It has been my experience that the road to memorable projects is winding and forked, paved with errors and traveled with missteps. If I had a dollar for every mistake or change of heart, I could afford to hire some other schmuck to do these projects for me while I relax by the pool with a fish taco and a margarita. Then again, what fun would that be…for me or for you?
My latest masterpiece of misadventure is an old chest of drawers I’m endeavoring to upcycle into a wine bar. My old friend, Phil, gave this piece to me over a year ago, knowing that Handan and I are batty for free furniture.
It sat in the basement for half a year before I got a start on it last October. It is a solid old piece made from good hard maple and covered in a few layers of paint. The first order of business was to test for lead paint.
The test was negative, so I was good to go. But at this point, I had no idea where I was going. I decided to start scraping. Just to be safe, I donned a dust mask.
I started scraping, and the paint started flying.
I geared up a little more.
I removed the drawers.
And the top.
I took a peek inside at the bones.
There was some spalted maple in there…good stuff! I still had no idea what I was doing, but I soldiered on nonetheless. Figuring I’d be using the top, I sanded it down to bare wood.
I was underwhelmed by the wood underneath, so I put the top aside and went back to work on the carcass. I scraped and scraped through two coats of old paint until I got to the primer.
A plan emerged: I would turn this old chest of drawers into a bar. I would sand it all down to bare wood, maybe stain it, maybe paint it…I hadn’t yet decided. I would apply veneer to the indented areas on the sides. With the plan in mind, I got back to work. I started sanding.
I measured for the veneer. Since I would be veneering over these parts, I didn’t bother sanding them.
I selected a veneer that I liked and cut a piece to fit. I also cut a piece of 3/4 inch plywood the same size to act as a press.
I applied glue to the chest of drawers, placed the veneer, then covered it with cling film.
I placed the plywood on top of the cling film and added clamps and weight. I did this so the veneer would stay flat.
But there was a problem. Those side panels on the chest of drawers were warped. I tried to ignore it. I tried to convince myself that the clamps and the big rusty pulley would apply enough force to flatten the convexity of the side panels and allow for a perfect marriage of veneer and panel. As is so often the case, I was wrong. Though the picture below doesn’t really show it, the veneer was warped and wavy.
I muttered a few profanities, scraped off the veneer and reset my expectations to zero. I toyed with the idea of veneering all of the faces except those indented panels. Ugh, no way. I had nearly lost my soul trying to finish my first veneer project. I wasn’t ready for that level of
veneerial commitment again. Bah! There was no need for an immediate decision. I left the sides and focused my attention on the front and top. If this was to be a bar, I was going to need to do some cutting.
I thought that cutting out the second support and discarding the top two drawers would give me some space inside to have a bar top. I wasn’t sure yet what I’d do at the very top, but I was thinking maybe a hinged bar top. I could figure that out later. Time to chop!
Okay, now I had a little more space to play with. I turned my attention to the drawers. The original drawers fit snugly inside their frames without any sort of drawer slide. They slid out, wood-on-wood. I wanted a smoother action, but there was no room for side-mounted drawer slides.
There was a small recess at the bottom of each drawer…enough to fit a slide. I decided to mount two side-mount slides underneath each drawer.
Yeah, yeah, I know…side-mount slides are not meant to be used in that manner. So what? I did it anyway.
The 14 inch slides were just a tiny bit too long for my drawers, so I chiseled out some of the wood underneath to make them fit.
The drawer bottoms were made from flimsy warped wood. They needed to be reinforced, since these drawers would be holding bottles of booze.
Wait a minute. Ah-HA!!
That’s it! I’ll make it into a wine bar! Instead of veneer on the sides, I’m going to make a collage of wine labels! Yes! I have a plan!
With Handan’s help, I gathered images of all of my favorite wines. Some were wines that I’ve tried and loved, others were wines made by winemaker friends that I also love, and others still are dream wines – wines that are out of my reach now, but maybe someday…
Handan arranged them all and printed them on canvas. Later, we would trim them to size and glue them into their places.
Okay, now that inspiration had struck, I got back to my drawer work. I reinforced the drawer bottoms by gluing on some pine I had in my scrap pile. I also shot brad nails into the pine from the sides to give it more strength. The pine would eventually be covered, so I didn’t worry about making it look perfect.
I flipped the drawer over and attached the slides.
I then attached the slides to the drawer frame.
It was a tight fit, but it will work.
The drawer wanted to push in past the frame, so I built stop blocks and glued them to the back wall.
