Revamped Dining Room Table and Chairs

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As promised, I decided to throw up some before and after pictures of the dining room table and chairs my wife and I have been working on for the past few months. As you can see, the $10 chairs Anita picked up at a thrift store weren’t that attractive, but she saw the potential in them.

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A little bit of chisel work, paint and new fabric brought them from the ’70’s into the new millennium. Anita picked out the fabric at IKEA in order to save some money so the chairs end up being super cheap.

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My farmhouse table I made twelve years ago was a massive beast, but it served it’s purpose. After replacing the top with 2×10’s and reducing the width of the table, it fit better in the room.

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In the end, the chairs and table look great with the decor of the room. I’m not sure if the Windsor chairs at the ends of the table will stay, but for now they provide extra seating for when we have company over (which is never).

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Revamping Ugly Dining Chairs

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The remodeling of our dining room continues. This time with new chairs. My wife was never that fond of the Windsor chairs I made about twelve years ago, so she bought four french style caned back chairs at a local thrift store for $10.00 each. They were in good shape, the only issue with them was that they had an ugly ass imitation claw bubble design thing on the front legs. Honestly, I have no idea what they were suppose to be or how they made the chair look more formal, but they were ugly.

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My wife Anita and I both agreed they had to go so I took out my low angle block plane and some files and I shaved away the bubbles on all four sides of the front legs. Since Anita was going to paint the chairs, it wasn’t a big deal that the original finish was removed exposing the bare wood.

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After Anita painted the chairs white, I made a template for the seats with 1/4″ hard board. I simply traced around the chair with the hard board on top and cut it out on my band saw. I had to pay attention to the two notches in the back of the chair seat so that when Anita put fabric on the seat, they would still fit.

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I didn’t have scrap 3/4″ plywood lying around in my shop, but I did have the original oak plywood top from my dining table I revamped last month. I removed some of the extra plywood around the edges where it thickened up the top and laid out my seat pattern on the board. I then used my jig saw to cut the seats out.

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After a little fiddling, the seats fit well to the chair frames.

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The rest of the work was in Anita’s hands. She used the seat bottom to trace around the batting for the chair and cut it using a pair of sharp scissors.

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Then she started to staple the fabric on with upholstery staples. She used a Senco pneumatic stapler to make the job go much quicker.

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Here is one of the chairs finished. I have to admit, it looks a lot better than the Windsor chairs I made a few years ago. Once she finishes all four chairs, I’ll post some pictures that show the revamped chairs along with the revamped table together as a set.

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Revamping a Dining Table

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About twelve years ago I built a dining table from the plans out of Woodsmith magazine. While it served it’s purpose, it wasn’t exactly the nicest thing in the house. I made the top out of a piece of low-grade oak plywood that I bought at Home Depot. Not only that, but the table was huge being 44″ wide. My wife Anita asked if I could make a new one, or at least make a new top that was more in style. We decided that making a new top out of southern yellow pine and try weathering it making it look aged.

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The easy part was buying four 2 x 10’s, ripping them 9″ wide by six feet long and gluing them together. After they were glued, I planed the tops of the boards straight removing all the mill marks in the process.

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After the top was planed and sanded with 150 grit sandpaper, Anita applied mixture of steel wool and apple cider vinegar onto the boards to tone down the yellowness of the southern yellow pine.

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We thought it would be a good idea to stain the top while it was already on the table. I removed the original top of the table and flipped over the base onto the new top to decide how much I would need to cut the sides down.

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After messing around with the legs for a few minutes, I decide that the sides should be 24″ wide.

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I cut the sides to 24″ and rerouted the dado on both boards for the corner brackets. I then used pocket screws to re-attach the sides to the legs.

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Using metal corner brackets, I simply attached the top to the base. The new top made the table look more like a farm table.

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Anita then stained the table with Special Walnut, then Classic Gray stain from Minwax.

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Once dry, she applied hemp oil and gave the top a good waxing. She then painted the base with grey chalk paint. When done, it looked like a completely different table.

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A close up the table you can see how the southern yellow pine took on a deep rich tone. You can also see how the original black paint shows through the grey paint after Anita sanded the base a little bit. This has been one of those projects we should have done years ago.

