Converted: Bar therapy
Old TV set cabinets were a staple piece of furniture in family homes in the 1960s. I came across this beauty on craigslist and I had to jump on it. The electronic components had already been gutted. Someone had put in a few shelves to function for them but I decided to make it a bar, another staple in the home. This piece deserves to be the focal point of the room.
The cabinet was rather banged up and would be a challenging fix because it isn’t solid wood. Instead it has a real wood veneer, which is very common in furniture. Real wood veneer can be hard to spot in some pieces since the furniture appears to be solid wood but you will be able to see the sandwich of woods when you look at the doors and creases. Keep this in mind when picking a piece and deciding on where to take it. This just means that care and ease needs to be taken when sanding down the piece. If sanded too far, right through the veneer layer and into the glue, it creates a problem that will only be highlighted with stain. I encountered these problems myself, in more places than one while working on this project. I will speak through two different solutions throughout this post; each appropriate in different times.
I dragged this guy outside to begin sanding it down. I started with 80 grit sandpaper to work the finish off. This was probably one of the toughest finishes I have ever had to sand through. It took me weeks to work it down to bare wood and in the process I sanded through a few areas passed the wood veneer and down to the sub layer. It was definitely a freak out moment for me. But so it goes; I had to work with it from this point forward. I set my mind on finishing the sanding process, working from 80 grit sandpaper to 220, and a solution would present itself.
Hands down the most stubborn finish ever! I cursed this piece many times in the process. It seemed as if I was never going to be able to sand it off. But I finally did! With a few flaws that I was going to have to find a creative solution for. These are pivoting moments that occur in any creative process that really bring character forth. I over sanded the top down to the glue, which left a grey smudge mark from the sander. This would not be covered with stain, but paint would do the trick. I am always sad to paint wood but I figured I could paint just the top, leaving the rest of the piece stained; the opposite of a popular trend that has emerged. It is common to have a painted piece with a stained wood top, so I was going to invert that. A fun different solution to my ugly problem.
Before moving onto applying a new finish, I wanted to rework the inside of this piece. I built a set of steps on the inside for liquor bottles, a necessity for a functioning bar. I removed the old shelves that were placed in the cavity and started measuring to create a plan. They say always measure twice before you cut. I say measure and draw like at least 5 times, if you are me. I had Home Depot cut the pieces to size, using one long piece of wood cut into four pieces.
I attached two small pieces to the sides of the cabinet that I then screwed each step into. I made sure to drill pilot holes for the screws. First with a small bit in order not to crack the wood and then I used a larger bit, drilled only far enough to sink the screw heads so that they were embedded into the wood. This way I could putty over the screws, making a smooth and invisible attachment.
I moved back to the outside of the piece. The first step in the finishing process is conditioner. I brushed on a liberal amount of conditioner, letting it sit for a few minutes and then wiping of the excess. This allows more porous parts of the wood to absorb the conditioner, instead of stain so the piece will be more uniform and not blotchy once the stain is applied.
The conditioner only highlighted the over stained section on the top. Goes to reaffirm that stain would no longer be a suitable finish for the top. I literally lost sleep over this spot. I was so disappointed in myself for the excessive sanding I did. But in the end, I was going to make this a beauty regardless.
I applied two coats of red mahogany stain. Using a rag to apply the stain and wiping of the excess with a clean one. It is important to work in small sections. After I applied the stain, I encounter my second over sanding flaw on the side of the cabinet. In the second picture below you can see the lighter spot that wouldn’t absorb the stain like the wood veneer on top. Paint would not be a solution for this, I was not going to paint the piece in its entirety. Especially since I had spent so much time and effort sanding it down to be re-stained. Here is where my art skills come to play. I pulled out my colored pencils and shaded in the spot with varying colors in order to blend in with the rest of the wood. The fourth picture shows the fix. The spot is not flawless but it does do a good job to camouflage it. I sprayed the spot with a spray polyurethane as to not rub off any of the colored pencil. My hope being, only myself and now you would know that it is there.
I decided I wanted to spice up the inside of this TV cabinet to make it a real stand out piece. It is a bar cabinet and I wanted it to be fun so I ordered a flowered print wallpaper offline. Peel and stick wallpaper has become popular these days, understandable due to their impermanence. However, that wasn’t going to work with me. I wanted it to stay put through moving bottles and home use. So after searching I settled on this bold print and picked my paint color for the top of the cabinet.
I chose a deep blue for the top of the cabinet. I taped off the wood boarder and painted three coats of flat paint on the top. I wanted to carry this color in a few continuous places throughout the piece. So I decided to tape off the outside of the cabinet doors and the feet. This way the deep blue carried throughout as you moved your eyes along the piece.
I put off wallpapering the inside of this forever. I think I was honestly intimidated by it. I have never wallpapered before; only taken down a houseful at my mother's. Seriously the 90’s. But once I got started the momentum came. It is crazy how you can put more effort into ignoring something than just doing it already! I painted the ceiling and a few connecting pieces that blue and then wallpapered away. Using wallpaper adhesive and a plastic spatula to smooth out the wallpaper. Making sure to measure everything a few times. Trust me, I had my fair share of re-cuts and mixups.
What creating looks like. Two projects going on simultaneously in this room.
The doors open to this fun pattern, lending to an awesome tiki bar vibe. I am so pleased with how this wallpaper turned out. It felt so good to finally tackle it, since I sure put it off for way too long. The only thing left was to polyurethane and wax. Home stretch.
I applied 4 coats of matte polyurethane to the painted top. I wanted to keep that flat finish while giving it more livability. Once that dried I tapped off the painted parts and applied semi gloss polyurethane over the wood areas. I let the two coats cure for 24 hours then I came through with 400 grit sandpaper and gave the entire piece a light sanding. After the sanding it is time to wax the piece. I probably say this in every blog post, but waxing after polyurethane is the most forgotten and important step if you ask me. Wax is not an effective final coating process without polyurethane but it does smooth any brush lines that inevitably occur during poly application. I apply the wax using 0000 steel wool. Using good pressure and working the wax with the wood grain. Double back with a clean section of the steel wool to make sure to rub off any excess wax. If there is still noticeable wax on the piece put a few drops of cold water and wipe it off with a tack cloth, wiping down the entire piece. What I am left with is an even finish that is touchably smooth.
As with anything we tackle in life, there are always unexpected obstacles. Nothing ever turns out the way that we plan it to but through these flawed moments we are able to come up with creative solutions that define uniqueness.
I’d say, she’s a showstopper.