As you can see in the picture above, I also removed the top support from the front. Now that I had my plan for the final product, I was starting to get a clearer picture of what I would do in that top area. The main bar top would be just above that drawer pictured above, but the very top would have a perimeter of wood that could hold a few glasses or bottles. I still hadn’t fully fleshed it out, but the idea was growing. One thing was certain – I’d have to do something about those inner side walls and back wall. I couldn’t leave that unfinished-basement-look in my wine bar.
I measured everything and cut some 3/4 inch plywood to cover those spaces.
I glued and brad-nailed them into place.
I left that gap in the back wall in case I wanted to install recessed lighting. Then I changed my mind and decided to fill the gap. I still wanted lighting, but I would install it underneath the bar top, not inside the back wall. I also filled all the other nail holes and gaps with wood filler and spackle.
I left the bar area and focused on the drawer faces. I started by sanding them.
Each drawer had a keyhole. I puzzled over that for a while and decided that it would be a brilliant idea to fill the keyholes with crushed turquoise.
So. Ya think it worked out? I bet you want to see a picture of it, don’t you? I’m sorry, but I don’t have one. It looked so bad that I must have forgotten to snap a pic. I just sanded them all down and set the drawers aside. *Sigh*
Okay, what next? Ah, yes! The bar top! That will take my mind off of the damn keyholes.
If you read my Beauty in the Beast post, you’ll be familiar with some stunning mahogany I have stashed in my basement. I salvaged a few scraps to make the bar. I would need three pieces to get the right size. I cut and planed and got them ready for glue-up.
The first two pieces…
But for that little curved piece – the front piece – I wanted to do something more…something special. Hey, I know! How about if I do a turquoise inlay! (Because, you know, it worked out so well for the keyholes)
I didn’t know what to do…I didn’t know what I could do – except maybe some overlapping circles? I really wasn’t sure about this, but that didn’t stop be from bumbling forward. I laid out my pattern in pencil.
Why are those circles jagged? Excellent question! Those circles are jagged because the only tool I had to cut out the circular pattern was a cheap Chinese hole saw kit. You can see in the picture above that my pattern wasn’t even symmetrical! But did I stop?
I finished the pattern. I hated it. But did I stop?
No, of course I didn’t! I shuffled over to my drill press with all the acumen and mental acuity of a garden slug. I placed the piece of mahogany on the press and clamped it down.
Somewhere deep inside my head, a rational being begged and pleaded for me to stop. The garden slug excreted a thick blanket of mucous over those synapses, and the rational voice was silenced. My reptilian brain sent jolts of primal fear to my cerebral cortex. The garden slug countered with slime. The garden slug knows only one direction: forward. Forward at all costs…
I switched on and started to make my circular cuts. The first was on target. The second missed its mark, but that was okay – I just needed to miss on the other side to make it symmetrical. I did miss on the other side, but in the wrong direction. I could have stopped there. I should have stopped there. But the garden slug won’t be denied. I re-positioned the board and started in on the smaller circles. I couldn’t get the drill in the right place. The circles didn’t line up. I kept pressing. I kept drilling. Sweat gathered at my temples and faint voice echoed in my soul. “Nooooooo….Stop…..”
The garden slug didn’t stop.
I took the piece, marred by non-symmetry and brought it to the workbench. A sane man would look upon the disaster and give up, change direction. I was not a sane man. I was the garden slug. I gathered more crushed turquoise and started to fill the circles.
I filled them all, and the garden slug smiled.
I drenched it all in super glue. My synapses shrieked, and the garden slug smiled. The glue dried and I started sanding.
Layer by layer, my shame was revealed.
The garden slug looked upon what he had wrought and fled, screaming, from my mind.
At last free from the madness that overcame me, I was able to size up the situation:
- The rings were hideous and must be hidden at all costs.
- I needed that piece of wood! I didn’t have another!
Solution: flip the piece over and glue it on to the rest of the bar top. I had another surface to work with! (hehehehehe)
This time…this time I would not fail! This time would be different! I needed a better design! I ran upstairs and scoured the internet for a suitable design…something worthy of my wine bar!
[The garden slug turned and began its slow journey back into my mind. The madness…the madness…]
AH-HA!! I found it! When Handan came home that night, I ordered her to make me a stencil! [*ahem*…someone certainly lives in a fantasy world. “I ordered Handan”…pppfffttt -Handan]
I flew down the stairs, a man possessed. I slapped the stencil on the board. YES! This is what I want! But…
But how would I carve it out so I could fill it with turquoise?
[The garden slug whispered]
Of course! I needed a new router! A plunge router! I raced to Home Depot in a thrall and bought a plunge router. This was gonna be GREAT!
The garden slug smiled.
CONTINUE ON TO>> Part 2 – The Grand Finale!