The room we use as our TV room is slightly awkward for furniture placement since it would have originally been used as the dining room. We happen to like it as the TV room since the built-in buffet acts as a killer bar and we really like the openness between this room and living room for entertaining purposes.
The layout in the TV room has the couch in front of the radiator, which means…
…the couch has a tendency to angle back since there’s nothing to stop the other side from shifting.
Luckily, there was super easy fix. Full disclosure: As easy as it was, I totally half-assed this project. I had no plan and had to redo it once. But it the end it all worked out. I also failed at taking progress shots since I was just trying to get this done in the evenings while Matt was on baby duty.
First I picked up a couple 1×10 pine boards, along with a couple 1×2’s. I cut the 1×10’s into 1 board the length of my finished table, and 2 boards the height of my finished table (if your goal is a really exact finished size, technically it’s the height minus 3/4″).
You could move on to construction at this point, but I wanted a little extra detail, so I cut the 1×2’s down to 4 pieces the height of the table, then glued and clamped them down onto edges of the table legs. (You can also glue, then cut everything down to size at the same time)
Once the legs were dry, I glued the tops of them onto the bottom of the table top, making sure to line up the edges as smoothly as possible. After that dried, I reinforced the joint with a couple of small L brackets and assorted tiny screws we had left over from random projects.
The table was still a little wibbly-wobbly, so I cut down a scrap 2×2 with 45 degree angles at each end to use as a brace on each side. This also got simply wood-glued into place.
Once everything was nice and solid, the whole piece got a light sanding, a couple coats of stain (Minwax: dark walnut), and 2 coats of polyacrylic. I didn’t bother staining the inside faces of the table since it will be completely hidden behind the couch. #lazygirl
Et Voila! No more shifting couch + a great place to stash drinks and a basket of baby items since this couch is my go-to nursing spot (and a great spot to stash a cuppa).
Coarse, Medium, and Fine sandpapers (roughly 80, 150, and 200 grit)
Alrighty, by now you should have bare wood, but it’s still probably seen better days. If you have weird white residue in spots, don’t fret.
See? It happened to me too and it’s nothing to worry about–just dried up bits of stripper that didn’t get completely wiped off. It will come right off with some sanding. It can be washed off too, but you need to sand anyway, so why make extra work for yourself?
I started sanding with an 80 grit paper and my palm sander (I still used a sanding block and loose sand paper to get into the smaller and more detailed areas). The coarser paper will even out any small scratches in the surface and also take off any tiny bits of varnish you may have missed with the stripper. When sanding, always sand with the grain of the wood as much as humanly possible.
After going over everything with 80 grit, dust everything down with a tack cloth (an ever-so-slightly damp rag works too). This is when I inspect for any significant gouges. Since these doors are old I wasn’t aiming for a perfectly smooth surface. That just feels disingenuous. I did however want to patch the worst of the worst. Some of the doors had dog scratches down the front. One had NO carved into it, probably by some angsty asshole teenager. Several had assorted old screw holes. These were all things that I didn’t really feel added to the character and would need to be filled in.
Using wood filler is easy, blob it over the hole/crack/gouge then use your putty knife to scrape off the excess. Set the edge of your putty knife flat against the surface and with a firm, even pressure pull it over the putty you laid down. It sands off very easily, so don’t panic if it looks a little lumpy. Also don’t panic if you didn’t completely fill in the hole–let the first layer dry and add another.
If you’re going to be staining, make sure to use stainable wood filler. I’ve tried a few different kinds and my favorite so far is Plastic Wood. Don’t bother buying a giant tub though. It dries out fairly quickly and is difficult to work with if it gets too dry (I’ve had the same issue with other fillers I’ve tried too). Personally I also think a metal putty knife works better for wood filler, but you could definitely use a plastic one if that’s what you have.
Now that all your holes/dents/gouges/graffiti are all filled in, it’s time to sand with a medium grit paper. I used 150-120 grit,* again with my palm sander. This will smooth out your 80 grit sanded layer and smooth out any blips left from the wood filler. If you find areas that need a filler touch up, dust them off, fill again, let dry, and sand.
When sanding over the filled spots you want to remove an filler that’s sitting on the surface and leave only the filler left in the divet. Pretty much just keep sanding until you see the original shape of the hole you filled.
