In my spare time

For a while now, I was looking for an outlet to still be creative and escape being in front of an iMac monitor building newspaper pages or designing cover stories. I set a goal for myself to become more handy around the house before I turn 50, which is not that far away.

There are a lot of things to do around the house, but I'm not a skilled handyman. I knew if I could start off with something easy, it might give me the confidence to do more and use the left side of my brain to build on what I already accomplished.

So when some friends of ours got the itch to start restoring their furniture, I was so impressed at what they did and how easy it was. It inspired me to do the same with our 50-year-old Ethan Allen dining room set my parents gave us.

At one point, my wife and I wanted to sell the furniture and use the money to buy a more modern-looking dining room set. The finished-stain on the pieces didn't really go with what was in our new house. My mom, who is as creative as me if not more so, discouraged us to sell it, because the set was high-quality and it would be great to keep it in the family.

So my wife had the idea to restore the furniture after going to Eye Candy REfind store in Hastings, Minn. She sent me a picture of a table that looked a lot like ours, but with a stripped exposed top and painted with gray chalk paint.

I said to myself, "I could do that"

So I went to the hardware store, bought a lot of sandpaper, chalk paint and polyurethane. It didn't cost that much, and I was ready to go.

The hardest part was sanding down the top of the table. Fifty years of polish and stain had settled in, and it took about a half-day to get to the white pine grain. But when I finally got there, it was like discovering a lost treasure. The wood grain was beautiful and the color was perfect. I realized I wanted to expose that look.

After I sanded it down to make it a smooth, I painted under the table and the legs. This chalk paint is thick and dries fast. So in no time, I was applying the poly. It took about a day-and-a-half to finish the table and chairs. When I was finished, I realized I had the restoration bug.

Up next — the matching hutch.

I debated if I should sand down the top of the hutch to expose the grain of the white pine, but wiser voices (my wife and my mom) convinced me not to. We were fortunate that my wife had already changed out the hardware to black nobs to match the hinges. The result was better than I expected. And it completed the set. ... well almost.

We have the top of the hutch as well. But we agreed that we aren't ready to put that back on, so it remains in it original look in the basement. Instead, we are going to go find some white pine boards and create floating shelves in place of the top. That is my next project.

Please take a look at the slideshow of my work in progress. I explain what I went through and some of the steps I took.

Thanks!

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