Friday, October 7, 2011

Custom Made Doggie Ramp

One of our neighbors has an elderly dog who has trouble climbing up and down their back steps leading to the yard .  She asked me to design a special ramp for him, and I just installed it today.

Measuring approximately 3' X 5', I constructed this out of plywood and used 2 X 4's on the base.  I encased the top layer of wood with indoor/outdoor carpeting  to give the old boy some traction, and I added horizontal strips of wood to help him on the incline.

If your dog has a hard time walking, is recovering from any kind of leg surgery or has hip dysplasia, this is extremely helpful.  I can do custom orders. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Building a Hinged Storage Ottoman

My wife asked me if I could construct an ottoman out of African mud cloth for her business (Threads of Change). I decided to make one that served two purposes, one that would be an eye-catching piece of home decor but also serve as a storage trunk.  The finished piece ended up measuring 16 1/2" (width) x 20 1/2" (length)  X 21" (height), but you can customize this to any measurements.

I started off constructing the base from 5 pieces of store-bought 1/2"  plywood, which I constructed into a box.  I painted the box white.

I then machine stapled standard (thick) batting to all exterior sides.  This gives the ottoman a soft feel and it provides a cushion for the fabric, especially along the edges which can cause wear and tear from underneath. 

To upholster the box, I measured the circumference of the box with a measuring tape, added 1", and cut one length-wise piece of mud cloth fabric using that measurement (in this case, 16-1/2" + 20-1/2" +16-1/2" + 20-1/2" + 1" = 75").  I had my wife sew a seam, joining the two raw edges with 1/2" seam allowance.  We now had a circular slip cover. I slipped this over over and around the box, taking care to line the seam up right on top of one of the back edges. I then machine-stapled the mudcloth to the top and bottom rims. 

I added a piece of black broadcloth underneath, to hide the raw edges and the wood.

Next, I moved on to the lid (top) of the ottoman.  I machine-stapled batting to the top of the lid, and then I added a very thick piece of foam, which I bought at Joann Fabrics.  (I bought a large piece of foam and then cut it to size.)

I spraymounted the foam piece to the top of the lid, on top of the batting.

To upholster, I cut an oversize piece of mud cloth, folded the edges underneath, and covered it over and around the top, stapling the fabric in place underneath the lid.   I covered the underside of the lid with black fabric.

I then screwed in a set of brass hinges and  attached the top lid to the box.

Finally, I added (screwed in) four wooded feet to the bottom of the piece.

There you have it. You can can see the finished product on my wife's Etsy shop:
Threads of Change

Friday, September 9, 2011

Rebuilding Legs on a Sofa

wobbly leg
This sofa arrived with three wobbly legs. Not sure what to anticipate, I told my client  it's like "pulling a thread". I'd have to open up the bottom to see what's actually going on. Word to the wise: Beware of light weight sofas!

(what's inside?)
This sofa is made of factory stretched leather, so I wasn't keen on removing any of it unless I had to. I unscrewed the leg, then carefully pulled the dust covers back (2 layers) by removing the staples with a small head screw driver.

Yikes! The inside.
And then I saw it:  Pressed wood and pine, all stapled together.  A couple of bolts, no screws, and that's it! I was surprised that the legs were still attached.  All the bases for the legs had split.  One even had screws drilled in it to fix a split at the factory.

split leg
I would have to custom cut each piece to fit the sofa frame. The biggest difficulty, and a design flaw of this sofa, is that the bottom of each arm actually bowed outward at an angle to create the line of the arm. This meant that the piece of wood that anchored the leg NEVER sat flush against the base. And on one side, it was only supported by the edge of the wood that held the leg, and a wood wedge. AMAZING!

not much support here!
By trial and error, I came up with a plan. After drilling the center hole and placing the screw fitting that encased the leg into place,  I attached metal braces, one on each side of the leg fitting. I made sure these screws were positioned so that they gave me the most room above and below the piece of wood.

I then pre-drilled a hole through the sofa frame and the piece of wood holding the leg. I drilled though the frame far enough to make a mark on the wood with the leg fitting on it, then I took it out, put it in a vise, and drilled through the length of the piece.

 After that, I put the piece back into place, used a 6" bolt screw (with a washer) and carefully drilled it through and into the other side of  the sofa arm. Now, the piece of wood holding the leg is not only stronger, but it is locked into place with glue, 2 bolts that go all the way through it, and anchored by metal braces.

This should now support heavy people, kids, and the occasional elephant.

locked and anchored into place

So.... again:  Since you almost never get a chance to see what's "under the hood" when buying a sofa - remember the weight. Good wood is heavy.   Pine and particle board is light.

You absolutely get what you pay for.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Late 1700's Dresser Gets an Overhaul

This piece was bought back East and damaged when it was shipped out
to Los Angeles.

It's an antique dating back to the late 1700's, made
out of pine, has a veneer top to it, and the finishing coat on it is
shellac. There were several scars on the top from previous wear.

Pine is a light, porous wood, and tends to "breath" when it goes
through humidity changes. Enough direct sun light, and the wood will
perspire. This moisture will actually work its way up through the
wood and then up through the shellac, creating small bubbles.

I repaired the piece first, re-gluing the broken legs, then, with the
one leg that had a missing section, I simply stained it to match the
rest of the leg. Because the stain is dark, the missing piece is not
even noticeable.

I replaced the back entirely with a new piece of
1/8" plywood. The top had some veneer pieces that had chipped off.
I glued those down, into place. There were a few missing pieces that
need to be replaced, but matching today's veneer with that of two
hundred year old veneer can be frustrating, if not impossible, so
like the missing leg piece, I opted to stain it to match.

Not one tool touched this piece when it came to removing the
shellac. Shellac removal is a long laborsome process, using a
solution of alcohol mixed with lacquer remover, and then rubbing out
the finish with a lot of elbow grease.

Once I got all the shellac off, I gave the dresser two coats of
stain. The sides were easy. They got a Mahogany Stain to match,
followed by a coat of Amber Shellac.

As for the top, the trim is American Walnut, and the center is
Golden Pecan.

I wanted to use the Amber Shellac on the top.
It would have given it a rich look, along with removing some of the
flaws and scars, but because the piece was going to get some direct
sunlight on it during the day, instead I went with Marine Varnish.
Not something I would normally use, but given its new location, I
thought this would be the least problematic. Each coat (3) was
sanded down with 400 grit sand paper. For the final coats (2), I
thinned the finish down with Mineral Oil by half, using 1200 grit sand

The owner wanted the pulls left alone.

And there you have it... a pine dresser from the late 1700's restored
and sitting in a Century City high rise.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Major Makeover

Check out the dramatic difference between these "before" and "after" photos on this 1920's bedroom dresses. Years of damage had taken its toll, as evidenced by the water stains, dings, and glue (the owner had glued some sort of piece on top of the dresser). After some major stripping and sanding, this dresser now has a new face.

Before repair:

After repair:

Monday, August 9, 2010

Refinished Chairs

This beautiful set of dining room chairs were in sore need of repair and refinishing. When I started taking the varnish layer off, you could see the dents and divets in the legs. In the back of the chairs, there were glued seams which had started to actually separate.

With TLC and a whole lot of patience, I was able to solidly glue everything back together (so there's no creaking), and I used “gunstock” stain, topped with a gloss finish. These chairs cleaned up nicely!