the palm of your hand softly across the surface of the table:
Feel any snags? Keep sanding. Feel like velvet? Awesome. That’s what you’re looking for here.
We sanded every exposed part of the stump (we didn’t bother with the bottom), then gave it a blast with the air compressor to get rid of any dust. After that we gave it another coat of polycrylic. Lather, rinse, repeat.
We gave each stump 4 coats of polycrylic and sanded with 320-grit between each coat. It sounds like a lot more work than it actually is. The first coat and first sand is always the hardest and most time-consuming. The other 3 coats are a piece of cake. And remember, you don’t sand after the last coat of polycrylic.
We loved the color of the stumps after the sealer dried:
But we hated how shiny it looked. If you looked carefully, you could see brush strokes in the light. The shininess combined with the brush strokes made our stump tables looks less high-end / modern and more crafty / country chic. But we have one last trick up our sleeve to get rid of the shine and make these tables look fabulous:
The final step is to go over all visible surfaces with grade 0000 steel wool.
Check out the sheen on the side of the table:
We rubbed the ball of steel wool up and down (with the grain) the stump using moderate pressure:
Way less shiny:
Here’s another view. We used steel wool in one corner of the table top to show how it removes the way-too-glossy sheen:
See how it’s blindingly glossy all over but then there’s one dull area? That’s what steel wool does. It takes the edge off. Here’s how the top looked after we steel wool’d the entire surface:
The sides looked a lot better, too:
Annnnd that’s it. They’re done! Now we just need to make a sofa* to sit in between them and our living room will be in good shape.
Let’s talk money. We spent just under $10 on this project. We already owned the polycrylic, the sandpaper and all the tools. The stumps were, of course, free. The only thing we purchased were the 2 packs of furniture glides. And, just in case you’re wondering, for $10 we could have purchased one IKEA Lack side table. Yup. We like our tables better. Viva DIY!
We’ll be back soon with a few more projects to share, including a super-easy shortcut for our DIY concrete window sills. Stay tuned!
* Yes, we’re going to make our own sofa. We have a look in mind and have started planning out the details. Exciting!
We’ve already shared how we take existing frames and turn them into mirrors on the cheaps (read up on that here and here). Now we’re going to share how we make our own frames from scratch. We have a lot of stuff we’ve been meaning to frame and hang over the years, but we never got around to it. A few weeks ago, we found this in a thrift store:
Bradley had a nerdgasm. We scooped it up for $10, then chortled and mouth-breathed all the way home. This is the purchase that sent us into a frame-making frenzy. We had some solid oak boards lying around that we thought would be perfect for the job. It looks a little worn and aged — sort of like driftwood. Check out the texture:
We got a bunch of these from Lowe’s for $50, and that was enough to make 5 frames.
The wood was a little rough and had some splinters along the edges, so we started by sanding each board to take the grit off.
While I sanded, Bradley set up the table saw to cut a channel:
Think of a standard picture frame you’d get at IKEA or Target. If you take it apart, you have the frame itself and the glass, plus some sort of backing made out of cardboard or masonite. The glass and backing sits inside what we’re calling the channel.
Bradley ran the end through and then pulled it back out to see if the channel would be deep enough for both the glass and the backing to sit in:
We have more than enough room for everything. So Bradley went ahead and cut the entire length of board. There were some clingers left, so he used a chisel to slice them away:
After that, it was time to cut the board down to size.
We used a miter saw because we need to cut 45-degree angles for the corners.
We simply made a cut with the angle facing in (like the photo above). Then we moved the miter saw blade to 45-degrees on the opposite side and made the next cut. The angles on each cut of wood face in. Once the cuts were made, we could simply piece together the frame:
We have two short cuts and two long cuts. If you want a square frame, just make all the cuts the same. If you want a really long, skinny frame (for a floor-length mirror maybe?), just make the long cuts super long. This is the beauty of DIY frames — the possibilities are endless and the cost is low.
With our frame roughly pieced together, we marked each corner with a pencil:
We made a line to indicate the center of the joint. We didn’t actually measure it out — eyeballing it is good enough for our purposes. This is super important to do because it shows us where exactly we need to make our cuts with the biscuit joiner.
