Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Project: Restoring A Vintage Desk Lamp

A while back my girlfriend bought a vintage desk lamp from a local Mid Century Modern store. Upon getting it home we realized it was a bit worse for wear. The base had signs of rust, the power cord was brittle, and the felt under the base was not soft anymore. Luckily the lamp cost very little.

I began by dismantling the base of the lamp, which was simple enough as it was all held together with one nut. Once I got the base apart I could see the extent of the rust. Luckily not that bad.

There was a bit of felt padding on the base of the lamp, which I definitely wanted to remove since it was so worn out that it both looked terrible and was caked in rust. I applied some Goof-Off and went to town with a razor blade scraper.

In order to treat the rust I figured picking up some "Rust Converter" would be a good choice. Nope. Bad choice. It barely worked. I was a bit surprised since I had used this stuff in the past to great effect, but oh well.

Back to the drawing board I went. I took this as an opportunity to try out my new multi-tool and sanding head. After going through the progressive grits, I was able to get rid of the rust and smooth out the metal quite a bit.

Once everything was sanded and clean, I used some rubbing alcohol on it to get any oils or residues off the metal, since I planned to either paint it or put on a clear-coat. Sure, I had some methyl-hydrate but I was too lazy to go outside to get it out of the shed.

(Above: Squeaky clean and ready for paint)

The threaded barrel that held the whole lamp assembly together was also a bit worse for wear, so I cleaned as much of it as I could with a stiff wire brush.

Next order of business was a new felt pad for the base. I started to cut it out, which I actually should have waited to do until later, but no harm done.

After getting my act together and choosing how I would handle the base - I selected a simple matte clearcoat. I set up a quick painting jig and got to work spraying the parts.

The power cord was beyond hope. It was dry and cracked in some places, so I repurposed a cord from a pendant lamp that I would likely never use. Also the grommet was white, and didn't fit my new cord, so I chose a simple black rubber grommet.

The next step was to attach the felt to the base. I ended up using the un-cut section of felt because once you have spray adhesive on, you don't really want to try to line up parts carefully. The excess felt could be trimmed off afterwards.

(Above: Spray adhesive is almost always a messy job)

(Above: A quick trim and the felt is custom-fit to the base)

For the last bit of work, I had to wire in the new cord. For cord length, I went with 6 feet "out of the grommet" since I find a lot of lamps and most corded things don't ever give you enough cord to work with.

Wiring is not my specialty. To be quite frank it terrifies me. Sure, it's unplugged - but if you wire it incorrectly you could kill yourself when using the lamp or changing the bulb. So I spoke with a friend for advice and he told me how to wire it correctly (well, he confirmed what I already figured) so I set to work.

(Above: All the wires are stripped and ready to be connected)

(Above: Wire nuts and electrical tape keep things connected and safe)

The last thing to do was to test the lamp, make sure I wired it right and didn't get a shock... and then to give the whole thing a polish and buff.

This restoration was very simple and basic, but still a lot of fun and taught me some more do's and don'ts for the future.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Project: Picture Clipboard - Part 2

We left off in the last post with the project barely even started. In this post, we go through the rest of the steps to finish the Photo Clipboard project, just in time to give it to my sister for Christmas.

When I had rough cut the planks into smaller boards, I apparently did not cut them square (odd, since I used a speed square to guide the cuts...) so I had to line up the boards, mark a line, and cut off some excess.

Once I trimmed off the excess, I had to fine tune the cut and also smooth the end grain, so I got to try out my new low-angle block plane.

Mounting the 'photo clipboards' to the wall was something I had considered early on, I could have used a lot of different methods, I had it narrowed down to a keyhole plate, or one of those sawtooth hangers.

After mounting the keyhole hangers, and doing a test-hang, the clipboards hung a bit crooked - so in retrospect, I should have chosen the sawtooth hangers instead. But it was fun installing the keyholes and practising my chisel skills.

The planks needed to be roughed up a bit, since the corners and edges were too square and uniform. My sister wanted the rustic / well-worn look, so I got out my sander, some 60-grit paper, and went to town.

It's difficult to remember to take photos as you work, especially when sanding or painting, but I tried my best. After I had sanded the boards, I used my Shop-Vac to clean the dust off of the wood, in preparation for staining.