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A Saturday Afternoon at an Estate Auction

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Not much has been going on lately with woodworking, but I have been picking up some more tools. Yesterday I went to a local estate auction and scored some serious tools. I saw the auction on AuctionZip a few days ago, but they only had a couple of pictures of a few tools. When I arrived at the auction and took a look around, I nearly crapped myself when I saw all the tools that were sitting on the tables.

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I have a blast at auctions as you can see with my winnings. I always try to remain reasonable and not get too carried away with my bidding. Fortunately, there weren’t a lot of tool collectors at the auction, so I was able to buy a whole bunch. In fact, most of the time I was bidding on several tools at once in one box.

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At the end of the day, I brought all the tools down to my basement and tried to calculate how many tools I actually bought. I had to separate the good tools from the junk that was packed in the boxes. I won a about a dozen junky block plane beds that ended up in the garbage can.

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In the end, I bought over 150 tools with nearly 100 planes. I’ll be busy over the next few months cleaning all these babies up.

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My first winning bid was for a box of steel wool for $8.00. I use a lot of steel wool when cleaning tools and I’m sick of buying those little packs for $5.00 at Lowe’s. I should have enough steel wool here to last me a couple of years.

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Probably the best buy of the day was this old BedRock 605 plane. It should be cleaned up and for sale in a few weeks.

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One of my Favorite Plane Restores

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Over the years, I’ve restored hundreds if not thousands of tools. In every instance, I usually think of the same thing. “I wonder who owned this tool and when did they buy it”? The question is something I can almost never answer until now.

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I bought this Kruse & Bahlmann Hardware No 6C at the Springfield Antique Show last month. Kruse & Bahlmann Hardware operated several hardware stores in the Cincinnati area. The guy who had it had a couple of other bench planes for sale so I bundled them all up and offered him a price for all three. I knew the plane wasn’t a Stanley, but still felt it was worthy of a restore. A lot of competitors of Stanley like Union, Sargent, Ohio Tool Co, and even old Craftsman’s made quality planes back in the day. In fact, Sargent often private labeled their planes for hardware stores around the country so sometimes, I’ll end up finding odd ball “No Name” planes in the market. However, they are still Sargent planes.

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This plane was quite different from any other plane I restored in the past. Not in the way it was made, but when I took off the rear tote, I saw this little piece of paper in the slot.

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When I opened it up, inside it was written “Fred G W Meyer, Property of Sept 10, 1938”. It had to be a note from the original owner of when he bought the plane. It was like opening a time capsule that has been locked away for nearly 70 years.

Just think, in September of 1938, Hitler had just taken over control of Czechoslovakia a year before invading Poland starting WWII. Then it got me thinking again. I hope this poor guy wasn’t drafted into the army and was killed during WWII. The blade of the plane had been used, but the remaining length of blade remaining is about the same as if Fred would have used it daily for three years until 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. I’ll never know the answer if Fred served in WWII, but the penmanship of the hand writing reminds me of someone who was young in age at the time. If Fred was a young man in 1938, it’s quite possible that he did serve in WWII.

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I loved seeing the note, so the only right thing to do was to fold it back up and stick it back under the tote where it belongs.

Chairmaker’s Notebook: The Best Chairmaking Book on Earth

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A few weeks ago I stopped by the home office of Popular Woodworking to go to their Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event. It’s always fun to take a break out of my day to play around with their tools. While I was there, I tried their No 5 1/2 jack plane that cut such nice shavings it almost got me thinking of quitting restoring my old Stanley planes.

Along with Lie-Nielsen, Lost Art Press was there selling their books and apparel. I took a peek inside one of their newest offerings, “Chairmaker’s Notebook”, to see if it was something I wanted to open my wallet for. I love books about making chairs. I’ve read over a half-dozen of them over the years including John Alexander’s “Make a Chair from a Tree: An Introduction to Working Green Wood” as well as Drew Langsner’s “The Chairmaker’s Workshop”. In fact, if I was ever a professional woodworker, I’d probably be a chair maker. So, I decided to bite the bullet and purchase the book. Needless to say, I’m glad I did.

