I've been wanting to do an instructable for a long time but was finally motivated by the Krylon Spray paint contest and a shot at an Ipad. As this is my first instructable I apologize if I ramble. There's a lot I want to put into this so I know that this is going to be very wordy. I'm trying to write this as I go instead of at the end.

This was written for the Krylon Contest but I've just entered it into the Green Living Challenge Contest. To be honest I don't think this deserves to win. Spray paint is a wonderful product but it's not green. What I'm doing is very green, upcycling stuff and keeping it out of the landfill is very green but to be truly green there are probably better ways that I could go about doing it. Although I don't think this should win, I'd be ok with second place :)

As a hobby, i enjoy refurbishing curb-find furniture and turning trash into show pieces. I take a lot of pride giving value into something destined for the landfill. I've done a lot of pieces where it's made to blend with the room decor and all that but where I have the most fun is doing really wild, bold, and fun art pieces. With curb find furniture there is a freedom that you just don't have when working on an expensive family heirloom. You can go crazy with color and patterns. Experiment. If you screw up so what? What have you lost? I also love using spray paint. The first pieces I did were with a brush and roller but I prefer the smooth finish that spray paint gives you. It's fast, bold & very forgiving. If you screw up, simply paint it over and move on. If you decide you don't like a color....change it. You can be trendy because it's easy to go over in a few years when styles change. I have to confess that for large surfaces I use a spray gun but I really prefer spray paint. there's no setup or cleanup time. just grab a can, shake and your good to go. When I first started doing "fun" projects they were for kids but I've found that grownups like them just as much.

There are many how-to websites and articles on refinishing furniture. they all read about the same....lightly sand then paint. It's never been that easy for me. To get a really high quality finish takes a lot of steps and preparation. I don't want my pieces to look like you simply took a old dresser and spray painted it. I don't like Shabby Chic. You'll never catch me sanding edges to make the paint look old and the only time I'll use the word "distressed" is when I'm having a bad day. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just not me. I want pieces that are sharp, crisp and bright. It's the difference between painting your car with.....well....spray paint (no offense Krylon) , versus having a pro do it. Both cars may be red and look good from a distance but it's readily apparent which is which when you get close.

When I first heard of the Krylon contest I was going to do one piece. At the time I had 3 pieces that I had recently collected. I didn't have a clear vision for each piece and couldn't decide on which piece to do for the instructable so I'm doing all three and make this more about the process instead of the end results. There are lots of tips and tricks that I use along the way that I hope people will find useful. I think these techniques can be applied to whatever project your doing. No matter if your piece is big or small or what your end goals are, the steps are basically the same.

here are the steps:
1 assessment
2. clean
3. disassemble
4. strip
5. sand
6. repair
7. surface patch
8. prime
9. surface patch
10. base color
11. surface patch
12. brain storm ideas.
13. masking
14. accent color / pattern
** repeat 13-14 as required
15. clear coat
16. automotive polish
17. hardware

there are 17 steps there. Surface Patch happens 3 times. this is because many scratches & marks are not apparent until you get some paint on the piece. so it's important that as you build up layers that you inspect and patch things that you missed the first time or that maybe you didn't completely eliminate. Only 3 of those steps are painting (the same number of steps as surface patch), prime, base color, accent colors. The wonderful thing about spray paint is that, with a little care, it's incredibly easy and very fast. it's everything else that takes all the time. As a working professional with a family, house, dog and the whole bit, I have very limited time to give to projects. I can only work in hour chunks. It can take me a few months to finish something. I don't know if that's bad or good, it's just the way it tends to work out for me. By thinking of things as individual steps and knowing where I am in the process helps me from getting discouraged along the way.

time percentages:

83% surface prep

15% masking

1% painting

1% polish / hardware


My biggest enemy is myself. I get impatient and rush things. that's when I make mistakes that end up taking more time to correct than if I had done it right the first time. that's why I keep this list. I won't let myself move on until the step is complete. That's also why my pieces take a long time and why I wont' let myself have a deadline. (except for this instructable....) This sounds like lots of work and it is. With maybe the exception of repair, depending on your carpentry skills, none of the steps are hard. it just takes some time. For me it's therapeutic. it's very stress relieving. i can forget about the days troubles and just loose myself in what I'm doing.