In order to get a nice deep tone, I left the stain on for 20 minutes before rubbing off any excess. The stain, clearcoat, and paste wax are all Minwax, so each stage of the finish would be compatible, producing a good end result. I've heard many times it's a good idea to stick to one manufacturer when finishing. (It's not a hard rule, but I seem to get good results this way)

Now that the stain is applied, I put on the satin finish clearcoat, which was fairly straightforward, I put on one coat a bit too heavy which caused drips - since I'm still not too skilled with applying finish I haven't found the best way to avoid drips yet. No big deal, I can scrape and sand afterwards.

While the clearcoat dries, I opted to modify the clips. Since the clips didn't lay totally flat, I cut one side of the clips off, which wasn't totally necessary, but I wanted to see how it would turn out. After the first clip was cut, I tested it out - it seemed to sit better than the un-cut ones, so I did the rest.

(Above - a quick jig helped me cut the bulldog clips)

(Above: The modified clip next to the unmodified clip)

The clearcoat was finally dry - I could start assembly of the clipboards. The keyhole mounts were the first thing I installed, and then I moved on to the sanding stage.

With the clearcoat dry - the finish was dull and rough to the touch. I wanted to use multiple coats, but I was running out of time, so I stuck with one. (It was a real heavy first coat, so it would be good enough)

The boards needed a sanding, I put some 320 grit onto my random orbit sander. Sure, I could have done this by hand, but this would be faster since I was in a bit of a time crunch.

(Above: Before sanding, after sanding)

With the sanding done, the boards were nice and smooth, but also very dull. To complete the finish, I hand-rubbed in some paste wax with some 0000 grade steel wool. I have to say, this was the most tedious and time-consuming step of the whole process. In the end though, it was well worth it because the finish turned out really nice.

(Above: Smooth as silk, but still not too shiny)

Final assembly could begin since the finish is all taken care of. Now because I had cut off a portion from the bulldog clips, they didn't sit in a way where I could get my screwdriver though. I solved that by putting something between the clip to align the faces so I can get my screwdriver in.

Lastly, because the boards sit a bit crooked when hung, I solved that issue by sticking some non-slip pads to the back of the board. After installing them, I did a test hang again - they worked like a charm.

Another project finished, and just in time for Christmas! My sister seemed to like them, and now she can showcase her child's artwork for years to come.

(Above: Finished, hung, and a sample included with the new gifts)

This build was a lot of fun, and deriving inspiration from one idea and making changes to make that idea your own is part of what makes 'making' a fun process. Stay tuned for more posts and more projects!


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Project: Picture Clipboard - Part 1

My sister had sent me a link asking if I was able to make this "photo clipboard" that she found on a DIY blog. Her intention would be to use it to display her sons artwork around her house.

After thinking about it and how I would make it, I set out and tried to source materials. The toughest thing to find out of the project was the bulldog clips. Most of the hobby stores or places where you would assume you could find them around town did not sell them. But I managed to find some eventually.

The backer board was easy enough. I was planning to use some reclaimed wood (or up-cycled, since that's also technically what it would be) but in this case I found a nice pine board at a local big box store, and it wasn't too expensive. The figure was really nice, and there were no knots, which is why I went with it.

The construction is straightforward. I was cutting up a 2 x 12 for another project, and since I had my tools out I cut up the pine 1 x 12 as well. I cut it into 14"-ish long pieces, which left me a tiny bit extra for scrap/maybe some other project.

After I cut the board down, I put a piece of standard letter paper back onto the board, centered it, and clipped the bulldog clips to the paper - this helped me align where the clips would mount. I marked the location of the clips with an awl, and drilled some small pilot holes.

(Above: Opted for a #6 x 5/8" screw)

(Above: Pilot holes help prevent splitting, even in soft wood)

There was a good reason for using that size of screw - so my screwdriver could fit through the holes in the bulldog clip to drive the screw. If I had gone for another size screw, I would have had a heck of a time getting a good purchase on the head of the screw to drive it. I could have used nails, but I tend to avoid them.

Once I had the bulldog clips mounted, I could slip in a piece of paper to get a good idea of how it would look. The paper centers nicely, and the clips sit fairly flush to the wood. I might consider cutting off one side of the bulldog clip - to make it more of a true 'clipboard style' - but I'm not certain I'll do that yet.

Since everything fit fairly well, it was time to focus my attention on the wood again. My sister likes the whole 'rustic' thing, so I figure I'll give that a go. I wanted to treat the edges with a 1/4" roundover bit in my router, but that would be too clean and uniform.

But that's all for now, I'll finish it off in the next article!