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.
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