Each joint was also assigned a number 1 through 4, and we marked either end of the center line with that number. We’re doing this so we can take the frame apart and piece it back together later.
The next step is to make cuts with our biscuit joiner. For this we need biscuits:
Not the nummy tea-and-biscuits kinda biscuits, but little football-shaped wood chunks that hold two cuts together. (Sidenote: Bradley’s Dominican coworkers these “cookies,” which is beyond adorable.)
This is how biscuits work:
…except they’re on the inside of the wood. Not following? Lemme break it down for ya:
- Each corner consists of 2 pieces of wood butting up together.
- We make a slot in the butt of each piece of wood.
- We spread wood glue in each slot.
- We put the biscuit in one of the slots. It should fit so that half of the biscuit is sticking out.
- We butt the ends together so the biscuit sits halfway in one butt and halfway in the other butt, thereby joining them. BAM! Biscuit joining!
- Heh heh biscuits in butts.
This is the biscuit joiner Bradley picked up a few weeks ago at the Grizzly warehouse:
It’s a Porter-Cable. He chose it over the others because it has a few more settings than its rival Dewalt. It’s slightly more pricey, but also seems more durable.
See what Bradley’s pointing at there? It says FF. That’s the dial for setting biscuit size. We have to make sure and use FF-sized biscuits or they won’t sit in there properly.
We double-checked. Then triple-checked. And then we made our cuts:
Bradley dangled the piece of wood off the edge of our workspace, with the end he’s cutting facing him. He used his hand to hold it firmly in place. Later, Bradley said, “Don’t do it that way ever.” Why? Because the wood isn’t clamped and could move around. So there you have it: use a clamp, not your hand.
Next step: we line up the red line on the tool with the center mark we drew on the wood.
Once it’s in line, turn the joiner on and firmly push it into the wood. This is what the cut looks like when finished:
We made all our slots first and then moved on to the gluing stage:
We gave each slot a good schmear of wood glue. (Schmear. Always schmear, never smear. That’s the New York in us.) Then we popped the biscuit in the slot
And pressed the ends together. That’s it. We let our newly joined rectangle dry for a few hours. Once dry, we came back to tidy up the joints. For this, we needed wood filler and a putty knife:
A lot of people skip the filler step, but we think it’s worth taking 5 minutes to do. It makes the difference between a frame that looks cheap and a frame that looks fancy. This is what the joint looked like before filling:
We gave it a schmear of wood filler:
Then we pressed it in so it fills the crack:
And finally, we scrape all of the excess off:
Just say no to crack:
We let the filler dry for about 15 minutes and then sanded the joints to make them as smooth as possible:
The next step is crucial. Under no circumstances should one move to the finishing stage without first completing the hammy-posing stage. We take this stuff seriously, people:
Being serious all the time is exhausting.
We really need to lighten up. And learn to use auto-focus properly:
In case you missed it, Bradley’s fingers are doing kind of a weird Dumbledore thing (Level 5 nerd status achieved.) That’s because he stained our frames and didn’t wear gloves:
We felt like experimenting with the finishing, so we tried a few different stains on some leftover wood craps. White made the oak look pink. Black seemed too heavy. Grey looked chalky. So Bradley tried something new.
- First, Bradley stained the entire frame white and immediately wiped it all off. That way the white stayed in the cracks and gaps, but not on the entire surface.
- After that, Bradley lightly stained the surface brown. Emphasis on the lightly. If he used too much stain, it would stain right over the white in the cracks and defeat the whole purpose. So Bradley used a cheesecloth and barely dipped it into the stain. He also took care not to apply pressure at all. Just a light swipe of the cloth gently across the surface.
We really dig the result:
We ordered the glass and it showed up a week ago. Next on our to-do list? Cut mats with our new mat cutter:
Then we’ll be ready to hang up some art. Kinda. We still have to redo the walls in most of the house before we can hang anything. Minor details.
We’re spending our weekend plastering and working on tree trunk side tables, so we’ll be back with more updates soon. Stay tuned for more DIY dorkery!
We weren’t paid, perk’d, hugged or high-fived for any of the brands we mentioned in this post. We do it just because.