The Marathon: What I learned about refinishing my trash/treasures furniture (My rehabbing journey on

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Blog entry by DocSavage45 posted 04-01-2014 12:52 AM 2117 reads 0 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’m joining the guys who commented on rehabbing my chair. I probably will not rehab for money,because I really want to make what is in my imagination right now. LOL!

I use the word marathon in this personal journey (nightmare) as opposed to finishing a race as the metaphor for my unexpected struggles. My Sofa was pretty easy, and more of a mechanical fix. I had also put a touch up water borne stain on the sofa frame. This success made me overconfident and un-expectant. LOL!
It’s been almost 2 months since I finished the sign for my office and started rehabbing my chair and this desk. I have not worked on these pieces daily and my days in the shop would average about 4 hours.
I posted the chair and received many supportive comments from my friends and fellow Lumberjocks.
Regarding this little Art Deco production piece, desk/makeup table: It too was a “find” that I have had for about 12 years now. It has been a plant stand to hold the huge potted dieffenbachia and evergreen. The drawers were the right size to hold all those manuals for my electronics and appliance as well as shop and garden tools. Oh I forgot, cat perch for yard viewing. Probably more functional than my chair? LOL!

I worked on the chair and desk alternately and in the middle of all this found an 18 inch scroll saw that I blogged about. When I ran into trouble, (almost immediately) I blogged for assistance and received a lot of different and good advice. Unfortunately, and monetarily I was not consistent in following through. Much of it was difference in the finishing media.

The pictures are the journey sequence. I left out a lot of the steps for brevity LOL!

Repair of separated drawer dovetails. Glue and clamps and torsion brought this old girl back into some alignment, I patched the holes with sanding dust and glue and planed the sides as they were a tight fit in the drawer slides.

What I discovered after taking the desk to the shop and sanding down to 220 grit. In another piece I might have left it natural, but this is an Art Deco knock off production piece. Oh yeah was going to take top off but the front supporting bridge had a glue block and nails? Hmm! How to make this all one color?

First sealer (2 coats), then I asked A1Jim for advice. He suggested dye or paint. Not experienced with dye and after checking costs of the dyes with shipping, I went with local Ace hardware Rustolium spray paint. (I live in a small farm town.) Found a dark brown espresso that matched the tone of the desk. Sprayed it with one coat per can instructions. Also made a test piece (good thinking right?). Test piece had two coats and no sealer underneath. Following day applied oil based poly to the test board and Danish oil to the test board and let it dry. I examined the finish and found the poly finish was not streaky like the Danish Oil.
Per can instructions I used a sponge brush to apply. Oh yeah it was a new can of a different brand of poly. “ I know how to paint, did it semi professionally” and this ended up with ribbons and rows! Sanded off and applied two coats and then used a ZAR water borne poly. Using a fine bristle nylon brush, More of the same! Sanded again! GRRR!

Figured out that the paint and primer mixture espresso just did not harden adequately even in 48 hours!
Soooooooooo! Went back to the water borne walnut stain that I had used on the frame of the sofa; Two coats and adequate drying time. I applied the same brand (more dilute) water borne poly to the surface, sanded and it didn’t go great, I was using my oscillating sander w/220 but ate a hole right through to the desk!!!!!! Walked away again! Thought about it and attempt touch up. Disaster again!

Re-sanded and stained again! Then applied the poly and hand buff/scuff sanded! Put on another coat of water born and scuff sanded as there were mars in the finish. Got it smooth and I quit with only two coats.

Seriously aggravated but done. So I didn’t win but I finished the marathon. This piece was moved into my office on Saturday!

Thanks for following my story.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

16 comments so far

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30427 posts in 2814 days

#1 posted 04-01-2014 12:59 AM

It’s great following your story because it reminds me that everyone has their load to carry. Keep up the good work sir.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View DocSavage45's profile


8856 posts in 3318 days

#2 posted 04-01-2014 01:06 AM

Thanks Monte,

How’s the Shop coming?

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Woodbridge's profile


3691 posts in 2894 days

#3 posted 04-01-2014 01:12 AM

Doc, finishing the marathon is winning! That is a cool looking piece.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View DocSavage45's profile


8856 posts in 3318 days

#4 posted 04-01-2014 01:15 AM

Peter, Thanks! Lots of Faux in this little desk. LOL!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3779 days

#5 posted 04-01-2014 01:21 AM

im glad you got er done..lots of trying and going to get it right, so much is learned through the things we do, and it feels good when your done, and you know what you will do next time, your going to have a snazzy office tom

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View DocSavage45's profile


8856 posts in 3318 days

#6 posted 04-01-2014 01:24 AM


Thanks, Now I have to figure out where everything goes. LOL!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View andyboy's profile


565 posts in 3749 days

#7 posted 04-01-2014 01:24 AM

Yes…..given that the world won’t end if you do try oil based stain next time, I think you may come to the conclusion that is is as easy as they say it is. The desk looks fantastic. Well done!!

-- Andy Halewoodworker. You can't finish if you don't finish. So finish it, because finish is everything.

View DocSavage45's profile


8856 posts in 3318 days

#8 posted 04-01-2014 01:29 AM


You are a master of paint, too. LOL! Just don’t use paint and primer for this kind of project.


-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View kiefer's profile


5668 posts in 3143 days

#9 posted 04-01-2014 03:13 AM

You are a bugger for punishment and I can relate to your frustration .
I refinished a office desk from the fifties for a friend once and never again .
My wife and I refinished a old table that her mother willed to her and I painted the top because nothing seemed to work including shoe polish but it looks great , so you had some good advice with the paint idea .
All said and done and worth all the aggravation it is a good looking piece of furniture again .
Congratulations !!!!!!!!!!!!

-- Kiefer

View DocSavage45's profile


8856 posts in 3318 days

#10 posted 04-01-2014 03:31 AM


Thanks, Don’t know what a marathon is like until we’ve run it? I have a table like that as well. LOL! Trying to think of what to do to refurbish the top. it’s made in 37 and it is Gothic. Big seller these days. LOL!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Benji Reyes's profile

Benji Reyes

338 posts in 3554 days

#11 posted 04-01-2014 04:33 AM

A very challenging of marathons and a very educational one at that! Congratulations Tom! Now for the Ultra marathon! LOL!

-- Benji Reyes, Antipolo, Philippines, Instagram benji reyes

View JohnnyStrawberry's profile


246 posts in 2795 days

#12 posted 04-02-2014 06:54 AM

Hmmm… the first pic is kinda disturbing. LOL However, it just justified pegging my HBDTs.
The desk does look great. You really won. Congratulations.
Now you deserve some hard-WOOD-working for your own satisfaction. ;-)
Don’t you expect less lessons. ;-)
Thanks for sharing.

-- What are those few hours of mine compared to those decades Mother Nature has put in it!

View DocSavage45's profile


8856 posts in 3318 days

#13 posted 04-02-2014 03:49 PM


Thanks1 You out to know about ultra marathons. I remember a picture of you standing on top of a piece carving? LOL!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View DocSavage45's profile


8856 posts in 3318 days

#14 posted 04-02-2014 03:55 PM


Most all of the older production furniture used half blind joints, The wood in this piece ,as I found out, was certainy not first in grade. LOL! You have used some first level material which should mean a long life. This piece is from before my time. LOL!

It has great design, but so did many American cars that were mechanical nightmares? Thanks!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Dave's profile


11432 posts in 3316 days

#15 posted 04-04-2014 01:26 PM

That is drop dead beautiful!

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

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