My Guide to Tackling that “Diamond in the Rough”

Here are the basics… those steps I take to create something new from a “hunkajunk” I’ve found.

1. I examine it. 

Closely. Although I’m getting better at picking out problem points before I buy, I usually end up giving it the once-over long after I’ve acquired it. This occasionally gives me nasty surprises but more commonly just shows minor blemishes or wounds that need a little TLC. Chipped corners, knots, stains, nail holes, peeling veneer, loose handles and hinges, and other bumps and lumps.

  centre damage1  wash stand inside before  coral arch top chest back wall damage  coral cupboard inner shelf food stains before

2. I strip it.

Every vestige of paint and finish from the entire piece, including any glued-on paper or fabric. I scrape and I sand ’til I’m down to bare bones. Then I sit back and stare at it some more.  Are repairs needed? Stains that could potentially bleed through? Colour that won’t cover well? Damage that will require disguising instead of repair?

 blue white desk drawer front stripping  coralarch top chest painting part removed  stripper final section stripping centre shelves

3. I repair it.

Using glue or nails or screws or filler, clamping as necessary. I wait patiently for everything to dry.

left corner sanded  coral arch top chest clamp repair details  corner repair 2  

4. I prime it.

Every spot to be painted… with two coats if I’m worried about bleed-through. Then I let it cure for at least 2 or 3 days. More about primers here. My primer of choice is Zinsser BIN Primer.

Ivory Chest primed  blue white desk primer on  blue half moon chest primed  all parts primed

5. I hand-sand it.  

The entire piece, gently, to remove the grain raised by the primer plus any debris picked up along the way. I must be able to run my fingers smoothly over all the flat surfaces, bevelled edges, and carved details of the piece.


6. I vacuum it.  

I find a small brush useful for sweeping dust from corners and carvings.

shop-vac  primer brush

7. I damp-wipe it. 

With a damp cotton cloth (old cotton socks work really well). Then I let it dry completely.

bin of cotton socks

8. I paint it.

A pretty detailed area! More about painting in a post of its own.

      orange-wine table front  blue-red side tables  blue-white bench  yellow side table

9. I protect it.

With 3 coats of Varathane Diamond Wood Finish. More about that in this post. Then I let it sit for a couple of days before I even touch it. Why take a chance with that fresh glossy gleam?

         purple side table  finished washstand yellow cupboard interior


Well, 10 points would have been a great number…but I’d have had to make one up!


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