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 ‘refinishing’
Posted: December 23rd, 2009

After all my complaining about taking that baseboard off, I got rewarded. I’m so into local history in general and the history of our house. I was sanding the floor with my orbital sander along the edge where the baseboards were and a little piece of paper came flying up through the air and landed in front of me. It was about an inch square and dirty. I picked it up and took a good look at it but couldn’t tell what it was. I took out the magnifying glass but still couldn’t read it very good. Next I put it on the flatbed scanner and scanned it at 1200 dpi and enlarged it.

It was a 1933 canceled stamp from Chicago celebrating 1833 to 1933, Century of Progress, Fort Dearborn . These are little treasures that make all the work a little easier to deal with. I also found a little scrap of wallpaper that I hadn’t previously known was on the wall. It is a light tan color with a tiny cream-colored heart on it. It’s a small piece so I don’t know what the rest of the pattern was.

Finding the little stamp put a halt to my day’s work and put me into search mode. I took a needle-nose pliers and a tweezers to pick up stuff that was down in the cracks at the end of the floorboards that was previously hidden by the baseboards. Lots of lint debris, a hairpin, a stick pin, some blue paint chips, a tiny piece of newspaper that read, 1924, and a partial piece of what looks like part of a greeting card.

Because of the delays I’m not even going to try and finish the living-room floor before Christmas. What does it matter if I’m a week later, it’s still going to get done. The floor is totally ready to finish (sanded and vacuumed) but I don’t want the smell in the house for Christmas. So tomorrow will just be putting my tools and supplies away, cleaning the house from all the dust I created again and wrapping presents.

Posted: November 17th, 2009

This is our first time trying to refinish our floors with a sander. We wanted to do our living room and dining room. I had hand stripped both floors a few years ago after removing the wall to wall rugs and it didn’t turn out very well so we covered them with large area rugs until now.

We started by rolling up the rugs and moved the furniture out of the way and went to Lowes to rent the sander. The cost is $39 for 24 hours plus the sandpaper discs, $6 each pkg of 3, for the machine. The sander weighs about 120 lbs and comes apart into 2 pieces but one piece will still weight about 100 lbs and the other only about 20 lbs. I wouldn’t have been able to put it in the car or into the house by myself but my husband was able to handle it by himself.

The sander was available. We asked if there were any instructions and were told no. Just put the discs on the 3 pads under the sander. I told the worker that I had already stripped the floors so he recommended the 50 and 80 grits (2 each) and that should do the job but I bought 3 each. That was great!

Nothing goes as planned though. You can watch us as we sand our floors in Part 1 below. We picked up the machine in the early afternoon but were given until 9PM the following night to have it back. Way more time than we would need I was sure.

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
Posted: October 28th, 2009

I have six 1910 oak arts and crafts-era chairs that I started to refinish way back in California about 11 years ago.  I’ve carted them with me everywhere from move to move, from state to state.  Of course they got damaged along the way.  I never got all the old finish off of them so other than some gluing of some loose pieces it is just a matter of getting the joints back tight and stripping and sanding the rest of the finish off of all the parts. It will be lots of work, that’s why I never finished them. There are 5 chairs and a matching arm chair for the head of the table but I’m only doing the two for now.  I had taken off the old leather seats and stored them.  Two of the seats may be OK to use the rest have the leather torn.  When I do refinish the rest of the chairs, I’ll have to buy new leather.  I think I’ll have to start a saving account for that.

In the meantime, we have never eaten at the dining room table because we have no chairs.  It’s  been over 10 years here that we have eaten our meals sitting on the couch using the coffee table.  It seems natural now.  But too many times I’ve eaten my meal watching TV and didn’t remember eating it when I looked down at my empty plate.  Now that’s a gyp.

My husband wants to eat at the dining-room table and wanted at least 2 of the chairs finished now before I start any more projects so he brought down two of chairs from the garage attic that had the least amount of fixing to do.  It will probably feel funny at first eating at the dining room table with no TV in the room.  I’m thinking we’ll  enjoy our meals a lot more looking at the food instead of the TV.

Today I was able to wrestle the chair’s center bottom rungs out of their holes. I sanded them and removed the old glue from the holes and tenon.  I glued them and clamped them in place.  On these two chairs that is the only gluing job I’ll have to do.  Tomorrow starts the sanding.

I normally use garnet shellac on most of my furniture but I’m going to try something different this time.  I’m going to use wood dye and then use Waterlox and try to match it with the dining room table.