Step 1: Assessment, Clean & Dissassembly

I have 3 pieces that Ive chosen to refurbish for this instructable. I was going to do one but I couldn't pick which one.
Assessment, Cleaning & Disassembly I have as 3 separate steps, and it helps me to think of it that way but I do them simultaneously before I ever take the pieces inside. I learned the hard way to really check a piece out. With items that you pick up from houses, pieces will often be stored in a attic or garage for years before finally being discarded. Apartment dwellers usually don't have storage space (or very limited) so things they throw out come directly from their living space. I made the mistake of taking a dresser into my living room and opening a drawer to find a mouse living there. lots of screaming later, I learned to check things outside before bringing them into my house or garage.

when looking at a piece, take out all the drawers, exam the inside of the case and flip the piece over. Cleaning and disassembling a piece also helps to get a good feel for the overall quality and all the steps that it will take to get the piece ready for paint. By doing this all on the same night it minimizes any surprises down the road and you've got a good idea of what needs to be bought. I have a pretty minimal budget for this stuff. my wife has this habit of insisting that silly things like food are more important than wood and tools. by having a good idea of what I'll need to buy right in the beginning, I can plan and schedule so that I'll have what I need, when I need it.

Someone commented about being careful to not paint anything valuable. This is a very valid point. Before painting a piece look it over carefully. if you think it might be valuable then it's worth doing some homework before you start sanding. I usually try to do some research, not only to find out about the piece but also to help determine "market value"
here's a site that gives some good tips.
I've had 2 pieces that were worth saving. one I kept as is and polished it. the other piece was for my in-laws. that piece I refinished. I replaced the hardware with modern hardware to give the piece a modern look but kept the original hardware in a box so that if it gets resold it can be put back to original.

One of my biggest pet pieces when I look at pieces that people have painted over is when they don't take the time to dissassemble a piece and simply try to mask around the hardware. When you look closely, you can always tell. This is one of the biggest differences between a $500 showroom piece and a $50 garage sale item (if your lucky). Don't be lazy. take the time to remove cabinet doors and hinges. if possible take out glass panels. don't try to mask around the hardware. if you tell yourself that "oh, no one will notice"...guess what.....they will.

so now lets look at the pieces.....I take careful notes as I go thru a piece, along with taking pictures. The pictures become a handy tool later for sketching ideas. I use the notes I take to develop a list of all the steps that will be involved.

PIECE 1 - The Card Table
this is a small 2 drawer side table. the quality and joinery are good. other than some minor scratches and dings the finish is ok. Don't like the drawer pulls....gonna have to think of something there. not really diggin the base but I don't have any ideas there. hopefully after some color it'll look good. fingers crossed. there is a mildew stain and crayon marks inside a drawer. looking like the drawers will have to be painted. top has some marks from paper sticking to it, and has some cigarette burns but overall is ok. Upper drawer rail is cracked. should be easy to glue. I was drawn to this piece because of the drawer design. Very Brady Bunch. reminds me of a deck of cards. Some color, design and new fancy hardware will really make this pop....hopefully in a good way.

PIECE 2 - The Ashtray
This is a circular post table with a dish ashtray top. the leg is loose and wobbly. doesn't look like it was cut square, so probably wobbled when it was brand new. the construction is crude. this looks like it was a high school wood shop project. don't want an ashtray so I'll want to give this a new top. I grabbed this from a neighbors trash. he's actually a rock musician. think I can find some inspiration there.

