I’m a DIY sort of person — not on the scale of building decks or patching roofs, but let’s just say one Christmas my husband gave me a sapphire bracelet and a compound miter saw. When the toilet needs to be fixed or the cabinets need to be moved so the new refrigerator can fit in the old opening, I’m the gal for the job. And woe to the unprepared repairman who asks my husband to borrow a tool. He will just be redirected back to the “little lady” he strode past to get to the man of the house.
Unfortunately, my hot dish of competence comes with a heaping side of procrastination and a big dollop of perfectionism dripping off the plate onto Grandma’s heirloom tablecloth. It’s a double whammy, Folks. Getting started on a project is as easy for me as getting the cat to cut our grass on the Fourth of July.
“But the perfectionism is a good thing, Ellen! A perfect project is what you want, right?” you say.
Well, thanks for being my enabler, but no. My meticulousness does not spring from a bottomless well. I waste so much energy in the beginning with precision that I often fail to cross the finish line. Seriously, it’s like I’m inches from breaking the tape and I’m liked, “Meh, I ran 12.9 miles. Good enough. I think I’ll go have a margarita. And start another race.”
This towel hangs in my bathroom next to the tub with the surround I built and installed . . . with the nail holes still unfilled.
But the project I’m sharing with you today is epic and finished (well, it will be by the time I post this — fingers crossed). And epic is not hyperbole. This project spanned two centuries.
A Gazillion Steps to Finishing Two Lingerie Chests
Now don’t get all hot and bothered. I don’t have enough lingerie to fill two pieces of furniture. It’s just what they’re called and these are the drawers that would fit on either side of the TV armoire . . . a piece of furniture that is now obsolete and needs to go because we want a bigger flat screen. But the easiest way to get it out would be to take an ax to it and I don’t have that kind of violence simmering within me right now.
Anyway, back to my project that begins at the turn of the century in 1999 . . .
1. Buy two unfinished pieces of furniture because you want to be creative and do something special with them.
2. Realize that your time would be wasted doing something special with them because there is no Facebook or Pinterest on which to show them off. Incidentally, you discover you are pregnant with your second child and think huffing hydrocarbons would not be the responsible thing to do.
3. Put chests in storage for 13 years. Wait for social media to take the world by storm.
4. Rejoice that there is Pinterest and remember that you have a project to complete. Remembering is not hard since you have to climb over these drawers every year to excavate the Christmas decorations.
5. Pin all the things to make these chests ever-loving fabulous!
6. Decide to haul drawers out of the basement to the garage in May 2012. This is not only the end of the school year, but the end of two milestone school years — my oldest graduating from 8th grade and my youngest graduating from 5th grade. My calendar looked like this.
Believe me, even when it wasn’t blurred to protect the innocent, it was hard to follow.
7. Fail to get drawers completed — and by completed, I mean started — before school ends.
8. Spend summer having fun and not parking in the garage. Beat down anxiety as junk slowly creeps into the space where the car use to be.
9. Kids are back in school! Clear out garage to get to the drawers. This only takes a day or 15.
The creep is strong in this house it is.
10. Search through stash to see if you have anything with which to complete this project. After all, DIY is supposed to be economical!
11. Find some pretty cream colored glazing stain. Remember that yes, this is what you wanted to do with the chests. But alas the jar is tiny and the company that made it went out of business. Mourn the loss because you’re sure it would have worked really well. Since they were good enough to stay in business and all.
12. Say, “Patooey! This project has been over a decade in the making, but I don’t have time for that whole staining process. To the Home Depot for spray paint!”
13. Buy a case of spray paint because you are NOT going to get burned with that whole “going out of business” thing again. No siree. Spend a mortgage payment on drawer pulls while you’re there.
14. It is time to start sanding. Whoopee! Nothing is more fun than scraping your knuckles and breathing in sawdust. Pull out the first drawer and find the knobs you bought a lifetime ago — my youngest daughter’s lifetime that is. They are perfect, but this leads you to the next chore . . .
15. Return the recently purchased knobs to Home Depot. Celebrate your new found fortune . . . until you write your mortgage check.
16. Put on a super cute outfit and commence sanding. Make sure you do it well and go with the grain. My furniture was bare so I started with a fine grit sanding sponge. Sanding is the foundation to a great finish. (REAL TIP ALERT!)
17. Search for a tack cloth to remove the dust, the next step to a smooth finish. For some reason you can’t find one on your work bench.
It’s so puzzling why I can’t find anything.
18. Declare, “I am NOT going back to Home Depot.” Wipe chests with a damp cloth and raise the grain of the wood. Anyone who knows the term “raising the grain” should not be stupid enough to do it. (REAL TIP ALERT: Raising the grain means to make the wood fibers swell up. It can be a good idea to do this if you are staining a piece because you swell the fibers and can sand them down BEFORE you start to stain. If you’re using spray paint, this step just sucks away your time and patience.)
19. Begin sanding process again. Skulk to Home Depot to buy a $1.79 tack cloth. Spend $20 on pansies while you’re there because, you know, you need another project.
20. REAL TIP ALERT: Prime the chests using a color close to your final color. I used a red brown since my final color was a metallic copper.
Smoothing with a paper bag
21. Start spraying your layers of final color. REAL TIP ALERT: Follow the directions on the can exactly. You can do a couple of light coats within ONE HOUR, but not too many or your paint will start to sag. After that one hour passes you have to wait 48 hours for the next coat. Really. The key to a good spray paint finish is for the finish to cure and harden rather than remain gummy. In between dry coats, buff the surface lightly with a paper bag to smooth it before you start spray painting again.
22. Pretend you’re a quirky pop star with your new metallic fingertip.
23. Repeat steps 21 and 22 until your piece is evenly finished. You may want to find something to pass the time while you are waiting for the paint to cure. I chose an emergency appendectomy, but use your own judgement.
24. Panic that Superstorm Sandy is coming and might flood your garage. Move drawers into living room.
Hit me up if you want some Feng Shui tips
25. Decide that this project has not dragged on long enough and you need to up the wow factor by upholstering the sides. Give yourself a hard deadline by scheduling a sleepover party with 14 tween girls for your daughter’s birthday.
26. Pattern match, measure, and cut the fabric and batting for the sides.
27. Allow yourself a moment to freak the hell out when you turn the furniture over and discover a bevvy of spider eggs cases. Resist setting the drawers on fire. You’ve come too far.
28. Staple! But first relocate your cat to another room so that she does not wrap herself around your head at the first <Whamp>.
29. Take a break until 2 days before the party. Make sure to include the stapler in your cleaning routine.
30. Get your butt in gear because you have a cake to bake! Finish the edges of the fabric panels with ribbon and brass tacks. Smash your fingers and destroy the “brass” finish on the tack with the first whack of the hammer.
31. REAL TIP ALERT: Remember the trick of holding the tack with a fork or comb and search for your tack hammer. For some reason, you still can’t find anything on your work bench. Pilfer the mouse pad that was included in your awesome prize basket that you won in the twisted crafting contest sponsored by The Bearded Iris and The Suniverse and wrap it around the only hammer out of five that you can find.
32. Voila! Five hours later you’re finished!
That Was Easy.
Thanks to Robyn at Hollow Tree Ventures for inspiring me to chronicle my DIY efforts with her hilarious post “How To Be An Artist In Umpteen Easy Steps.“
By Ellen Williams Erin Dymowski