Finally, I went over everything with a fine grit sandpaper (I used 200 grit). I chose to used just a sanding block instead of a palm sander since all the real work should have been done on the coarse and medium sands.
At this point you’ll want to clean everything off really well. Vacuum, tack cloth, canned air–whatever it takes. If you find dust congregating in any crevices you can dig it out with a tooth pick. Basically you want your surface to be completely dust free before finishing it.
Up Next: Staining (or Painting)
* I had a mix on hand… have I mentioned I am SO not a professional?
When I ran through the Before pictures of the stairway I mentioned that the railing was in need of some tender love and repair. In general it’s a mighty fine looking staircase, but the finish is a little worn and most of the newel post are missing chunks of trim. Sure, it’s actually not all that noticeable if you’re not really paying attention, but this staircase deserves better.
I started by ripping off the existing caps on the newel posts. I left the one on the large post at the base of the stairs and the one up by the attic door since it was that one would need some more complicated cuts if I tried to replace it.
If your house has standard sizes, you can order Newel Cap kits which would be super easy. Nothing in our house is standard though (the kits are designed for 3.5″x3.5″ or 5.5″.x5.5″ and our posts are 4.5″x4.5″) so I had to go custom. Because I want to keep (most of) the stairs natural wood, I picked some red oak to make my replacement caps.
I was lucky enough to find a small crown molding that was reasonably similar to the existing trim. I started by staining the whole piece as close to the existing wood finish as I could. No worries, that it’s not perfect, there will be another layer coming later on.
If you need a lot of pieces cut to the same size, the easiest thing to do is to create a jig of sorts. Once I figured out the size I needed for the trim, I cut a bunch of pieces about 2 inches longer than I needed (I just eyeballed it). Then I flipped my saw around so I could cut the opposite angle, and using my already-perfect piece as guide, clamped a piece of scrap wood into place.
Now I just have to butt the short pieces up the block and cut off the excess. Voila, perfect sized cuts every time! I did still double check each post before cutting the trim pieces because I’m neurotic and the slightly variation in size could make this fail miserably.
I was a little worried about what to do for the top piece. I only have the tools to cut a square block. Laaaaame. It would have looked sadly out of place. While idly wandering through the hardware store* I started checking out router bits. There was one that was super similar to our existing caps that I started eyeing. Twenty bucks for a router bit? Yeah, I’d spend that…. but another $200 for the router itself? That I may never use again?** Umm, not so much. Then I remembered a conversation I had with my dad several years back.
Dad: I got a new router!
Me: Computer or power tool?
Dad: Both actually!
Yup, dad’s tool hoard to the rescue! Matt and I were even making a Milwaukee trip to celebrate his sister’s college graduation. After the party Matt hung out with his family and my dad and I Got Shit Done.
Like most projects, the bulk of the time is spent on prep. I brought a set of trim pieces with me so we’d have the exact sizing but then there was math. The router bit we bought didn’t tell you how much it took off from the bottom, which was the measurement we really needed. We measured a piece of scrap wood, ran one side through the router, and measured it again. Our chosen bit took off a 1/2″ so we needed to cut blanks 1″ larger on all sides so the bottom would line up with the trim pieces.
When cutting the test piece we also learned that the way the router sat in the router table left a super skinny edge on the top of our finished piece. Stairs are high traffic areas and take plenty of abuse. Skinny edges will break easily. Baaad combo. We couldn’t really lower the router, so we decided to raise the table surface. Dad’s scrap wood hoard the rescue! He had some left over pegboard that was perfect size, so we cut out a notch to go around the bit and then clamped it onto the table.
Alright! We had all our blanks cut! We had the router set up! We were ready to Do This Thing! Aaaand it’s time to leave for dinner. Matt and I were planning on leaving the next day right after lunch so he was a little concerned when he learned we still had to route about 90% of the pieces and we had already put in about 3 hours worth of work.
But everything was set up for the easy stuff now!
Now we just had to zip everything through the router. Easy peasy!
After everything was cut (and transported back home) I took my palm sander and rounded down the edges and corners so they would look a little worn. Then I hit them with a couple coats of the stain I used on the other trim so they’d be in the ballpark of the existing railing color.
Now we just have to attach and the new caps and wait for the humidity to come down so I can stain the entire thing.
*Yeah, I do that. Anyone surprised?
**According to my sister though, once you have a router, you will find things to route.