PIECE 3 - The Piece of Junk
third piece is a small bathroom cabinet with a metal top. this has been painted multiple times by hand. the paint is thick and sloppy. it's missing the middle shelf. the shelf supports are tongue and groove which I don't really like. the bottom shelf and inside the drawer has about 8 layers of contact paper. great. i hate contract paper. the metal top has to go.
this piece has really seen some better days but with some work will really sparkle. this piece will take the most work. To be honest a lot of times I'll pass over a piece like this but I thought this would be a good one for an instructable because it's going to be most in depth and should have the most dramatic before / after.

so that's my task....the good, the bad & the ugly.
Did I mention that it's July 6th and the contest deadline is July 31st. Did I also mention how most of my pieces take a long time and now I've got 3 in less than a month. certainly a lot of room for failure here. Ipad here I come......

Pretty self explanatory. just a few notes

1. vacuum
2. scrub brush
3. sponges
4. old tooth brush
5. scrapers
6. soap/water
optional items:
Goo Gone
Mr Clean Magic Eraser
Clorox Cleanup

The first step with cleaning is a once over with a vacuum. The is mainly to get rid of cobwebs but also any other loose debris.

When I clean the first thing I do is go over it with just mild soap and water and good scrubbing pad. You'll be amazed at how much a little scrubbing with clean up a piece. Clean the inside, back and bottom as well.
I've recovered several pieces that if the previous owners had given the piece a good scrubbing they would never have thrown it away.

Use a scrub brush and even an old toothbrush to get into all the nooks and cranny's. having a dirty surface is the easiest way to ruin a new paint finish.

with many curb-finds the previous owners were smokers. for that what I'll do is first scrub with soap and water. This is usually enough on the finished surfaces. It's the unfinished areas, like the back and bottoms of drawers that really soak up the smell. For that I'll scrub the piece with vinegar and hot water. this has to be to ALL surfaces inside and out. I'll let the piece dry then I'll sprinkle liberal amounts of baking soda in the drawers and on top and put it in my garage for a week or so. after a week I'll wash it again with soap & water. If it still smells, I'll do it again. I've only had to repeat once. My wife is very sensitive to smells so I make sure to detox a piece before it ever comes inside.

For mold/mildew I'll scrub it with bleach and water or Clorox Cleanup. mold, mildew and bleach are pretty nasty stuff so where a mask and gloves for this. Once the mold/mildew is gone, then scrub with soap and water.

Disassembly, is pretty straight forward. remove all handles. remove drawers and doors. remove anything that it is going to be replaced. take apart anything that will need to be repaired.

One thing that I do is i keep a piece dissassembled until the very end. having a piece taken apart makes it easier when your working with multiple colors....little less masking.

Often I'll find problems that I don't know how to solve. Either it's beyond my abilities or beyond whatever time frame I'm willing to commit. Before abandoning the piece I'll do some research on the internet. I have yet to find a problem that hasn't been written about. Somewhere out there, someone else has already wracked his (or her) brain and written about so you don't have to. In some cases those problems are deal breakers but it's only after doing some research will I make that call. Let's face it, thats one of the reasons that Instructables exists. So that people can pass on their experience to make it easier for other people facing the same problem.

