Friday, November 26, 2010

Junkin - from Trash to Treasure...if you squint

I may be too cheap.

I recognize this about myself. I do. Honestly. But I just can't seem to help myself.

Now that we are operating on a fixed income since Dave retired I think about money or the lack of it...a lot. Sure I've been working at odd teaching and writing jobs here and there but no one seems to actually pay me.

So the scarcity of actual income makes me nervous...but it hasn't diminished my desire for decorating our home.

Yes...I admit it...I've been "junkin".

A friend was telling me last night that when his wife was stationed in Germany, "Junkin" (said with an appropriately thick German accent) was what the military wives would do on trash day. Since many German homes in the city are small and many Germans favor a minimalist decor, it was fairly common to see hand-carved clocks and china hutches out at the curb.

The pickings aren't quite so rich up here in the mountains - think less "hand-carved" and more "hand-tossed" yet I was able to find a 1960's (the dawn of the particle board era) child's dresser on the street corner last week.

The drawers were trashed (no doubt used by some four year old climber to reach something breakable on top) but the piece had potential.

So where Jan admired her hand-carved German clock and polished it lovingly after finding it; I took a reciprocating saw to the dresser I found.

I meant to take a picture of the real before picture but I was so excited to get chopping, I forgot.

My goal was to create a stereo and DVD cabinet to sit below our wall-hung TV in the cabin. Everything has to be sized just right to fit in the cabin - it's like the whole structure is a foot too small in every direction. Our current stereo cabinet is two shelves and no side supports - it's pathetic.

So I hacked off the top half of the dresser and started in on re-sizing the crosspieces to fit our specific stereo equipment. Am I the only one who wonders why I am working so hard to accommodate an 8 year old stereo from Kmart?

But I can't resist the challenge.

The top was some early form of Formica so there's no attractive way to reuse it so I was a bit stuck for a suitable substitute.

Now normally I am a "toss what you aren't using" sort of declutter enthusiast but I also have my secret "hold on-to's". In this case, it was a banister-hung folding patio table from Ikea circa 1992. I bought it up in Canada on a summer visit and my sister hand-delivered it on her annual autumn pilgrimage to Disneyland.

With all that effort for the dang thing, I couldn't just discard it so I have dutifully packed and unpacked it in every garage I've owned - I never even took it out of its box.

Thank God for Ikea's flatpack system - it meant that I didn't have to hack apart the table to get the top on its own.  But there was one teeny-tiny didn't quite fit.

Thinking quickly, I used my old trick on Dave. It's the one where I do such a crappy and dangerous few swipes with a sharpened chisel that he'll snatch the tools right out of my hands and finish the job safely.

SIDE NOTE: Dave has hidden wood-working skills but after all these years of marriage, I'm on to some of them. Like how he used to help his dad repair an apartment building by hanging doors and resetting locks...hence the chisel expertise.

Chiseling complete, it was time to design the interior of the cabinet. There was one drawer support crosspiece in the way to a few swipes with a hammer quickly dispatched it...mostly. Remember when I mentioned this piece was built at the dawn of the particle board era?

Well, some bright spark with actual joinery skills used the particle board to make a mortise and tenon joint for the drawer supports. So when I hammered the crosspiece, it ripped out a chunk of particleboard on each side. In retrospect, I should have sawed through it...but I was excited and hammering is fun...until you have to patch stuff.

I ended up using wall spackle to fill the potholes I'd made (you can see the white patch on the side in the pic above) since I had some on hand and then repositioned side supports to a height that would accommodate the stereo. Luckily, there were a few extra pine boards in the Ikea table pack that I cut to fit the cabinet interior using my chop/miter saw.

Time to paint!

I was favoring a rustic red - after all, the drapes are red, the kitchen island is red, the chair seats are red...the whole cabin is decorated in forest green, rustic red and pine - so red works.

Dave cast his vote for black. His reasoning was the TV is black, the fireplace box is black and the pine top would really pop against the black (okay pop is my word - I think he said, "show up").

Since he was already dead-set against this project and was betting money that it would end up in a dumpster, I thought going along with his suggestion might engender some buy-in...and maybe some help lifting the thing out of the truck.

To make the paint-type decision, I used my secret technique of looking stupid (easy for me) and asking the paint guy. He took one look at me and said although oil-based would be the best choice,  exterior grade water-based house paint would work as a compromise between durability and my obviously messy painting technique (I was wearing paint-spattered work pants).

After one coat - I had streaks everywhere and loads of white spots.

That's the problem with black...sure you can see what you are doing on the first coat, but on the second coat? So here I am paintbrush in one hand and flashlight in the other.

After two coats, it was looking pretty sharp. I popped up the cardboard top to shoot brads into the pine shelves I was making - leaving space behind to pass through the tangle of wires that are inevitable with electronic components (when is wireless going to be affordable???).

I used liquid nails and brads to attach the Ikea top - of course that was after the hysterical moment ("cussing and panicked" hysterical not "laughing") when all the pine boards collapsed and the side rails fell off. But Dave was right about how the black made the pine "pop".

I had drilled two 1 1/2" holes in the back to run wires through so the last step was sorting the puzzle of wires - it's a task somewhat like deciding to unravel a mound of spaghetti so you can eat the noodles one at a time. More cussing.

The detail that had attracted me to the piece in the first place was the spade foot and the medallion. In black the foot shape was visible but the medallion was lost. Since my other sister had given me a copper fabric painting pen - a few swipes over the raised metal did the trick.

The small size of the dresser in width and depth make it a near-perfect fit next to the fireplace - phew!

For those of you who love "before and after" shots - here's the transformation:

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