All of the pieces we get in here at The Fab Pad need some kind of TLC, but some need a little more love than others. And some need a A LOT more than a little. Like this one…
Feast your eyes on Exhibit A, if you will. This poor little teak credenza had obviously had a rough life (I’ve added some comments to the photos, with what are the most likely guesses as to how the various damage may have been inflicted upon this innocent piece of furniture).
Now I’m rarely intimidated by a refinishing job, but I have to say, this one made me pause. It had the trifecta of restoration needs: dry, faded, stained, flaky wood, large chunks missing, and badly done repairs. It would need…(drum roll)…an Extreme Makeover!!
Firstly, I assessed the bad repairs which would have to be fixed. The main one was a broken door pull, which had evidently snapped off and been very poorly re-glued. And by “poorly re-glued”, I mean it looked like a chimpanzee on LSD had done it (which is actually not altogether impossible in the 1960s.) After carefully removing the pull, which was cocooned in an excess of glue, I decided that the best way to fix it was to sand the back of it to remove all the jagged bits and glue blobs, and then sand the door to remove all the stuck-on bits of it. This would shave a few millimeters off the overall depth of the pull, so I would do the same to the other one on the other door so they would match. I’m pleased to say that this worked beautifully!
Next, I began sanding the entire piece. My weapon of choice is a Makita orbital sander, a trusty little fellow that has been reliable and efficient. Since the wood was so incredibly dry, a finer grit would be in order to start with – I used a 120 sanding disc, then proceeded to a 240 to smooth it all out.
After sanding, it was on to fills. The main problem area was a very disfigured corner on the left side of the credenza, which I’m sure could have only been done by a velociraptor. This corner was no longer a corner, in fact, but a raw, jagged, diagonal edge – about as pretty and refined as a Sumo wrestler in a tutu. With a magical product from Mohawk Finishing called an Epoxy Stick, I was able to reform the corner and mold it over the damage. This fabulous Play-Doh-like substance becomes rock-hard in minutes, and can be sanded and stained as needed. Once dry, I sculpted it to a perfect corner shape.
At this point, it was time to do the first coat of oil-varnish. I like a marine-grade oil-varnish by Sikkens called Cetol Marine Light. This oil-varnish has almost no tint to it, thus the natural wood colour shines through. As an oil-varnish, it locks into the grain as it stains and seals it. 24 hours later, it was time to move on to the next step.
This was the tedious, yet artsy-fartsy part – using graining pens to draw in grain over the fills. Remember our chewed up corner? I used five different graining pens to continue the existing grain over the plain fill colour, blending it to make it as invisible as possible. This process was continued over all the various other areas which required touch-ups. The entire piece then got another coat of the Sikkens oil-varnish.
Finally, once the two coats of Sikkens were done and dry, I finished the entire piece with Howards Restor-A-Finish poured onto #0000 Superfine steel wool. This takes the “burr” off the oil-varnish, creating a smooth finish and restoring the shine to the wood. I then put the pulls back on the doors, re-installed the doors, did any final touch ups, and – voila! Extreme Makeover – Complete.