<p>Wish I'd read your tips about spray-painting years ago! I've been holding the can too far away from the objects all along. Also the paint can handle is genius little tool that I don't know how I lived without all these years!</p>
THIS. IS. FABULOUS. I looked at every single page...I LOVE that 'ace &amp; chevron' cabinet, it's brilliant. Seriously, do you sell this stuff? Dunno about changing the knobs...I think the simplicity of the knobs works well with the rest of the piece...they don't detract. I don't have the time, patience or space to do what you do but you do it WELL! Cheers!
THANKS!!! <br>the chevron cabinet is actually my favorite piece. i've done nicer pieces but that one's my favorite because i had no idea what to do with it when I started. just went with the flow and let it evolve. <br>my latest project doesn't have all the bold colors but I'm really happy about it because of where it started and where it's ending up. still working on the doors but will be publishing when complete. <br>https://www.instructables.com/id/E5FFIJSH673CMG8/ <br>
I dearly love this instructable!
Thanks! <br>:) <br>
This is a rather belated comment, but that top-most piece, with the Spade-looking embellishments on the front......! I'm into magic, and that reminds me of a big magician's illusion!
You are a very creative person!!!
Not to rain on anyone's parade, but The US is experiencing a bedbug epidemic. A piece of furniture you find on the street and bring home could wind up being the costliest project you ever undertake. <br> <br>You're better off starting with something from a unpainted furniture retailer.
That's an excellent point and one of the main reasons that I avoid picking upholstered furniture from the trash. <br>I don't think I explained it well enough in my write up but when I get a piece, I clean it thoroughly inside and out before bringing it inside. this includes removing drawers and cleaning the inside of the case, the underside of the drawings, and flipping the piece over and cleaning around the base. <br>not only does this eliminate any threat of spiders, bugs, etc. it's also a great way to get a handle on the condition of the piece and what it will take to bring it back to life. I'll take notes as I go, including a list of any repairs and parts that will be needed.
That's the thing, the first few larval stages of bedbugs are incredibly small. All you'd have to do is miss a few and it could cause an infestation.
You've gotten me worried so I've been doing a lot of research on bed bugs ans other pests. from what i've read the method that i use for cleaning with bleach cleaner (Clorox Cleanup) should be effective at erraticating bed bugs as long as you clean all surfaces and get into every crack and joint. <br> <br>refinishing discarded furniture can be very rewarding hobby. not only are you saving money but your keeping stuff out of the landfills as well. With a little care, other peoples garbage can become your treasure. When I see furniture that others have painted the common criticism that i always have is people taking shortcuts and not taking the time to do all the necessary prepwork in order to insure a quality result. The threat of bed bugs and other pests really brings home the necessity to not rush the initial steps so that you not only have a beautiful piece but a safe one as well. <br> <br>
Amazing job on the furniture. As for going green, don't worry about a little spray paint. As far as I'm concerned you could empty every can you have and it won't have even a .0000000000000001% affect on the world's environment. Your immediate environment would be unpleasant for a while, but the planet won't care. Or maybe that's just the coal miner side of me talking :) <br><br>Yes, the number was made up, like the statistics for global warming :) I remember the ice age we were headed for in the 70's and the hole in the ozone layer that was going to kill us all in the early 90s. I am in favor of not impacting our local environments, and leaving them better than when we arrived when I go camping, but it's all a fad in my opinion. **said the coal miner helping supply a plant burning 20,000 tons of coal a day**
Truly an inspiring instructable! I rummaged through the garage for supplies, bought a few cans of spray paint and repainted my ugly old end table. Turned out alright &amp; was a fun learning experience. I can't wait to do it again. Thanks for posting this!
I love this design! So beautiful. You are really good at what you do! This is a very nice instructable. Thanks for sharing. <br>Sunshiine
Love your pieces. Great work! Good luck!
Wow really amazing. Voted
If you're gonna make the shelf glass, you could make the front door glass too, and maybe light the interior with LEDs under the top, It'll look great at night.
I really like the idea of LED's. that would be cool. <br>thanks <br>
These are nice and really look nice but bring to mind a friend who did the same thing with furniture he picked up on the curb and ended up redoing a sideboard that he found out was worth $10,000.00 if he HAD NOT refinished it.. So people, make sure you do not have a fantastic antique or collectors piece of furniture before you start to strip and redo it. It will pay you to check it out--- literally.
