I’ve almost completed my first furniture project for a client, and I thought I’d share 8 of the most important lessons and tips for working with wood. I learned most of these through trial and error when working on my projects this past year. I’ll have a complete post about the project overhaul, once it’s done. In the meantime though….
1. Verify the type material you are working with
We thought we were working with solid wood, there was wood on the front and a grain visible inside the drawers. Once we got to sanding, it turned-out that part of the furniture was particle board, and part was wood! I felt tricked! Bamboozled! There was no rhyme or reason as to why, and it made the project that much harder to complete.
To give the extra measure of certainty, take the furniture apart as much as you can. If you can examine a joint, or the backing, or under-side – you might find some surprises! Re-evaluate accordingly
2. Do not sand particle board
It doesn’t have a grain to sand, it will give off a terrible smell, and it’s an un-necessary step if you’re going to prime and paint furniture. Also, particle board doesn’t have a grain so chances are you’ll be ripping the sanding paper much faster than expected, if using a palm sander.
3. Use several grits of sandpaper
The whole point of sandpaper is to make the wood soft to the touch.
Depending on how much needs to be sanded, you’ll want to start with a really low grit like an 80. Anything lower than that will rip your wood apart and probably do some damage. You’d start with an 80 if you were working with raw lumber, but you’d probably start with 100 if you were sanding off paint or existing stain.
The next step is usually a 100 or 120. You can safely skip one level of grit between sanding, but don’t skip more than that or you’ll go through the sandpaper at an alarming rate. You can go from 80 to 120, or 100 to 150, but doing all the steps in between won’t hurt you. Yes, it will add time, but the finished project will be worth it.
Once you’ve worked your way up to 180 or 200 you should be good to prime or stain you furniture.
4. Paint vs. spraypaint
Because we were dealing with particle board, sanding, priming and then painting was a laborious and possibly un-necessary process. Unfortunately for us spray-paint does not cover the gamet of colours that paint does. What I would do next time is use a spray paint a primer, and then paint on top (thus saving the sanding phase).
Depending on how big your project is though, you can’t get around using primer in a can and losing hours to the process. Fear not! It’s worth it.
5. Drill all your holes before painting
Unfortunately we hadn’t been able to chose a hardware until the paint and decorative border was chosen. This meant that if we changed our drawer hardware significantly, then we would have to drill new pilots holes.
Guess what we did? we chose hardware that needed two new holes as opposed to using the existing hole. Because we had painted and then drilled the new holes for the hardware, the drill left marks on the paint that then needed to be touched-up.
6. Try and avoid drilling through particle board
It does not end well, I had to say goodbye to a drill bit.
In this case of this furniture project, the hardware’s new screw holes were only going a couple of millimetres to the right or left, off from the original holes. It mean I was drilling next to existing tracks, and got a couple of deviations because of it. If you can, go for something that fits the existing holes.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
I’ve learned so much from the simplest projects. Google, ask a friend, or better yet ask a professional at the store. Places like Home Depot are great because you can ask them how to use the product or for recommendations.
I’d rather ask a million questions than screw something up and have to go back and do it all over again.
8. Use the right tools
Using the right tools will make a world of difference in the final product. Invest in some basics early on, like a corner, a good ruler, a drill, and a palm sander. The type of saw you get will depend entirely on the scale of your projects, but know this, hand held saws don’t do much.
Most hardware stores offer tool rental services at decent prices, so if the tool you need is on the expensive side and you only need it one time, consider a rental!