Sunday, November 18, 2012

Craigslist find turned homework desk

Two or so weeks ago, I was searching Craigslist for a table.  We want to put a chess table in our developing game room, but really don't want to spend several hundred dollars.  I'd seen one on Craigslist that was just a regular end table, but had a hand painted chess board on top.  They also wanted $500 for it.  It gave me the idea of maybe buying a card table or larger end table, and painting on the chess board myself.  I hoped to find one with a drawer or two, so we could store the chess pieces there when we weren't playing.  My husband was less sold on the idea, but wasn't going to stop me from just looking, and I was sure I could convince him to at least let me try if I found a cheap enough table.  So as I'm looking, there is an add for a desk/table that catches my eye.  It was only $20, but wasn't what I was looking for in a game table at all.  But I do need a desk in our study, and thought it might make a nice table in the entry way too.  I thought about it for a few hours, then mentioned it to my husband.  He rolled his eyes and told me to just get it.  For $20, it was worth taking a shot.  I texted the seller, and arranged to pick it up after the kids' afternoon sports were over.

 This is what it looked like when we got it home.  You can't see the color really well here, but the bottom was painted a greenish blue, and the top was a lightly stained wood.  There was a spot on the top that looked like something hot had been left there, and the stain sort of melted and was peeling away from it.  The paint on the legs was a bit cracked and peeling, so even if I wanted to keep the color, a paint job was called for.  But then my plans were derailed by my older son.  He saw it, and immediately asked if it could be his homework desk.  I am a sucker, so I said yes.

 I asked him what color he wanted to paint it, and first he said rainbow stripes.  I told him that was beyond my painting skills.  He asked if we could do stripes at all, and I conceded that stripes on the top might be possible, but the bottom would have to be all one color.  He chose black, white, and grey stripes on top, with a black bottom.  First though, we had done a google image search for striped desk, and found this one.  It satisfied my son's desire for rainbows, but made me want to cry at the thought of taping off all those stripes.  After reading the blog, and learning it was all done with tape, I was almost willing to give it a shot, but decided that without a glass or fake glass top, the edges would get gummy too quickly in our house.  So on to black and white it was.  I took the desk outside to begin sanding it down, and found some bonus items in the drawer!  Potentially useful items included several lighters, some mini-cigars, and a screwdriver.  Neither of us smokes though, and the lighters were empty, but hey, the screwdriver works!  And I have always been of the opinion that you can't have enough screwdrivers.  There was also a lonely poker chip, and scorecards from an unidentified game.  Off to the trash went everything but the screwdriver.

 I went to Home Depot, and asked for a sample pot in black, and one in white.  As they were mixing the black, I wandered over to the "oops" paint shelf.  I should have looked there first!  There were quart sized cans of black and an off-white for $2 each!  The sample pots are only $3ish, but they are a lot smaller.  Lesson learned.  Always check the oops shelf first.  I always wonder how cans end up there.  The custom mixed stuff always comes with a "not returnable" label, and the paint guy is always careful to remind me that they can't refund me if I don't like the color once it is mixed.  Are other customers just more pushy than me?  Are the oops cans ones that customers left behind or forgot about while they were being mixed?  Or are they really oops cans, where the computer added the wrong amount of a colorant, or the employee used the wrong brand/size/finish paint?

I chaperoned my son's field trip one morning, then had the rest of the day off, so started things off.  I gave everything a good sanding, and then just jumped in.  The black took 3-4 coats.  The white top took 3.  I sort of messed up the white top at first, when I inadvertently went back over a coat that wasn't all the way dry.  The brush pulled up some of the paint, and there were gummy paint strings all across the top. I walked away for about an hour, then came back and sanded those down, and started the next coat.  When my son saw it, he was immediately mad, thinking I was not going to do the stripes.  I explained that it was easier to do the base all one color, then paint the stripes on that, rather than try to do stripes of every color.  He seemed satisfied.  He also changed his mind about the grey, and decided just black and white would work.

After a bit of discussion regarding how wide the stripes should be, he decided they should be exactly the width of the painter's tape.  Made it easy for me, as I just cut two small tabs of tape that I then moved down the table as I added strips of tape across the desk.  No tape measure needed!  I started painting, and my son was skeptical.  He thought it would all end up black.  He liked it when we pulled off the tape to reveal the stripes.  There were some areas where the black paint bled under the tape, but nothing too bad.  Some of the spots I touched up a bit with a small brush and the white paint.  If I knew I was doing a stripes project again, I'd go with the heavy duty painter's tape, but I just used the roll I'd bought when I painted the door.

With the paint on the top and base done, it was time to paint the drawer.  I thought I'd paint it white, and do the pulls black, but my son disagreed.  He waned the drawer striped too.  I was not about to try to paint vertical stripes on the drawer -- too many curves and corners for me to feel confident about taping it.  Then he asked if we could do the front rectangle face black, and the surrounding area white.  That seemed much less labor intensive, so I agreed.  He wanted the pulls black too.  I think they blend in a bit too much, and doing them white, or going to the store and choosing some silver or white would have been a better choice, but as he reminded me, it is his desk, and his choice.
I put a few coats of polyurethane on, and was surprised how hard I found it to get the coats nice and light.  No matter how thin I tried to apply it, I ended up catching drips off the side.  I may try a spray-on poly next time.  But the end result was nice and shiny, and I hope it will help make the desk more cleaning friendly.