that is an excellent point zipknitter. If a piece has a manufacturers mark on it and is clearly well made then I'll research the piece before I do anything. I usually don't repaint pieces where the finish is nice. those pieces I'll restore and keep them as is. <br>It's my goal to add value to a piece, not take it away. <br>:) <br>
I want to thank you. I've been wanting to attempt a bold, colorful, contemporary project such as yours. There are so many shabby chic, distressed projects out there, but I longed for the crisp paint job you've (so competently) explained. I have some furniture in my garage just screaming for a paint job. Maybe now, at some point, I'll be able to get a car in there. I'll check out the voting.
thank you!! <br>I gotta warn you that once you get into this, new pieces seem to keep showing up and you never get any closer to getting your garage back. <br>I did 3 pieces for this instructable and in that time I got 4 more so now i'm worse off than when I started. <br>:) <br>
Oh, so true. Yesterday I found a free recliner on someone's sidewalk and by the time I got the truck to go get it, it was gone. Good thing, cuz I would have had to move the car out of the garage to make room for it along with all the bike parts, etc in my collection. :)
wow!!! this is impressive &amp; I am particularly grateful for your exact instructions. I voted for you &amp; I do hope you win...you deserve it!!<br>Thank you for all the trouble you went to. I have become one of your followers.<br><br>One of these days, when I have completed something that I think is worthy of putting in here, I will do that too....meanwhile, I am enjoying the eye candy.
Thanks Laura!!! <br> <br>I wrote this instructable as I went. When I started I didn't have any end design in mind. so my thoughts for you are to not worry about whether or not something is worthy. just have fun. you have complete freedom. Go for it. <br> <br>I've already got 4 more pieces to do....a large armoire (that one gonna be a lot of work), dresser, piano bench and a small magazine rack. these I'm going to do one at a time, not all at once. that was to much for my limited space and time. <br> <br>I'm thinking that my next instructable I'm going to do a &quot;as-you-go&quot; piece. I'll post it as I go and be able to get advice when i hit the inevetable road blocks. <br>gonna be taking a break before starting that. rushing these latest projects to meet the contest deadline has burnt me out.
Wow ! These are gorgeous! And you are a patient person. I love your write up, very detailed with lots of hints,suggestions and pictures . I've never heard of the rubbing compound so anxious to try it. Great instructable and I will vote for you.
Thanks!!! <br>the rubbing compound that i use I got at an autoparts store. it's used by car painters but the same tricks apply to anything painted. for me rubbing compounnd and really fine steel wool (size 00 &amp; 000) are the keys to getting a really smooth finish. i use steel wool to smooth out the little ridge that you get where you masked between 2 colors. rubbing compound will take out that &quot;sandy&quot; texture that you often get with spray paint. <br>gotta be patient so you don't harm the paint job. I just keep running my hand over the surface. whereever it feels rough I'll work on thoce area until its all smooth. steel wool will leave little metal shavings all over so you gotta dust the piece really well when your done. <br>I'm hoping on selling one of these pieces so I can get my next tool....a electric polisher <br> <br>:)
you got my vote its really through my attention span didnt last long enough for me to read it in one go but i got back to it i really enjoyed it dont stress out about me telling you i got distracted its just me (and my generation) like right now im thinking about snowboarding... at the end of july. im rambling hope you win
Thanks. <br>to be honest, I can't read it in one shot and I wrote it. <br>:) <br>
Be careful....Eddie Van Halen is the kind of guy who would sue you for using his guitar image without his permission. <br> <br>I'm not kidding.
I bumped into an interview with Eddie v H on dutch radio, a couple of weeks ago. He didn't seemed that bad... :) He's a painter these days, no less!
Brilliant instructable! Very comprehensive write up, and your work is superb. It's inspirational. I voted - hope you win!
Thats means a lot <br>THANK YOU! <br> <br>Im gonna post some updated photo's tommorrow <br> <br>:)
What fabulous finishing tips - I'm eager to try the polishing compound!
Nice work!
Thanks <br>(like your dog picture)
LOoOoOove it!
Those are gorgeous! Love the Moroccan flavored-one and the blue daisies! Adding this to my faves.
thanks <br>:)

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm an architect by day. I love doing projects by night, both on my own and with my kids
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