I read a few chapters a night as I wanted all the information to absorb. What I love about this book is that it takes you through all the aspects of building a chair. From buying a log at a sawmill, to setting up a chairmaker’s workshop, to modifying and sharpening your tools, to assembly and finish. Peter even gives you a scaled model of a “sightline ruler” so you can photocopy it and make one yourself. It’s by far the most complete woodworking book I’ve ever read. Absolutely nothing was missed when writing this book.

As an example of how well this book is written, in the beginning, Peter talks about buying a log from a sawmill and what to look for when picking a log. He tells you not to buy the veneer logs as they tend to be too expensive and go for a premium. He says you should ask for “veneer rejects” because those logs will work just fine for building chairs and will be a whole lot cheaper. He then goes on to recommend that you bring a chain with you to wrap around your log so that the guy on the forklift can gently lower it down on your trailer instead of slamming it down breaking your trailer in half. It’s first hand stories like this that really sets this book apart from other books I have read.

A few years ago I made a few Windsor chairs of my own, but I used kiln dried lumber because I had no idea how to go buy a log. Regretfully, had I owned this book at the time, I would have made my chairs a whole lot better.

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Along with the excellent information in the book, Peter is also one hell of an artist as he drew all the pictures in the book. In fact, the pictures are so well drawn, that you know exactly what he is describing in his illustrations.

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If you have ever been intrigued with building a chair, then I highly recommend that you add this book to your library. You can buy it from The Lost Art Press.

Updating a Hallway

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The past few days, Anita and I have been working on finishing up the dining room and hallway. After I struggled to throw up the crown molding, attaching chair rail felt like childs play. The trickiest part was coping both ends at the end of the hallway.

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After the chair rail was nailed up, I attached the rectangular boxes I made with my molding planes. Then Anita caulked and painted everything white on the bottom, and a light grey on top. She bought a custom rug from Pottery Barn that fits the hallway nicely. Now she plans on hanging some pictures on the wall and get a new light fixture to spruce things up. This was a cheap and easy way to make a hallway look more elegant.

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Here is a close up of the faux wainscoting boxes I made. They add quite a bit of detail to the walls.

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Installing Crown Molding

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Last weekend I proceeded to work on the dining room by installing crown molding around the ceiling. I already built and installed bookcases that went on either side of the sliding glass doors a couple of weeks ago. Now I needed to complete the look by installing crown molding at the top.

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Before I began, I watched a YouTube video with Tom Silva of This Old House to give me the idea of how to cut the molding. The trick was flipping the board over and cut the trim upside down. Clamping a board on the saw table helped kept the trim at the proper angle.

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The molding around the bookcases wasn’t too bad as the sides were 90 degrees to each other. However, when I ran a piece down the one side of the dining room to the hallway, is when I got tripped up. I may be able to hand cut dovetails, but a trim carpenter I am not. I have no idea how they cope one end of the crown to fit perfectly, then make a perfect cut nine feet away to make a tight corner to a wall that is out of square. I gave it my best attempt and attached the crown to the wall. I then tried to figure out the other angle the other piece of trim would need to be to make the corner look nice. However, every cut I made was way off. I tried about a dozen times to make it work with no luck. I became so frustrated, that I decided to quit Saturday afternoon and reconsider continuing with the room or just take everything down except the crown around the bookcases.

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I woke up Sunday morning and decided to give it another shot. I messed around with the other side of the crown molding for a couple of hours until I was satisfied with how it looked. Below is a picture of the finished corner. I had to shave a lot of the molding away with rasps so each piece would match. I probably should have sanded the pieces better, but I was so frustrated with it I said “screw it”!

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Fitting the crown for inside corners was a bit tricky as well. Even after I coped the ends, I had to file the back of the molding so that it would fit in place. However, after practicing coping a few times, I got better at it.

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This was the final piece I cut to finish the job. It was a bit tricky as I had to cut the trim at the correct length as well as perfectly cope each end so everything fitted nicely.

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After everything was done, Anita started to apply the first coat of paint. Next I’ll be working on the chair rail and the faux wainscoting molding squares I made a couple of weeks ago. I’ll throw up a few pictures of the finished dining room and hallway when I’m done.

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