I moved the desk in to the living room, and now we are on the hunt for a chair to go along with it!  I hope my son will enjoy his striped desk!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Book #24 - The Tourist

Book #24 was The Tourist, by Olen Steinhauer.  It was a fun spy thriller.  And I love finding a series after the author has already written a few books - the instant gratification of being able to pick up the next one in the series is great.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The saga of our new door, or, how hard can this possibly be?

Back in the first week of August, the glass on our front door cracked.  The next day, one of the cracked sections fell out.  The door was old, needed a lot of work if we wanted to keep it, and we didn't really like it all that much anyway, so we decided to replace it.

What should have been a short process led to us not getting a new door until a few days before Halloween.  Home Depot dropped the ball a few times, by not returning phone calls, and not communicating between the retail staff and the installation team.  Then, once our door was finally ordered and delivered (one month after we ordered, rather than the two weeks they had estimated), we had to send it back, because they had pre-drilled holes for the hardware, but those holes didn't line up with the existing spots on the frame.  This was fairly obnoxious, as they require that an installation team come out and measure everything before you can even order a door (we have to pay for this), so I am unclear as to why the correct measurements weren't available.  We finally got the door installed, and the handle now sticks, and the deadbolt requires almost enough force to break the key to get the key to turn in the lock.  I am not pleased, and really don't think we'll use the Home Depot's installation services again.  Every person we dealt with was exceedingly polite and apologetic when things didn't work out they way they should, but there were just so many missteps, that I don't think we could confidently use them again.  Additionally, I felt as if we were being pushed to purchase an entire frame and replace the perfectly functional glass panels on the sides and top of the door frame.  The door we wanted to buy was actually a few hundred more than the one we ended up buying, but we could buy it only if we also replaced all of the panels around the door, which more than tripled the price.

The door was finally installed, but we had to paint it ourselves.  We debated between a dark green and a dark red for a while (turns out we had plenty of time to decide).  Our house has red brick, and we recently replaced our black shutters with forest green.  I was a bit worried that a red door with the green shutters would look a bit too Chirstmasy all the time, but I was also having trouble finding a green that I liked.  I took several walks around the neighborhood looking at doors, and almost all of my favorites were red.  So I brought home something like 30 red paint chips from the store (still Home Depot, I like shopping there).  We rejected most of them right away once we had them out in the sunlight, and narrowed it down to 3-5.

We decided on Raw Cinnabar, from Behr.  I had read a few blogs from people who painted their doors red, and almost all seemed to mention that the red they choose was not what they expected when they started painting.  So I bought a sample pot of the Raw Cinnabar, and of another red, Tuscan Rose, and painted some cardboard swatches.  We brought them outside, and still liked the Raw Cinnabar the most, so I bought a quart!  I think I probably could have just stuck with the sample pot, but wanted to get the paint & primer combination, and it will be nice to have extra in case it needs to be touched up later.

I started by taping off the hardware.  I really want to replace it -- not only does it now not work smoothly, but I think it is the original hardware from when the house was built, and it is showing its age.  I was shocked at how much replacing the door handle will be though!  The least expensive option I saw at Home Depot was $93.  Ugh.  I started to tape off the glass, but the oval shape made that very difficult, and I figured I would just be careful, and wipe off any mistakes.  That turned out to be an ok decision, but it was nerve wracking working around the edges!

I had purchased a small roller, but ended up using just the brush and a small foam brush.  There were so many small areas and trim areas, that by the time I was done with those, it felt like 80% of the door was done.  It seemed like a waste to use the roller for the small areas left to do.  Looking at the picture now, I see that there was more unpainted area than painted, but I swear getting to this point took 45 minutes, and the rest of the door took 5.

I finished the first coat, and let it dry for a few hours before shutting the door.  I was really excited by how well the paint & primer combination gave such good coverage.  I was trying to make the paint coat as thin as possible, but even after just one coat, there weren't many glaring areas where the door color still peaked through.  Up close you could definitely see that a second coat was needed, but from the street, it looked great!

As I began to paint, I realized that the door was going to move, and I didn't want to have to hold on to it the whole time.  I looked for something heavy to put behind it, and used our huge Rubbermaid storage tubs - one filled with flour, the other with brown sugar.  That seemed to do the trick.  I also realized as I started painting the top that I was in danger of getting a bit of the red paint on the white trim, so I added a few strips of tape to the top of the trim.  I also added garbage bag drop cloths to our floor.

For the second coat, I did not bother pulling out the rolling pan.  I hadn't used the roller yesterday, so decided to avoid the potential mess that comes when I pour paint out of a can, and just dip the brushes directly into the paint can.  I think it turned out well!