This Old Erie House
By Linda Martin Community Blogger
Owners of old houses have so much in common that house talk comes easy between us. Please join in the conversation as we try to fix, restore and update our old Erie houses.  Read more about this blog.
Posts tagged ‘arts and crafts’
Posted: December 1st, 2009

The part of last week that didn’t have anything to do with Thanksgiving involved some edge sanding of the floors. At this rate I will only have the one room’s floor finished by Christmas. OK then, that is my goal. Then I’ll take as long as it takes to get the other one done.

I’m limited to how long I can be on the floor sanding so I continued on my half-done project of the 2 dining-room chairs to change things up a bit. These chairs are Heywood Bros and Wakefield from around 1910. So far I have dyed both chairs with water-based medium fumed-oak dye. I made it kind of weak and put on 3 coats. I wanted it pretty dark to match the dining-room table. In the photo I started putting Waterlox on the chairs. This photo shows how much the color changes when you add the clear coat. However, the dyed chair looked that color when it was wet after dyeing it so I knew what color it was going to be. The brown is much too transparent to match my arts and crafts-era table. I may have to add some coats of garnet shellac when the Waterlox is cured to get it to match. The following photo shows one of the chairs that have been stripped, sanded, dyed and then adding the first coat of Waterlox.

I’ll be working on the chairs off and on for the next week or so.

My thoughts had turned to what we were going to do with our 3 cats when we apply Waterlox to the floor and I remembered the door we found in the attic of the garage several months after we moved in. Our kitchen doorway into the dining room had some brass hardware on the top of the door jamb and when we pulled up the carpet in the dining room it exposed screw holes on the floor by the door jamb. I assumed the door in the garage was one of those cafe doors that swing in both direction. We also have a pocket door in the kitchen that leads to the back stairs( that shares the main stair landing) that we got working again and with the cafe door we could shut the kitchen (and basement kitty door) off from the rest of the house. That would be a perfect solution to the cat problem for when the finish is wet on the floor.

This was the hardware I have wondered about for 10 years that we spotted on the top of the kitchen door jamb.

Saturday, I asked my husband if he would bring down that door and we could see if it would fit. I didn’t realize how heavy it was! He leaned it up against the kitchen wall and we looked it over. One side had an almost perfect finish after all these years. On the other side the finish is awful. It will have to be refinished but not now. What I needed now was a door to block the rooms off. The huge bottom hinge was still on the door which was a relief. It seemed like we could just tilt it up and screw it down but it wasn’t so easy. For one thing the kitchen carpet put in by the previous owner was installed on top of some linoleum that was on top of some 3/8 inch particle board which covered part of the area the floor hinge needed to go. We chiseled and sawed and scraped and cut part of the kitchen carpet to make room for the door. The door was only going to be able to swing in one direction because of the higher floor in the kitchen. That was OK, as long as it shut. Below are some photos of what we came across when we took the threshold off. Lots of dirt for one thing, a hundred years of grit.

The bottom hinge doesn’t look very good and it doesn’t appear to be the original. That will probably be replaced when I refinish the door in the future. The part we see is just a cover so maybe it can be taken off and polished up with a dremel or even painted.

We cut away until we exposed the whole area where the bottom hinge was mounted originally. The door would butt right up against the higher floor of the kitchen so we decided to cut it all back to the edge of the kitchen door jamb.

Cut back rug and particle board and I had to cut a 3/8 plywood spacer under the hinge to make the door high enough so it would stay in position. The protruding metal on the top door jamb fits down inside a metal hole on the top of the door and without the spacer the door kept falling out. I screwed down the piece I cut onto the floor with two screws in the top and bottom centered and then we screwed the door hinge onto that with 2-inch deck screws and it was solid.

After sanding the floor clean you can see the oak boards from the dining room and the yellow pine of the kitchen. There are plenty of nail holes to fill, too. A future project is to remove the rug, tiles and particle board in the kitchen and hopefully the heart pine that is there will be in good condition.

The finish on the good side.


The finish on the bad side. That will have to get refinished soon as it is terrible.


And this is the door installed. This is actually the side with the bad finish but far away you can’t see it.

It really felt good to have that door installed. It turned out to be a big project but I’m thrilled to finally have it up. The fact that it only swings one way is a headache. I, knowing it only swings one way, have already banged into it trying to go the other direction. Well, it stays open at 90 degrees with the spring catch in the hinge and I’ll only shut it when necessary. It also may speed me up to getting the kitchen carpet removed so the door can swing in both directions.

Posted: November 3rd, 2009

The storm windows are completed. I scraped and painted them then gave them a topcoat of a product that has worked really well with my outdoors projects. I used it on my bird feeders and bird house and they were outside for 3 years in summer humidity and winter freezing rain and snow and they look the same as when I put them out (except where the squirrel chewed it.) The windows just need to be put up and then I’ll weather strip them in place for the winter. They came out a bit shiny (really shiny) but I think they will look fine outside. If not, I’ll take some 0000 steel wool and knock some of the shine off.
More photos below.
I feel lucky to have a work place set up in my basement where I can be out of the cold and watch TV.

I set my chairs up on my lowest work table and removed, cleaned and glued the rungs and set them in clamps overnight.


The two (out of 7) dining room chairs that I’m refinishing are now stripped down really good. It was a very big job. Every time you turn it over you see another side or cranny that didn’t get completed. I started on these chairs many years ago and gave up. They were my second ever refinishing job and I didn’t know what I was doing back then. Not that I’m an expert now but all those gouges and scratches from the metal scraper wouldn’t happen today. I couldn’t get all the old finish off back then. I still had a hard time using one of the strongest strippers out there. I think the finish that wouldn’t come off was actually a tinted wood filler that they left on like a skim coat back in the craftsman era to get it that mission color. Sanding didn’t work because of all the rungs and crannies on the chair and the sander just didn’t fit into the spaces. I tried hand sanding it but that was going really slow so I took out the stripper.

Even with my heavy-duty gloves and glasses I managed to get chemical burns from it. Don’t scratch your nose. That stuff burns instantly when it touches your skin. My best result came with using the stripper and then carefully taking a curved card scraper to remove it. I use an old planter and a brush to apply it, no matter what you use, stripping is a messy, awful job.



Two days work and I got the two chairs stripped really well. I will still have to clean the residue from the stripper off and then lightly sand any marks or raised grain. Then the fun part starts. I like adding the new finish.


The leather seats look awful right now and some some mildew on them from being stored in the basement for so many years. I’m hoping some leather restoring product will make them look good enough to use for now.

I want to keep the original 100-year old leather on these two chairs if possible.

Posted in: antique, finishes